Smart secures additional 3G frequencies to roll out new services

28 May 2008

Filipino mobile operator Smart Communications, owned by PLDT, has been awarded an addition 10MHz of spectrum in the 825MHz-835MHz/870MHz-880MHz band by the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC), allowing it to introduce more advanced 3G services in the country. The latest award increases the operator’s 3G bandwidth to 25MHz of frequency spectrum; it was awarded 15MHz of spectrum in the 1920MHz-1935MHz/2110MHz-2125MHz band in January 2006. It is understood the frequencies were previously owned by Smart’s sister firm Pilipino Telephone Corp (Piltel), which had been holding them for many years. Piltel is no longer operating its AMPS network and has switched to using Smart’s GSM infrastructure to deliver its Talk ‘N Text service to users. Piltel pays Smart a spectrum users’ fee (SUF) as part of the agreement. Smart has already invested between USD60 million and USD70 million in its 3G network, and has deployed more than 1,200 3G-enabled cell sites. The operator says it has more than a million 3G Smart handsets in the local market.

The Philippines’ other 3G licensees Globe Telecom, Digitel Mobile Philippines (Sun Cellular) and Connectivity Unlimited Resources Enterprises (CURE), only have 10MHz of frequencies each. Globe operates in the 1945MHz-1955MHz/2135MHz-2145MHz frequency spectrum – equivalent to two channels – and can theoretically handle a total of 50 million 3G subscribers. CURE, which was recently acquired by Smart Communications, was awarded the 1955MHz-1965MHz/2145MHz-2155MHz frequency spectrum. Meanwhile, Digitel (Sun Cellular) was assigned bands 1935MHz-1945MHz/2125MHz-2135MHz and despite having announced plans to spend USD242 million on its initial 3G rollout, has yet to provide a timetable for its launch. Under the terms of its licence award, Digitel must launch commercial services by June 2008, or risk having the NTC revoke its concession.

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