Philippines-based operator PLDT earmarked up to PHP178 billion ($3.5 billion) to expand and upgrade its mobile and fixed networks over the next three years, with 2018 capex expected to be more than PHP50 billion and stay at the level for two years.
The operator said in a statement capex for 2017 is estimated at between PHP39 billion and PHP40 billion (the final figure will be revealed when the company announces its annual results on 8 March). Capex in 2016 totalled PHP42.8 billion. PLDT expects total capex for the 2016-2020 period to reach PHP260 billion.
In response to increasing expectations and criticisms being levelled against the industry about network quality, PLDT said in November 2017 it was considering increasing its 2018 capex to a higher level than its original guidance of PHP46 billion for 2017. It said while it believes it can support the PHP46 billion level through its operating cash flow, any “higher amount would have to be funded from other than additional debt, possibly through a sale of assets”.
Chairman and CEO Manuel Pangilinan (pictured) in late December 2017 confirmed it was set to spend more than PHP50 billion on capex in 2018: “This record high capex budget is to support our various network initiatives to further expand the reach of PLDT’s home broadband network as well as enhance the coverage and capacity of our 3G/LTE network across the country.”
Pangilinan said the increased capex “means that for every PHP1 of service revenue, we reinvest between PHP0.30 and PHP0.35 in the business to super-charge our networks and advance our digital transformation programme”.
PLDT’s wireless unit Smart plans to double the number of LTE base stations to about 17,700 over the next 12 to 18 months. The number of 3G base stations will rise to more than 12,400.
Smart, with about a 49.5 per cent share of mobile connection in the country, doubled the number of 4G base stations in 2017 to 8,700.