Smart expands LTE coverage to include new 1800 MHz frequency

Cell site tower. Web file photo

MANILA, Philippines — Dominant telecom carrier Smart Communications today announced that they are expanding the coverage of their newly released LTE network to support devices operating on the 1800 MHz frequency.

Launched in late August, Smart’s LTE service initially operated on the 2100 MHz Band 1 frequency, similar to the one used in Japan by NTT Docomo, a major shareholder at parent company Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. (PLDT)

PLDT-Smart Technology Group Head Rolando G. Peña said in a statement that offering LTE on two different bands will give subscribers “greater flexibility” and seamless global interoperability of LTE devices in the future.

“Multi-band LTE means better coverage whether in densely- or sparsely-populated areas and a wider range of compatible devices,” Peña added.

Unlike legacy mobile network technologies, early-stage LTE deployments operate on fewer frequency bands as adoption slowly picks up pace around the world. Smart’s GSM connection, for example, runs on the 900 MHz and 1800 MHz band, while its 3G, HSPA, and HSPA+ connections run on the 850 MHz and 2100 MHz bands.

Smart executives, in earlier interviews, said that as LTE progresses to become a mature and mainstream technology in the near future, devices, and LTE services will eventually become frequency-agnostic.

But in the interim that standardization of LTE frequencies have yet to take place, Peña explained that devices sporting chips that work on a particular frequency abroad would still have to be tweaked to work on local LTE networks.

Launched in late August, Smart LTE is the first commercially deployed LTE service in the country, available for P3,500 for 10GB of data. The telco, however, has waived the data cap for early adopters, offering the service with unlimited bandwidth until October 25.

Rival telco Globe Telecom had earlier announced that it would also be deploying its own LTE service this month, which will work also on the 1800 MHz frequency and will be deployed initially in Makati City and other high-traffic areas in Metro Manila.

The announcements came just weeks before the expected launch of the new Apple iPhone on September 12, which according to rumors will sport an LTE chip for the first time.

Smart’s LTE service is capable of delivering data wirelessly at speeds of up to 42 megabits per second. This makes possible downloading large files in minutes instead of hours, streaming high definition videos with no buffering, and playing online games wit no lag because of its high speed and low latency.

Complementing the commercial launch of Smart LTE is the installation of more than 54,000 kilometers of Fiber Optic Cabling (FOC) that connects Smart’s cell sites to its core network.

The upgraded FOC system, which is scheduled to be completed by end-2012 under the P67.1 billion “technology refresh” with parent company, PLDT, also makes possible Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) fixed broadband services with speeds of up to 100Mbps.