Smart 4G/LTE now on Pag-asa Island, West Philippine Sea

SMART COMMUNICATIONS, Inc., the wireless unit of PLDT Inc., said the controversial Pag-asa Island in the West Philippine Sea is now covered by its 4G/LTE network service, enabling the island’s residents to communicate via chat apps and video calls.

Pag-asa Island in the municipality of Kalayaan, Palawan Province, is the Philippines’ “most remote cell site,” Smart said in a statement on Tuesday.

News reports in June said visitors of the island, including government officials, had received “welcome messages” from foreign telecommunications service providers, particularly from China and Vietnam.

On Tuesday, Smart said its engineer, Edbert Aquitania, received a “Welcome back to the Philippines!” message “upon firing up the LTE site.”

To recall, the Philippine government filed a diplomatic protest against China last year after the Armed Forces of the Philippines-Western Command spotted the presence of at least 275 Chinese vessels near Pag-asa Island.

“This development marks another step towards improved communications for the people of Pag-asa, who were first connected via mobile communication in 2005, when Smart turned on its 2G service on the island,” Smart said.

Smart also said it would continue to rollout its LTE services nationwide.

“To date, Smart’s high-speed broadband service is available in 93% of the country’s cities and municipalities and serves 95% of the population,” it noted.

PLDT and Smart have already spent about P260 billion since 2015 to improve and expand the reach of their services.

“Amid the regained momentum of its network rollout efforts following the easing of lockdown restrictions, PLDT has leveled up its target capital expenditures for 2020 back up to about P70 billion,” Smart noted.

On Monday, Smart announced that it is working to increase by 40% the number of its LTE base stations in South Cotabato, North Cotabato, Sarangani, and Sultan Kudarat or the SOCCSKSARGEN region.

“By making LTE more available and increasing our network capacity, our customers in General Santos City and other areas in the region can use our network to stay connected with loved ones, access online learning platforms, work remotely, and run their businesses from the safety of their homes, especially in the New Normal,” PLDT-Smart Senior Vice President for Network Planning and Engineering Mario G. Tamayo said in a statement.

Hastings Holdings, Inc., a unit of PLDT Beneficial Trust Fund subsidiary MediaQuest Holdings, Inc., has a majority stake in BusinessWorld through the Philippine Star Group, which it controls. — Arjay L. Balinbin

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