Continuing its investments in modernized infrastructure and technologies in important areas around the country, Globe Telecom further reinforced its network strength by integrating advanced small cell technologies. In 2014, Globe partnered with Alcatel-Lucent (ALU) to roll out state-of-the-art wireless modern network technologies in the Visayas and Mindanao areas to improve coverage and data capacity to meet increasing consumer demand. Included in the rollout are increased fiber backhaul, use of integrated macro and micro cell technologies with primary consideration for landscape and tourism potential of the region.
In May 2015, tourist-laden Boracay Island was chosen as the initial rollout area for advanced small cell technologies. Globe fired up additional 3G, LTE, WiFi and the first outdoor small cells in the Philippines during the LaBoracay summer revelry at the first weekend of May. The result was a complete change of experience as Globe customers enjoyed overall better network coverage, better call quality and higher data rates at a time when tourist arrival is near peak and network usage increased tenfold.
The enhanced customer experience gave strong impetus for the telco company to further augment the use of small cells technology in the coming months. Moreover, this intensified network performance has prompted the Media Operations Committee (MOC) of the ongoing Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation-National Organizing Council (APEC-NOC) to award all network and WiFi facilities at the International Media Center (IMC) located inside Boracay Ecoville Resort to Globe Telecom.
"We started improving the fiber-connection of Boracay in 2012. Since then, we have progressively improved our network's performance by optimizing our available spectrum, technology and radio hardware, harnessing maximum allowable capacities. As Globe aims to build the best network in the premier island destination with the full potential of our current spectrum, we enable our customers to live out their Globe-powered digital lifestyle wherever they are in the island," said Robert Tan, Chief Technical Advisor of Globe.
According to Tan, the current technologies introduced by Globe in Boracay can deploy speeds of at least 5 Mbps, and up to 100 Mbps on WiFi, significantly improving its data speeds from last year. On the other hand, the small cells - mini-base stations using lower transmit power strategically positioned around the island - can support multiple technologies, including 3G and LTE. They have been activated during special events such as the APEC, concerts and fiestas such as the LaBoracay, in cafes and restaurants as well as in commercial areas for Globe customers to enjoy a full digital experience on their phones and devices. No other telco provider has this technology installed on the island to date.
Small cell technology is key in providing superior LaBoracay and APEC connectivity. At the time of LaBoracay, a huge portion of data traffic in the island was offloaded to small cells, with speeds clocking in at more than 40 Mbps on WiFi and at least 20 Mbps on LTE. On 3G, the volume of voice calls and data usage grew by 104% and 16%, respectively. Meanwhile, the number of users on 3G also increased by 51% and for LTE, 109%. As sampled from two popular restaurant-bars during peak hours, LTE download speeds were monitored at 12.94 Mbps, while uploading reached 13.58 Mbps.
Tan noted that with the rapid increase of data demand and to deliver on the telco's promise of providing its customers their digital lifestyle experience, technologies such as small cells will continually be rolled out in several areas across the Globe network. Traditional hardware such as regular macro cells cannot easily deliver the same amount of data capacity in high-foot traffic areas.
The small cells installed in Boracay is the Metro Compact Outdoor Small Cell solution of Alcatel-Lucent (Euronext Paris and NYSE: ALU), offering both coverage fine-tuning and traffic offload from the macro layer, effectively postponing the need for additional Macro carrier without impacting the high quality of service offered to customers. The Metro Compact Outdoor Small Cell solution is deployed as an overlay network complimenting the Globe multi-vendor Macro layer, resulting in smooth traffic mobility.
Further, with pervasive and superior data now blanketing the island, the Globe network in Boracay will further undergo optimization to maximize its new capacity. During its recent financial disclosure, Globe announced that it has spent around P4.9 billion in capital expenditures in Q1 2015 to support its growing customer base and complement its demand for data and content. The company is also expanding its US$500 million LTE network, building a footprint of around 5,000 sites over the next two years, which includes Boracay.