PLDT raised its capex budget for 2021 by up to 25 per cent, part of its backing for a government push to improve telecoms services across the country.

In a statement, PLDT chief revenue officer Alfredo Panlilio said a surge in demand for data means it is prepared to invest between PHP88 billion ($1.8 billion) and PHP92 billion.

“We want to benchmark ourselves, not just with local competition, but with our neighbouring countries like Thailand and Vietnam, as we would want our network performance to ultimately be at par with global companies.”

The operator originally budgeted PHP83 billion for capex in 2020 but lowered the forecast to the same level as 2019 (PHP70 billion) due to Covid-19 (coronavirus) lockdown measures.

Mobile unit Smart Communications boosted its base station count 20 per cent year-on-year so far in 2020 to more than 58,000.

In its Q3 financial report, the company said it plans to add about 2,000 sites in 2021 and identified six tower companies to handle initial construction of common infrastructure for another government programme.