Smart expects 10,000 users for first year of LTE service

By Lenie Lectura, BusinessMirror

Posted at Aug 28 2012 07:53 AM | Updated as of Aug 28 2012 03:53 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Smart Communications Inc. said the number of LTE (Long-Term Evolution) users in its network could hit the 10,000 mark in its first year.

Smart Vice President for Wireless Consumers Division Noel Lorenzana said at the launch of the LTE service on Saturday that they expect to have anywhere between 5,000 and 10,000 LTE subscribers by August next year.

“We will take it from there. It’s going to be a ramp up as we see people get hooked to the service. If I reach that number I would be very happy,” he said.

Smart is eyeing existing postpaid subscribers in its network to subscribe to the LTE service. At the end of June this year, Smart registered 600,000 postpaid subscriptions. The number excludes Sun Cellular postpaid subscribers.

The cellular firm is offering the new LTE service at Plan 3500 with download speeds of up to 42Mbps with a 10GB monthly cap.

Compared to LTE service fees around the world, Smart LTE is very competitive. In the United States, a typical LTE connection costs around P500 per gigabyte and elsewhere in Asia around P700 to P1,000 for the same amount of data. Smart offers LTE at only P450 per gigabyte beyond the 10GB allocation.

The service will be initially available in Metro Manila, Cebu, Davao, Baguio and Boracay. In the metropolis, Smart LTE coverage will reach the cities of Makati, Pasig and Quezon City. In the absence of an LTE signal, the dongle is able to connect to Smart’s 4G HSPA+, 3G and 2G services. The cellular firm will blanket more cities and municipalities toward the end of the year.

“We will be starting off in several high-traffic areas across Metro Manila including the Makati Central Business District. We will increase that number before the year ends,” said Smart network and IP systems head Rolando Peña, adding that LTE-capable handsets will be available soon.

Especially-marked LTE signs will be posted in various establishments around Metro Manila to indicate the availability of the service.

Smart’s rollout of its 4G mobile broadband service complements the deployment of parent firm Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co.’s

Fiber-To-Home fixed broadband service, which is capable of delivering speeds of up to 10Mbps.

Rival Globe Telecom Inc. also announced last week that it will make LTE service available by next month.

Globe will launch its 4G LTE service, through Tattoo. It will also offer 4G LTE to mobile customers by the fourth quarter of 2012.

“By September of this year, it’s all systems go to launch the 4G LTE network of Globe. On top of just offering the fastest speeds on the country’s best broadband service, Tattoo, Globe will offer 4G LTE on a full range of mobile phones by the fourth quarter of the year,” said Peter Bithos, Globe senior adviser for consumer business.

He said the 4G LTE launch of Globe will focus on providing large contiguous areas of coverage, rather than just “hotspots.”

Bithos added, “Today, Globe already has the largest 4G network in the country with over 2,700 4G base stations through its leading WiMAX and HSPA + services.”

To date, Globe has a total of 2,700 4G sites across the country. By end-2012, it expects to increase this to more than 4,000 sites.