Philippine mobile operator Smart Communications has activated its commercial 5G Standalone (SA) network in Makati City, the country’s main business district, the telco said in a release.

Smart Communications said it first began exploring 5G in 2016. Smart also said it had activated the country’s first 5G base stations in 2018 and made the first 5G Stand Alone (SA)-powered video call in Southeast Asia in August 2019.

“Through the years, PLDT and Smart have been at the forefront of breakthrough innovations in the telco industry, including 5G.  With the first batch of our 5G SA sites now fully operational, we are starting to see the true capabilities of 5G which will play a critical role in the advancement of massive IoT, health care and smart cities, delivering customer experience that is truly world-class” said Alfredo Panlilio, PLDT and Smart Communications president and CEO.

“Technology plays an important role in today’s society as evidently seen during the pandemic. 5G SA, as an innovation platform, will create new opportunities for enterprises and consumers that will maximize its ultra-reliable and low latency capabilities. This enables industrial automation, autonomous mobile robotics deployment, safe remote crane operations, fast response in gaming and interactive video streaming, among others. We are creating opportunities for the Filipino Enterprises to compete in the global arena,” said Mario Tamayo, head of technology at PLDT and Smart.

With the activation of the first 5G SA sites at the PLDT and Smart headquarters in Makati, Smart has upgraded its 5G facilities, enabling them to connect with the 5G core network.

 With 5G SA in place, Smart said it will be able to offer Voice over New Radio (VoNR) and network slicing capabilities in the short term, as well as support new industrial and enterprise opportunities. Smart made its first successful VoNR call in July this year at the Technolab in Smart Tower in Makati City.

Smart has also teamed up with Swedish vendor Ericsson to develop 5G use cases at the PLDT-Smart Technolab, which currently hosts one of the 5G SA sites.

Smart also noted that it currently operates the largest 5G Network in the Philippines with over 4,000 sites deployed nationwide. This network is supported by parent company PLDT’s fiber infrastructure.

Smart had launched its 5G Technolab facility in June 2018 to handle R&D, standardization and testing.

Rival operator Globe Telecom last week announced it completed a SA 5G trial on a live set-up at a facility in Makati City.

Globe Telecom first received the approval to launch commercial 5G in 2018, with a nod from the Metro Manila Development Authority to deploy hundreds of small cell sites across Manila. The company brought its Non-Standalone 5G (NSA) network online to 17 urban areas in 2020, providing coverage to more than 80% of the metro Manila area by the end of the year.

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