PLDT has expanded its fiber optic network, now reaching 429,000 kilometers as of December 2020 an addition 34,000 kilometers from its report last September of reaching 395,000 kilometers, this lets Filipinos stay connected in the new normal. The most extensive and advanced digital transport network in the Philippines helps everyone work from home, study online and stream content seamlessly. PLDT’s fiber infrastructure also supports its mobile subsidiary Smart Communication’s network that provides high capacity link for cellsites, allowing faster transmission of data.
But while fiber optic technology is the solution that delivers the fastest and most reliable connectivity, this type of infrastructure is also the most vulnerable to external factors and events that are beyond the control of service providers like PLDT. This is because while fiber itself is resistant to human or electrical interference, fiber optic cables can be physically cut and damaged, which leads to disrupted service.
To help mitigate the impact of a physically cut or damaged fiber optic cable, PLDT has a resilience and redundancy program for a large part of its fiber infrastructure, which provides multiple cable routes that allow the network to reroute and redirect affected data traffic. This helps ensure continuous operations and connectivity amid fiber cuts or maintenance activities. But even with redundancy in place, accidental physical cuts to PLDT’s fiber network have still been found to cause service disruption.
“We have noted that the bulk of service disruptions is caused by man-made incidents accidentally damaging our fiber cables, including road excavation, drainage projects, bridge construction, diggings, and related works. These incidents have caused significant service interruptions, outage, slow down and/or intermittent service to our affected subscribers,” according to Debbie Hu, FVP for Network Operations under the Technology Group of PLDT-Smart.
“With telco and broadband services now a necessity to everyone for online learning and work from home, among others, these incidents prevent us from serving our customers at the level we are aiming for. Given the limited mobility, manpower and other COVID-19 challenges, maintaining and upgrading our current infrastructure to better serve not only our subscribers but the public in general is quite a challenge. Additional restoration works will require further resources from providers like PLDT and Smart,” according to Atty. Aileen Regio, the head of PLDT’s Regulatory and Strategic Affairs.
PLDT has been relentlessly moving in lockstep with the repair work. In fact, after initial delays caused by the COVID-19 lockdowns last year, PLDT’s Home business has since seen marked improvement in responding to calls following up on installation and repair concerns via its hotlines and customer support channels.
“As we continue to ramp up our installation and repair capability while expanding our fixed and wireless networks to improve service quality, we must also work more closely with the government and other service providers. Proper and prior coordination with other entities before they conduct their construction and excavation activities will help us avoid incidents of damage to our facilities which consequently result in hampered or disrupted telecommunications services,” added Regio.
While fiber supports all of PLDT-Smart’s internet delivery platforms, including fiber fixed broadband, mobile data services via 4G and increasingly 5G, as well as carrier-grade WiFi, fiber optics technology is but one key enabler of PLDT’s entire network ecosystem. Ensuring a future-proof, reliable and resilient network, PLDT’s entire network ecosystem also includes thousands of cell sites, over 59,000 base stations, 4 million ports for outside plant facilities, 25 core data centers, three cable landing stations, and international gateway facilities.
All the improvements in the entire network ecosystem are made possible by PLDT’s heavy network investments. Over the past five years, PLDT’s capital expenditures – most of which was poured into its network buildout – reached P260 billion. PLDT recently announced that it is prepared to invest between Php 88 billion and Php 92 billion in capex this year, clear evidence of its commitment to deliver superior customer experience.