PLDT to launch 5G cell site in Clark

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PLDT, Inc., Smart Communications, Inc. and Ericsson will fire up the country’s first fifth generation (5G) cell site in Clark, Pampanga within the month.

The telecommunications giant, its wireless subsidiary Smart and technology partner Ericsson signed on Monday a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Clark Development Corp. (CDC) to turn Clark Freeport Zone into the first Smart 5G City in the Philippines.

“We are happy to be working with CDC in building the city of the future… This will benefit not only Clark but the country as well by demonstrating that we are in step with the rest of the world in adopting advanced intelligent technologies,” PLDT-Smart Chairman Manuel V. Pangilinan said in the statement.

PLDT-Smart Chief Technology and Information Advisor Joachim Horn told reporters 5G is likely to benefit only enterprises for now, noting it may take two to three years before the 5G technology could be enjoyed by commercial users depending on the 5G-capability of routers and devices.

“It’s particularly interesting for enterprise customers. For enterprise customers, 5G offers a much higher flexibility. We can adjust the technology in a way that it’s tailor-made for the their use case,” he said.

Mr. Horn said talks with enterprises are expected to begin after the Smart 5G City is launched within the month.

“We will start to work with enterprises but the roll out would take some time… I think the major activities will be early next year. So this is a year of putting it to service, start the first couple of sites, show it to the partners and then start the discussions,” he said.

He noted there are 13 existing sites in Clark that are now 5G-ready, and Smart targets to increase it to 25 by mid-2019.

Smart said it presently has more than 2,000 5G-ready sites all over the country. It has more than 221,000 kilometers of fiber network, which will be the backbone for the 5G roll out.

“By piloting 5G in Clark, we are making this zone even more attractive to foreign investors. Through this pilot, we are putting the possibilities of 5G closer to industries, businesses and enterprises operating in the city,” PLDT Head of Enterprise Juan Victor Hernandez said in the statement.

For his part, CDC President Noel Manankil said they are thankful Clark was chosen to be the first 5G city in the country.

“This undertaking forms part of the vision to help create communities that are smart, technology- focused, something that would help keep our country in the right cadence into the future,” he was quoted as saying.

Smart has been testing 5G technology since 2016.

The company launched in August its 5G Technolab, a facility focusing on research and development, standardization, and testing of 5G wireless broadband technologies and services.

In August, Smart and Ericsson inked an MoU to launch the first 5G pilot network by the first half of 2019.

PLDT is spending as much as P58 billion this year for capital expenditures, a historic amount for the telco giant.

Hastings Holdings, Inc., a unit of PLDT Beneficial Trust Fund subsidiary MediaQuest Holdings, Inc., has a majority stake in Tatay Digong through the Philippine Star Group, which it controls. — D.A.Valdez

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