PLDT, Smart drive digital transformation, offer ‘lifeline’ to small biz

Leading integrated telco PLDT and its wireless arm Smart Communications, Inc. (Smart) forge ahead in extending services that enable Filipinos to thrive in the new normal, reinforcing the “backbone” of the economy.

“In the face of massive job losses in lower income sectors due to the shutdown of retail services and establishments, e-commerce platforms serve as a lifeline for minimum wage earners and small business owners. More than the bigger establishments’ digital adoption, our network services and solutions allow small players to go into online retailing and thrive in the new normal,” said Alfredo S. Panlilio, Smart Communications President and CEO and PLDT Chief Revenue Officer, at a recent online summit hosted by the Shareholders’ Association of the Philippines.

The online summit series focused on reshaping the economy through inclusive business and highlighted the role of connectivity, e-commerce platforms and digital finance in the new normal, where customers have largely shifted from in-person transactions to online.

“An IBM research shows that in the space of 12 months, the pandemic has brought forward the transition from physical shopping to e-commerce by an estimated five years.  Banking has also gone digital. Payment and financial processing can be done in a click of a finger,” said Panlilio.

Workplace transformation

Panlilio added that, in addition to this shift, workplaces have also been transformed, alongside the entertainment needs of customers–both of which are empowered by connectivity and relevant services by PLDT and Smart.

“Analysts expect that in 2022 as much as 30% of the workforce will continue to work from home multiple days a week.  Meanwhile, as people stayed home for entertainment, broadband usage across the country rose exponentially,” he said, adding that these changes drove PLDT and Smart to rethink telco’s role as enabler of passions and utility on the internet, with a genuine focus on providing Filipinos with the tools and products to survive and thrive in the new normal.  

“The increased usage of data driven by work and study from home during the pandemic speaks of telco as a utility, while the increased use of data on a personal consumption level, such as video-streaming, online stories, e-games, etc., responding to the consumer’s need to be entertained and care for their overall wellbeing, describes telco as an enabler of people’s passion and purpose.  Both roles are equally important,” he stressed.

This is aligned with Smart’s “Live Smarter for a Better World” campaign, which highlights Smart’s role in enabling customers in their pursuit of passion and purpose and achieving “personal revolutions” that generate lasting positive impact to society through connectivity, long-running community partnership programs, and CSR initiatives.

To address these growing data needs, PLDT and Smart are continuously investing in their integrated fixed and wireless networks.

“Transitioning to the new digital reality requires internet speeds to increase, coverage to expand and reliability to improve,” he said, adding that the companies continue to invest in their network infrastructure, particularly in their 5G networks, subsea cables, and towers, in order to secure the future of our country in this increasingly digital world.

Currently, PLDT and Smart are ramping up the rollout of Smart’s 5G network nationwide, which now has over 2,600 sites–the most extensive 5G network in the Philippines.

“Our investment in fiber is also crucial and continuous, to support our increasingly connected societies.  This is broadly split into the fiber connecting our homes with high-speed internet, and the enterprise point-to-point fiber network servicing the growing data demands of government and enterprise clients,” he said.

PH as ‘hyperscaler hub’

In addition to ramping up their fiber installation and repair capabilities despite the restrictions brought about by the pandemic, Panlilio said PLDT is also building capacities to bring hyperscalers into the country. “Ultimately, our vision is to help make the Philippines a strategic hyperscaler hub in the region,” he said.

Alongside all these, Panlilio said that providing network services to support the country’s COVID-19 response remains a top priority.

“The fact that network services are a crucial component in our country’s COVID-19 response is something that we take to heart.  Working with our government to deliver fast and reliable connectivity that is easily accessible where they are needed, such as in COVID isolation facilities, hospitals, health centers, LGUs, etc., is top priority for us at PLDT and Smart,” he said. “For PLDT and Smart, and telco in general, two words stand out: service and connection.”

Underpinning these services is PLDT’s fiber network infrastructure, now over 429,000 kilometers, the country’s most extensive. This fiber also supports Smart’s mobile network, which covers 96% of the population from Batanes to Tawi-Tawi.

These initiatives form a large part of PLDT’s capital expenditures, which totaled P460.7 billion in the last ten years. To address the growing data needs of their fixed and wireless customers, PLDT and Smart are prepared to invest between P88 billion and P92 billion in capital expenditures in 2021

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