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Smart 4G LTE commercial rollout among the world’s first!

Leading wireless services provider Smart Communications, Inc. (Smart) has announced that the much-awaited LTE technology will be commercially available beginning August 25, making the Philippines among the early adaptors of the technology worldwide! More details after the jump.

LTE or Long Term Evolution is a mobile technology capable of very fast data connectivity, surpassing download speeds currently available in 3G technology. The technology, commercially available in the United States, Western Europe and Japan is only about two years old.

By bringing LTE first into the country, Smart is ahead of most of its peers within Asia Pacific and among other countries outside of the US and Western Europe.

Dirk Wolter, Cisco Systems’ Chief Technology Officer, Mobility, APAC, said that the LTE rollout in the Philippines will not only lead to the best mobile broadband experience ever but would also play a key role in making available Internet even to the remotest parts of the country.

He said mobile broadband is important in the Philippines because most users make use of their mobile devices to connect to the Internet, unlike Western Europe or the US where people have PCs at home and they have a fiber broadband on subscription.

“Here in the Philippines, the penetration on the fixed network side is not that high and mobile network is being used to connect to the Internet not only because people liked the mobility but because they have no other option of connecting to the Internet,” said Wolter, who spoke on the global trends of mobile data services and technologies at the recent LTE Forum hosted by Smart.

Mobile network is the easiest and fastest way to connect to the Internet and to a large extent, has become a substitute for the fixed network infrastructure that is not always available in the Philippines.

He said that while mobile penetration is nearing 100 percent and the number of mobile phone users is already as many as the country’s population, broadband penetration is still very low.

“Broadband Internet penetration is much lower and LTE will help bridge that gap between the very high mobile phone penetration and the very low broadband penetration. LTE would make up for that gap,” added Wolter.

He also said a new technology like LTE gets adapted a lot faster in countries with young population.

Filipinos love their mobile phones. They send text messages, post their Facebook status, check traffic updates and weather information via the mobile Internet.

There is no other place in the world that has such as intense use of SMS and this is partly due to the fact that the population is young and is therefore at ease with the technology.

However, it would take more than just a network infrastructure like the one built by Smart for the LTE rollout to be successful.

“It needs an entire ecosystem. The ecosystem starts with the device that is not only available but is also affordable,” stressed Wolter.

Part of the ecosystem is the regulatory side especially since LTE requires a huge amount of radio spectrum from the government for the technology to work at its best.

From what’s happening in countries that have already gone ahead with the LTE rollout, he observed that the penetration rate for LTE is a lot steeper than what was seen for 3G.

“The 3G took a very long time to succeed and eventually surpass 2G. It was because the devices then were not readily available and those that became available were not affordable,” Wolter pointed out.

It could also be because the whole industry was not really prepared for broadband.

Today, mobile broadband is part of people’s lives, and mobile devices are becoming available very quickly with price points that would address the needs of the various income segments.

Over time, he said some countries would still be using 3G and CMTS technologies, but for most of the countries, LTE would be the preferred technology and as such, is seen surpassing 3G in about five years.

He emphasized that with LTE, mobile broadband can make available Internet connectivity even for those in the remotest areas of the country.

“I see LTE connecting the unconnected remote areas. I see LTE providing that important service that is affordable for most people,” Wolter also said.

In a country where most people would make the conscious choice between paying for a good mobile broadband subscription and getting to eat out more often, it is important that the services made available by via the LTE rollout are not only available but also affordable.

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