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Community

Eager Cebu seniors are newest ‘Millenniors’

From north to south, Cebu youth are coming together to make sure that Cebu’s seniors are keeping up with the changing times

Nanay Miliang of Colawin, Argao stood out in more ways than one. Apart from being the oldest learner in the room, she also had the most interesting companion—where other lolas had their small grandchildren in tow, Nanay Miliang’s companion was her four-legged guardian, a 9-year-old dog named Tanduay.

Already 82, Nanay Miliang’s age did not stop her from energetically participating in a recent Smart Millenniors session held in their barangay.

Smartphones, social media, internet safety

Ever faithful, Tanduay stayed by Nanay Miliang throughout the session. Together, they listened to the lecturers as they shared their knowledge about smartphones, social media and internet safety. They even participated in icebreakers side by side.

Smart Millenniors session

Nanay Miliang, 82, with her dog Tanduay d Smart Millenniors session in Colawin, Argao.

“I’m happy to have learned all these things, but I admit I still have more studying to do when I get home,” she said after the session.

Nanay Miliang and 60 other senior citizens from Sts Peter and Paul Parish in Bantayan Island, and from Colawin and neighboring barangays in Argao joined the recent runs of the Smart Millenniors Program in Cebu.

Video calls, online shows

During the sessions, the elders were paired up with youth volunteers from their communities, who assisted them as they became more familiar and comfortable with smartphones and social media platforms like Facebook.

The volunteers, who were from the Sts Peter and Paul Parish Youth Coordinating Council and the Colawin National High School, also taught the seniors how to do video calls in chat apps like Messenger, as well as how to watch shows online via video streaming services like YouTube.

Nanay Miliang, 82, is one of the oldest participants in the Argao session. She and her fellow seniors learned more about smartphones, social media and internet safety during the session.

Nanay Miliang, 82, was one of the oldest participants in the Argao session. She and her fellow seniors learned more about smartphones, social media and internet safety during the session.

In Bantayan, participant Marilyn Negapatan, a retired teacher from Bantayan National High School, was all smiles at the end of the session.

“I started with only a little knowledge, but thanks to this program, I was able to enrich myself,” said Negapatan, who was joined by churchmates and fellow chapel leaders. “I learned a lot and enjoyed while at it, too.”

More connected

In Colawin, the excited seniors trooped to the Colawin National High School (CNHS) to learn from their teachers–digital-savvy senior high school students of CNHS.

Last year, Smart fired up a Long Term Evolution (LTE) site in Colawin. Since then, the once quiet and remote barangay has seen big changes as it became more connected to the rest of the country and the world, with families growing closer, and students performing school tasks better.

Former Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr., a native of Colawin and a ‘millennior’ himself, dropped by the session to address fellow seniors. “Technology has made the world smaller, because it brings people closer through connectivity,” he said. “I encourage all of you to learn as much as you can during the program, and to use technology for good.”

The seniors, who mostly had children now living away from them, expressed how much they wanted to learn and keep abreast with technology. “We don’t want to be left behind,” they said.

The youth volunteers teamed up with Smart employee volunteers in facilitating the whole-day training sessions. “I feel overwhelmed. I realize now that I know how to teach,” shared Colawin student Joana Kristelle Albeos.

Smart Millenniors. Seniors from Colawin and neighboring barangays in Argao, Cebu are the latest addition to the growing ranks of tech-savvy Smart Millenniors.

Her classmate Lessly Jyn Orbeta, on the other hand, was more excited about teaching her own grandmother at home. “I am very happy that Smart came back to our school. I am very excited to teach my grandma as well,” said Orbeta, who grew up with her lola, but is currently living away from her. “I can’t wait to see her again and teach her all of this,” she added.

Bring communities together

Cebu-based Smart employee Kenneth Asuncion was among the volunteer lecturers. “It’s heartwarming to do something that has a direct impact to people. This is proof that technology can really bring communities together,” he said, adding that making seniors aware about online scams and identity theft on the internet is important, too.

Aside from the lectures, the group also engaged in an interactive game on internet safety concepts, as well as a photo contest to put their new smartphone photography learnings to use. At the end of the program, Smart raffled off new smartphones to a lucky Millennior and volunteer.

Help in school work

“This phone will definitely help me make my reports for school,” said Hannah Grace Omas-as, the CNHS volunteer who won in the raffle. An honor student, Hannah shared that without a phone and the internet, she had a hard time researching for her papers. “But more than this phone, my experience teaching the elders—that was also a gift,” she added.

The Smart Millenniors program, spearheaded by Smart, enlists the help of youth volunteers in teaching senior citizens about technology, particularly how to use their smartphones, mobile data, social media and video to enrich their lives.

For its efforts in expanding the technological know-how of seniors across the country, the Smart Millenniors program was awarded a Silver Anvil at the recent 54th Anvil Awards. Since its launch in 2017, it has already conducted sessions with seniors around Metro Manila, Laguna, Cebu and Cagayan de Oro.

Categories
Business

PLDT, Smart retailers win big at Ka-Partner Rewards 2019

Five brand-new millionaires, and more than 100 winners of motorcycles, mobile gadgets, load wallets, grocery items, and other premium items—these are the exciting highlights of this year’s Ka-Partner Rewards program of PLDT and wireless unit Smart Communications.

The program’s latest winners of P1 million in cash and livelihood packages are two housewives and sari-sari store owners from Leyte and Davao. The two winners join three other new Ka-Partner millionaires, bringing the total number of this year’s retailer-millionaires to five. The Ka-Partner program, which started in 2015, now has a total of 19 retailer-millionaires.

The winner from Leyte has a son who just graduated from college, and a husband who works as a taxi driver in Manila. “I sell load to add to my husband’s income and help pay for my son’s schooling,” she said. The couple hope that their son will soon find a decent job and get married.

Actor Jameson Blake serenades the retailers during the Amazing Ka-Partner convention held at SMX Davao.

Actor Jameson Blake serenades the retailers during the Amazing Ka-Partner convention held at SMX Davao.

Load as necessity

The retailer from Davao, meanwhile, highlighted the importance of having mobile load at all times. “I think load has become one of life’s necessities, like rice, sugar, cooking oil. It’s important because it allows us to communicate with others, especially during emergencies,” she said.

They encouraged fellow load retailers to sell more to improve their chances of winning the grand prize at next year’s Ka-Partner assembly. Load sales are automatically converted as entries to the raffle during the succeeding retailers convention.

PLDT-Smart Ka-Partner retailers are usually found at our neighborhood sari-sari or grocery stores. They can also be a friend or a relative from whom we can buy airtime credits or load, wherever they may be.

Close to 20,000 load retailers from all over the Philippines gathered for a day of entertainment, fun games, and exciting prizes at the PLDT-Smart Amazing Ka-Partner convention, which was held between May and August in 20 various locations nationwide.

The winner from Leyte (fourth from right) receives the grand prize during the Amazing Ka-Partner convention at Leyte Academic Center in Palo.

The winner from Leyte (fourth from right) receives the grand prize during the Amazing Ka-Partner convention at Leyte Academic Center in Palo.

Incentives to retailers

The activity is part of PLDT-Smart’s Ka-Partner Rewards program, which gives incentives to the companies’ more than 1 million load retailers to help them grow their businesses and enhance their livelihood, while enabling communities to stay connected.

This year’s convention theme is #PLDTSmartAmazingSaBenta as load retailers are assured of bigger income and better business opportunities given the improved mobile and internet experience of PLDT and Smart customers. The improved connectivity can be attributed to PLDT-Smart’s network upgrades, with the expansion of fiber network and accelerated deployment of Long-Term Evolution (LTE) service nationwide.

A lucky Ka-Partner retailer wins a raffle prize during the convention in Leyte.

A lucky Ka-Partner retailer wins a raffle prize during the convention in Leyte.

The convention is PLDT-Smart’s way of giving back to load retailers or Ka-Partners, whose sales account for a significant share of the company’s revenues.

The gathering featured topnotch entertainment from today’s hottest stars, and raffle draws where as much as P1 million was given away. The venues also hosted a trade fair, where Ka-Partners availed of products, services, and various opportunities to help them grow their business further.

Load retailers also received assistance in using the Ka-Partner app, which could help them keep track of their sales with its digital sales ledger and inventory management features. (Press Release)

Categories
Tech

Video, mobile games boost Smart’s data usage and revenues

PLDT Inc.’s resurgent mobile business posted record revenue growth in the first quarter of 2019, riding on the growing appetite of its customers for online video and mobile games.

Service revenues of its individual wireless business, which includes the consumer sales of its Smart, Sun and TNT mobile brands, jumped 18% year-on-year to P16.9 billion, net of interconnection costs. The surge in revenues was driven by a robust increase in data and broadband revenues which accounted for 65% of the total.

PLDT’s wireless brands also added 3.4 million customers in the first quarter of 2019, adding to a subscriber base that is increasingly becoming more active in using data. About two-thirds of these subscribers are smartphone owners, of whom about 70% are data users. Mobile data traffic rose by 127% year-on-year to 304 petabytes.

Video, mobile gaming

These data-savvy customers are watching more and more video on their smartphones. With the introduction of the Video Every Day data packages late last year, more customers have been accessing various video services like YouTube, NBA, iWant and iFlix.

The monthly users of YouTube, already boosted by last year’s Free YouTube promo, further increased by 35% in the first quarter. Viewers of other popular video apps also increased sharply: users of the NBA video service nearly doubled; those of iWant soared 153%; and iflix, 170%.

Mobile gaming has contributed to the continuing increase in data usage, following PLDT and Smart’s initiatives to organize their official professional eSports team, “Omega”. They also sponsored the professional league in the Philippines of the popular mobile game Mobile Legends.

The upshot: the number of monthly unique users of Mobile Legends increased by 5x from June 2018 to end-March 2019.

Mobile gaming Smart, PLDT network

PLDT network upgrades

To support Filipinos’ increasing appetite for data, PLDT and Smart are continuously expanding and modernizing their fixed and mobile networks, backed by a historic-high capital expenditure of P78.4 billion this year. The capex investments are to further expand coverage and to increase capacity to handle the exponential growth in data traffic. The ultimate aim is to deliver the best data customer experience.

The growth of mobile video viewing among Smart subscribers, for example, has been supported by the ability of its cellular network to deliver what internet analytics firm OpenSignal called, in its latest country analysis, “the better video experience.” Other third-party organizations like Ookla, Tutela and P3 have also recognized the network superiority of the PLDT group network.

More LTE base stations

Smart has added about 1,700 LTE base stations in the first quarter, raising the total to about 18,000. Smart is also activating carrier aggregation across its sites, enabling the network to deliver even faster mobile internet services by combining the capacity of two or more frequency bands. Smart has likewise also increased its 3G base station count to about 12,100.

Meanwhile, PLDT has further expanded its total fiber optic cable network footprint to 259,000 kilometers. PLDT’s fiber-powered fixed line broadband network has now passed 6.7 million homes as of end-March, while total number of fiber ports available has reached 2.96 million, of which 1.2 million are available for new customers.

PLDT’s fiber network also supports Smart’s mobile network by providing high-capacity links to cellular base stations.

PLDT has also partnered with global technology leader Cisco to help transform its fiber transport network in to a fully automated, software-defined 5G-ready IP transport network over the next three years.

“This transport transformation program is a crucial part of our ambition to strengthen the network leadership that PLDT and Smart nave won through consistent efforts over the past three years,” said Mario G. Tamayo, PLDT-Smart senior vice president for network planning and engineering. (Press Release)

Categories
Community Tech

Adult learning gets boost with Learning Center, Smart School-in-a-Bag

When the Department of Education (DepEd) conceptualized the Alternative Learning System (ALS) over 15 years ago, its primary goal was simple: to assist out-of-school youth and adult learners who haven’t completed basic education.

Years later, the government agency realized the need to further enhance ALS education interventions. This led to the development of ALS-Education and Skills Training (ALS-EST), an initiative that combines the ALS curriculum with technical, vocational, and other skills training.

The integrated program aims to produce completers who are not only able to catch up with basic education, but have also acquired technical competencies for immediate employment. “The program was developed based on the assessment that ALS learners showed they were more likely to stick with the program if they also learned work skills along the way,” said DepEd Undersecretary Nepomuceno A. Malaluan.

Improved employability for ALS learners

While the ALS-EST is already implemented in 98 volunteer DepEd schools and five non-DepEd partners, the recently completed pilot ALS-EST Learning Center in the town of Lawaan in Eastern Samar is expected to further promote the effectiveness of alternative learning.

Located within the Lawaan National School of Craftsmanship and Home Industries, the facility has a large hall for lectures and workshops that can be divided or merged. The structure also takes into account the needs of student mothers and learners with disabilities, which would help remove the misconception that non-formal schooling equates to second-class education. “ALS is just another modality or pathway to literacy and – for many learners of special circumstances – it is their prized chance at basic education,” he said.

The first-ever ALS-EST Learning Center was funded by the Australian government through its Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and implemented by the Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP). The partnership intends to construct four more identical facilities throughout the Philippines as they believe that education is the most effective solution against poverty.

“We hope that this donation will provide a conducive environment for learning and ensure that young people will get access to relevant skills,” said Australian Ambassador Steven J. Robinson.

DepEd Undersecretary Nepomuceno A. Malaluan with Smart’s Head for Education Programs Stephanie V. Orlino at the inauguration of the pilot Alternative Learning System - Education and Skills Training (ALS-EST) facility in Lawaan, Eastern Samar.

DepEd Undersecretary Nepomuceno A. Malaluan with Smart’s Head for Education Programs Stephanie V. Orlino at the inauguration of the pilot Alternative Learning System – Education and Skills Training (ALS-EST) facility in Lawaan, Eastern Samar.

“The end goal is to improve the employability of ALS learners and provide them with the expertise to start microenterprises,” he added.

Platform for offsite learning

According to USEC Malaluan, many alternative learners are unable to regularly show up for school, thus preventing them from completing their basic education. This is where Smart Communications (Smart) was able to support ALS-EST, as it provides a platform for offsite learning through the Smart School-in-a-Bag.

The flagship education program of the Philippines’ leading wireless services provider, Smart School-in-a-Bag is a portable digital classroom designed to provide access to technology to help deliver 21st century education even to remote schools without access to electricity. The 2×2 feet backpack contains a solar panel and battery, teacher’s laptop and tablet, Smart pocket WiFi, projector and screen, DVD player, TV, and student tablets that are pre-installed with literacy apps developed by Smart together with its community partners. Teacher training and program evaluation are also conducted.

With over 110 kits donated as of May 2019, the School-in-a-Bag program has benefitted over 30,000 learners and over 1,000 teachers in communities nationwide. These numbers are expected to grow with the use of the technology package in Lawaan ALS-EST.

“Having access to technology tools provided by School-in-a-Bag will surely motivate ALS-EST learners to attend sessions, since there are no limits to the resource materials that we access on the internet,” said Vicente R. Antofina Jr., a teacher for over 14 years.

More skills trainings

Aside from the School-in-a-Bag donation tailored for the program, Smart also plans on supporting ALS-EST by providing technology support and digital skills training, where needed,” said Stephanie V. Orlino, Head for Education Programs, Smart.

To learn more about the Smart School-in-a-Bag and Smart’s other CSR initiatives, visit www.facebook.com/SmartCommunities or send an email to [email protected]. (Press Release)

Categories
Tech

Better video experience on Smart LTE: Opensignal

Customers of PLDT wireless subsidiary Smart Communications, Inc. (Smart) experience faster video loading times and fewer video stalling occurrences while on Smart’s LTE network, according to the latest analysis by Opensignal.

The analysis, which is available on Opensignal’s website and covered the period Nov. 1, 2018 to Jan. 29, 2019, showed that Smart scored a ‘good’ video experience score of 56.6 points on Opensignal’s 4G Video Experience scale, well ahead of competition’s ‘poor’ score of 34.9 points out of 100. This score includes video loading time and video stalling metrics.

In terms of video load times, Smart customers experienced faster load times at 5 seconds, compared to competition’s 8.3 seconds. Opensignal’s 4G Video Load Time represents the average period of time mobile users have to wait for a streamed video to begin playing over an LTE connection.

Meanwhile, 4G Video Stalling Occurrence measures the proportion of users that experience an interruption in playback after a video begins streaming.

“Again, we observed a big gap between the two operators with 15.7% of Smart’s users and 40.3% of Globe’s experiencing stalling when streaming video to their smartphones,” Opensignal’s Francesco Rizzato wrote.

OpenSignal Faster load times Smart
FASTER LOAD TIMES. In terms of video load times, Smart customers experienced faster load times at 5 seconds, compared to competition’s 8.3 seconds.

 

“Many network operators that achieved Very Good Video Experience scores have just one in every ten users experiencing interruptions when playing video on an LTE connection. Having four out of ten users seeing their screen freeze during playback is definitely one of the reasons why Globe achieved a Poor score,” Rizzato added.

“Now that 4G access in the Philippines is becoming more and more of a commodity, all operators will need to focus on improving their subscribers’ experience in other areas beyond LTE reach. Our analysis shows that Smart has been doing its legwork, but it also raises the question of whether we will need to wait for 5G to see any improvement in Globe’s network experience,” Rizzato said.

Best network for video

These results come amid studies that show Filipinos are among the world’s most avid online video viewers. In 2018, online video viewing on Smart’s LTE network surged, leading to an over 100% increase in mobile data usage in 2018, and a 62-percent jump in mobile data revenues year-on-year.

This award is the latest in Smart’s string of network superiority citations from several independent third-party firms, including Ookla, Tutela, and global benchmarking leader P3 communications GmbH

“These awards are a testament to our continuous network upgrades across the country,” said Mario G. Tamayo, PLDT-Smart senior vice president for Network Planning and Engineering.

“We are continuously expanding and improving our network to provide the best mobile data experience to our customers—whether they use it for streaming online video, for keeping in touch with their loved ones, or for accessing other online services, such as email, mobile banking and e-commerce,” he added.

Underpinning this network performance is PLDT’s expansive fiber network, which now spans over 244,000 kilometers and also supports Smart’s mobile network by providing high-capacity links to cellular base stations. To push further the already significant network advantage of PLDT and Smart, and to support an active campaign for more revenues, PLDT and Smart are undertaking yet another massive capital expenditures program for 2019 by allocating up to P78.4 billion budget this year. (Press Release)

Categories
Tech

Budding teacher in Cebu develops award-winning tutorial app

Cris Militante was still in college when he realized how much he wanted to teach. The computer science and information technology student said 3 of his classmates at the University of San Carlos (USC) in Cebu City had asked him to tutor them in programming lessons, which they struggled with. The 3 subsequently passed the courses.

The positive results encouraged Militante to tutor other students who needed help with complex, specialized classes. Even though student organizations offered tutorials, not everyone could be accommodated.

That inspired Militante and classmates Patrick Dave Woogue and Gabriel Andrew Pineda, with mentor Patrick Wilbur Aldueso, to come up with an online tutorial system. The application leverages on a mobile platform that allows users to act as student-tutors to those having difficulty with their lessons, thus stimulating collaborative learning within the school.

The team called the app Eryl, a Welsh unisex name that means quiet, discerning, observant, seeking new challenges and opportunities.

Cris Militante Seeds for the Future
TRAINING. Cris Militante during the Seeds for the Future graduation.

 

Collaborative learning

“Eryl is the brainchild of college students with common academic challenges, especially with major subjects,” explained Militante. With the solution, users can select from a pool of tutors, sort out schedules, and negotiate tutoring fees.

Last year, Militante’s team entered Eryl in the 14th SWEEP Innovation and Technology Awards competition organized by Smart Communications – and won top honors. SWEEP stands for Smart Wireless Engineering Education Program. Launched in 2004, the competition draws out students’ ingenuity in developing wireless applications.

The first prize, also called the Huawei Prize for Excellence, came with P300,000 cash and support from Smart, thus enabling USC to develop Eryl into a full-blown application.

Life-changing experience

As team leader, Militante also received an additional perk: a visit to the head office of Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. in China, to participate in the Seeds for the Future training program of the telecommunications equipment and consumer electronics manufacturer. The elite ICT skills initiative seeks to develop local ICT talent, enhance knowledge transfer, promote greater interest in the telecommunications sector, and improve regional building and participation in the digital community.

“I enjoyed the technical and practical IT lessons on the cloud and 5G, especially as Huawei shared extensive expertise and equipment for us to experience how these new technologies work,” Militante said. Initiated by Huawei in 2008, Seeds for the Future program has had 3,600 top college students from over a hundred countries and regions.

Militante, who was in China for nearly a month, said he was privileged to interact with other students from other countries who shared his passion for ICT. “They were the most amazing individuals I’ve ever met,” he exclaimed. “I am forever grateful for such a life-changing learning experience.”

Cris Militante Seeds for the Future
SWEEP representative Cris Militante (back row 2nd from left) with other Seeds of the Future delegates.

 

Lessons for future developers

Amid all his good fortune in being able to further develop Eryl and work on projects as an IT consultant, Militante never lost sight of his goal: to teach. He is now a computer science instructor at USC, where he shares with his students the insights he acquired from SWEEP and the Seeds for the Future program.

Militante will also return to the SWEEP Awards this year, but will be on the other side of the annual competition – as a coach. More than technical knowledge, he hopes to impart three important lessons to future developers: envision, collaborate, and persevere. “Envision and set the goals you want to achieve, collaborate with people who share your vision, and persevere until everything becomes a reality,” the now 22-year-old professional explained.

The SWEEP alum admits that teaching is not easy, with various roadblocks to fully understanding a fast-paced industry such as ICT. Nonetheless, he is encouraged whenever he sees firsthand the smiles of the students who have been enlightened by a lesson he taught. “My goal is to encourage these future innovators to keep pursuing their dreams and help them learn more about the field they have chosen – the same way winning the SWEEP Awards helped me reach my goals,” he said.

It is a timely message, with this year’s SWEEP Awards in full swing. With the theme “#FutureReady: Creative Innovations Beyond Imagination,” it includes advanced categories for IoT and 5G solutions.

The revolutionary concepts of the top 20 finalists will be developed into full-blown applications at a SWEEP Boot Camp to be held in Metro Manila this month. These include bids from Asia Pacific College, Batangas State University, Bicol University Polangui Campus, Camarines Sur Polytechnic Colleges, Malayan Colleges Laguna, Mapua University, Polytechnic University of the Philippines – Sto. Tomas Branch, Technological University of the Philippines, National Teachers College, and University of the Cordilleras (Luzon); University of Cebu – Banilad, University of San Carlos, University of San Jose – Recoletos, Holy Cross of Davao College, University of Southeastern Philippines, and University of the Immaculate Conception (Visayas and Mindanao).

Final judging and awarding of cash prizes totaling over one million pesos will be held in May.

For more information on SWEEP, visit www.facebook.com/sweepschools or www.facebook.com/smartcommunities.

Categories
Tech

Cebu student teams dominate Smart innovation contest

A system that allows students to set up classes online for special lessons on areas they need help with was picked this year’s winner of the SWEEP (Smart Wireless Engineering Education Program) Innovation and Excellence Awards.

The project, called Team ERYL from the University of San Carlos (USC), won the top prize of P300,000 during the live pitching and final judging held today in Makati City. Sportify by a team from the University of San Jose-Recoletos (USJ-R), and Salvar by another USC team completed the top 3 winners and domination by Cebu of the annual innovation contest.

ERYL is mobile platform that allows students to set up classes online, whether 1-on-1 or by group.

“Students may opt to join existing classes that they are interested in or organize one themselves. When the class is ready, they select from the teacher pool someone they want to handle the lesson. They are then given the teacher’s details, including contact number,” the project brief said.

Smart Sweep winners
CEBU TEAM SWEEPS SWEEP AWARD. The teams from University of San Carlos and University of San Jose-Recoletos with their awards for topping this year’s SWEEP Innovation and Excellence Awards. At left is Mario G. Tamayo, PLDT and Smart Senior Vice President for Network Planning and Engineering. At right is Ramon Isberto, Public Affairs Head of PLDT and Smart. (Photo by @SmartNewsroom)

Four teams from Cebu, 3 from USC and 1 from USJ-R, made it to today’s finals.

When asked about Cebu’s dominance of the contest, Smart Visayas-Mindanao public affairs head Attorney Maria Jane Paredes said she was elated by the turnout.

“Congratulations to USC and USJ-R and all the other winners. The winning projects address specific concerns and have practical uses. The first prize winner bridges the gap between teachers and students and allows students to set up classes online,” Paredes said.

Smart Sweep Team ERYL
Smart SWEEP Innovation and Excellence Awards winners.

Placing 2nd and winning P200,000 is Sportify from USJ-R. It is a web and mobile platform that seeks to connect sports enthusiasts, from players, coaches, to talent scouts. Sportify “gives the opportunity to our aspiring Filipino athletes specially who are located in the provinces and isolated areas, to be discovered and have that chance to be the next big name in sports,” the project brief said.

Completing the triumvirate is Salvar, an application that seeks to address problems on mental health. The app by a USC team allows users to search and set appointments with mental health care professionals. The team won P100,000.

Smart Sweep Sportify
Smart SWEEP Innovation and Excellence Awards 2nd placer.

“The app will allow users to have their therapy done through the application’s video-chat feature. This app will address the problem of accessibility to mental healthcare, mainly the distance, lack of mental healthcare providers within communities, and the stigma that scares people from asking for help by digitizing the mental healthcare process,” according to the project brief.

The SWEEP Awards was started in 2004 as a venue for college students to build applications to address community problems and needs. It is part of SWEEP, a collaboration between Smart and the academe aimed at raising “the standards of engineering and IT education in the country.”

Smart SWEEP Salvar
Smart SWEEP Innovation and Excellence Awards 3rd placers.

Categories
Entrepreneurship Tech

4 teams from Cebu in finals of Smart’s innovation competition

Four student teams from Cebu are in the running for the country’s biggest technology competition, the SWEEP (Smart Wireless Engineering Education Program) Innovation and Excellence Awards.

Three teams from the University of San Carlos and one from the University of San Jose Recoletos are among the 10 student teams from Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao that would battle it out next week in SWEEP.

The other teams are from Adamson University, Ateneo de Manila University, Ateneo de Zamboanga University, Aurora State College of Technology, Davao Central College, and Gordon College in Zambales.

SMART Sweep 2018
SWEEP Awards finalists undergo a two-day boot camp so they could polish their entries in time for judging.

The teams will compete for the P300,000 top prize in the final judging to be held on May 11. The second placer will get P200,000, while the third placer will receive P100,000. Schools of the top three teams will each get a digital campus package from Smart Communications and parent company PLDT.

Smart received more than 300 applications for the 14th SWEEP Awards, which has the theme “#LifeLikeNeverBefore: Digital Innovations for a Better Tomorrow.”

Projects that made the cut include an app that could help farmers reach produce buyers directly, an app that could link sports enthusiasts with each other so they could schedule games, and a chatbot that could enable users to control home appliances remotely via a messaging app.

To help the finalists improve their projects before the judging, Smart introduced them to mentors who, over two days, taught them to validate the existence of problems before creating solutions, the importance of getting feedback from peers and potential customers, and the need to adjust their plan of action based on these feedback.

Smart SWEEP 2018 pitching
Students get a taste of what it’s like to pitch proposals before potential investors, during their presentation to SWEEP Awards judges.

The mentors also taught the finalists how to pitch their proposals to judges and potential investors.

Participant Gian Guerrero said the two-day boot camp helped his team create a business model for its project. “What was very hard was the business model because we’re into IT (information technology) and engineering, so we’re not very knowledgeable about it. But the SWEEP Awards experience proved to be a treasure trove of knowledge. It’s fun, more than I expected, and I’m thankful to be part of it,” he said.

The SWEEP Awards was launched in 2004 to provide college students with the platform to create innovative applications that solve consumer pain points. It is an initiative under SWEEP, a long-running collaboration between Smart and the academe which aims to raise the standards of engineering and IT education in the country.

Because of SWEEP, Smart was cited in 2016 by international magazine Fortune as one of 50 companies that have “changed the world.” For more information on SWEEP and the SWEEP Awards, please visit facebook.com/sweepschools and smartsweep.ph. (Press Release)

Categories
Community

UBS Phils, PSF turn over School-in-a-Bag for Mindanao learners

Students of remote schools in Talayan, Maguindanao and Patikul, Sulu will soon benefit from digital learning made possible by Smart Communications’ School-in-a-Bag. Containing a laptop, five tablets, TV, a solar panel with batteries, and educational content, the learning package is donated to far-flung communities, especially those without electricity.

UBS Investments Philippines and the PLDT-Smart Foundation (PSF) recently turned over two School-in-a-Bag packages to the Department of Education (DepEd). These are part of the P1 million donation UBS made to the PSF last year.

School in a bag UBS
DONATION. Photo shows (from left) Smart Public Affairs Senior Manager Stephanie Orlino, DepEd Undersecretary Alain Pascua, and PSF President Esther Santos.

Smart created the School-in-a-Bag to improve the quality of education in remote schools. Since launching the program in 2016, Smart and partner donors have delivered 38 School-in-a-Bag units to 65 learning communities all over the country. Each bag, inclusive of training for teachers, costs P100,000.

Because there are about 6,000 public schools that still do not have access to electricity, organizations and even individuals are encouraged to donate School-in-a-Bag units. Interested parties may send an email to [email protected]. (Press Release)

Categories
Community Tech

Cebu City library gets free wifi in partnership with Smart

Shortly after expanding to 24-hour daily operations, the Cebu City Public Library and Information Center rolled out a carrier-grade wifi service for users in partnership with Smart Communications, Inc.

Students, researchers, and other library patrons get their first 30 minutes of Smart Wifi access for free. They can extend access by buying credits via cellphone load.

A wifi connection is particularly useful for studying and research and would be a big help to library goers, said Ramon Isberto, concurrent Public Affairs Head of leading telecoms and digital services provider PLDT and wireless subsidiary Smart.

Cebu City Library Smart Wifi
SMART WIFI. (From left) Smart Public Affairs AVP and Center Head Maria Jane C. Paredes, Mitch Roldan, PLDT and Smart Public Affairs Head Ramon Isberto, Cebu City Hall Assistant City Administrator Annabeth Cuizon, Cebu City Councilor Margot Osmeña, Cebu City Librarian Rosario Chua, and PLDT SME Nation AVP Jimmy Chua during the launching of the Smart Wi-Fi in the Cebu City Public Library.

“When you turn a library into a community hub, you make it more powerful and influential,” he added, citing that users get access not only to books housed there but to a global library through the Internet.

High-speed Internet

Jimmy Chua, AVP and Head CRM of PLDT SME Nation, said high-speed Internet is essential for going digital and that the provision of Smart Wifi at the library was only the beginning of the company’s collaboration with Cebu City.

Isberto and Chua attended the signing of the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) to formalize the provision of up to 30 minutes of free wifi at the city library last April 5, 2018.

Cebu City library Smart wifi
AGREEMENT. (From left) PLDT SME Nation AVP Jimmy Chua, PLDT and Smart Public Affairs Head Ramon Isberto, Cebu City Councilor Margot Osmeña, and Cebu City Librarian Rosario Chua after the signing of the agreement.

Councilor Margot Osmeña said the City Government was more than willing to transform the Cebu City Public Library and Information Center into a daily 24-hour operation when student Mitch Roldan requested it.

“Whatever the City can do, we will do for you,” Osmeña, who represented the City Government at the signing, added.

Cebu City study centers

Cebu City plans to put up 24-hour study centers in selected barangays so students don’t need to go far to study. Osmeña said she hopes to get the support of PLDT and Smart for the other areas as well.

Cebu City public library Smart wifi
BIG HELP. A wifi connection is particularly useful for studying and research and would be a big help to library goers, said Ramon Isberto, concurrent Public Affairs Head of PLDT and Smart.

Aside from the city library, Smart Wifi is also available for students at Cebu Institute of Technology, Cebu Technological University, University of Cebu Banilad in Cebu City, and in more school across Cebu Province.

Cebu City Hall was the first establishment in Cebu that offered public Smart Wifi. Other areas with Smart Wifi are the Cebu Provincial Capitol, Larsian Food Center, Cebu North and South Bus Terminals, Cebu Port Terminals 1 and 3, Cebu Port Terminals 1 and 3, and the Mactan-Cebu International Airport.

Facebook Live broadcast of launch

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Tech

Smart, YouTube partnership offers free 1-hour daily access to video site

PLDT wireless arm Smart Communications Inc. (Smart) is giving Smart, TNT, and Sun prepaid customers free access for one hour daily to YouTube and soon to other online video services until July 15.

These subscribers can watch YouTube for one hour for free daily by simply registering to load packages like GigaSurf99, AllOutSurf99, GigaSurf 50, AllOutSurf 30, Panalo Data 30, Panalo Combo 30, Super Combo 20, and Big Time Data 70. They can enjoy this special offer for the duration of the packages that they buy.

“Through this path-breaking partnership, many more Filipinos can pursue their passions like music and entertainment, and learn a wide range of skills, hobbies, educational material, news and information through the massive library of video material of YouTube. This service is something every Filipino should have access to,” said Oscar A. Reyes, Jr., SVP of Consumer Business Market Development for PLDT and Smart.

Smart Free YouTube
YOUTUBE PARTNERSHIP. Filipino YouTube creators during the announcement of Smart’s partnership with the video platform. (Photo from Smart Newsroom)

Enhance digital lifestyle

“With this new offer, mobile phone users now have everyday access to the richest video library with content from every corner of the planet—for free,” Reyes said. He added that this special promo will soon be available to postpaid subscribers as well.

“We are proud to partner with YouTube to bring the service closer to our customers. This is just the start of a fruitful partnership, and we are working on a lot of other exciting initiatives that will enhance the digital lifestyle of Filipinos,” Reyes said.

Aside from YouTube, another video service is also set to be part of the offer. Access to Smart360, a web portal where Smart, TNT and Sun subscribers can access various digital content like live TV, movies, series, music and games, will soon be free for a limited time. Other video content providers are also eligible to be included in the offer, subject to mutually agreed terms with Smart.

Smart, TNT and Sun subscribers are now better able to enjoy video streaming services like YouTube as a result of Smart’s massive network investments over the past several years which has enabled the mobile phone carrier to provide high-speed mobile data services via its expanded LTE and 3G networks throughout the country.

Internet experience at par with the world

To provide customers with a better video and mobile internet experience, Smart is accelerating the deployment of LTE-Advanced (LTE-A) and carrier aggregation technology to more areas this year. Carrier Aggregation (CA), a feature of LTE-A, enables the combination of two or more radio frequency bands in order to deliver bigger bandwidth and much faster data speeds, which are crucial in providing the best video streaming experience to mobile phone users.

Smart has already rolled-out 3CC CA sites in cities across Metro Manila, as well as in major cities in other regions of the country, including Baguio, Calamba, Iloilo, Bacolod, Tagbilaran, Ormoc, Cagayan de Oro, Dipolog, Zamboanga, among others. In Metro Manila and areas where there is a concentration of capable devices, Smart is also deploying 4CC, starting with Marikina and Quezon City, where customers with 4CC CA-capable devices like the Samsung Galaxy S8 have reported enjoying data download speeds of over 200 Mbps.

Smart’s accelerated deployment of LTE-Advanced follows the stepped up roll out of its LTE network. It is also upping the ante by deploying another LTE-A based technology called 4×4 Multiple Input Multiple Output (MIMO), which raises the radio frequency efficiency by using multiple antennas for sending and receiving data.

Parent company PLDT has committed historic levels of resources to support network transformation. Capital expenditures reached P40 billion in 2017, of which about 67% was allotted for the mobile network. For 2018, PLDT capex is expected to reach P58 billion, which includes allocations for the aggressive roll-out of its fiber broadband service, which also supports the stepped-up deployment of the mobile network by providing high-capacity links for cellular base stations. (Press Release)

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Community Tech

Smart donates digital learning packages for Basilan learners

Students in Basilan, particularly those under the Alternative Learning System (ALS), now have access to mobile tools and digital content that will help make learning more fun and effective for them.

Smart Communications recently turned over two School-in-a-Bag units to the Department of Education-Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, represented by Secretary Rasol Mitmug, in Lantawan town.

Each School-in-a-Bag contains a solar panel for recipients without access to electricity, tablets preloaded with fun educational content, and other devices. The donation package also includes training for teachers and yearlong monitoring.

School in a bag
TURNOVER. Smart public affairs senior manager Stephanie Orlino (standing third from right) turns over a School-in-a-Bag to Basilan teachers.

The two units will benefit students in Lantawan and Sumisip under the ALS, a learning option for those without access to formal education in schools.

“I am thankful that Smart is there to help the education sector, as its capabilities in delivering technology fit the needs of the next generation,” Mitmog said.

ALS coordinator Aurora Anamon said, “It is a big thing for learners to see videos on a screen. The visual learning approach helps a lot. There are adult learners who will benefit from this because they wish to learn through technology.”

ALS teacher Husaita Barillo-Pantao said the School-in-a-Bag would lighten the heavy load of teachers, particularly in terms of preparing visual aids.

Smart developed the School-in-a-Bag after a study it had commissioned showed that the managed use of tablets in the classroom boosted learning and interest in lessons. While it has donated several units to schools in Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao, Smart is also calling on individuals and organizations who wish to bring digital learning to more areas in the country. Interested parties may email [email protected] for details.

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Community Tech

Nepal taps eHealth system of Smart as disaster risk reduction tool

SHINE OS+, an electronic medical record and referral system initiated by PLDT wireless unit Smart Communications Inc. (Smart), has been adopted in Nepal as a tool for disaster risk reduction.

Dr. Regina Estuar of Ateneo Java Wireless Competency Center (AJWCC) recently conducted a workshop on the open source platform with the Nursing Association of Nepal in Kathmandu. Smart has worked with AJWCC in developing SHINE OS+, which stands for Secured Health Information Network and Exchange.

Shine OS
TRAINING. Representatives from EpiNurse and the Nursing Association of Nepal pose for photos during the EpiNurse training held in Kathmandu recently. Photo shows (from left) Laxmi KC, general secretary, Nursing Association of Nepal; Sakiko Kanbara, founder, EpiNurse; Ma. Regina Estuar, co-founder, EpiNurse; Tara Pokhrel, project leader, EpiNurse; and Shoko Miyagawa, co-founder, EpiNurse.

Prevent outbreaks, mitigate risk

SHINE OS+ Nepal was developed as a post-disaster surveillance system in 2015. Now called EpiNurse or Epidemiology + Nursing for Disaster Risk Reduction, the program will serve as a public health emergency reduction tool for the country. The program is seen as crucial in preventing disease outbreaks and consequently mitigating disaster risk.

Last May, EpiNurse received the Risk Award at the 2017 Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction in Cancun, Mexico. The award, issued every two years by the Munich Re Foundation, the UN office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) and the Global Risk Forum Davos, honors innovations aimed at disaster risk mitigation.

For its part, SHINE OS+ has received at least three recognitions this year alone: a Silver Anvil at the Anvil Awards of the Public Relations Society of the Philippines; a Merit Award at the Philippine Quill Awards of the International Association of Business Communicators, and the healthcare category winner at the Golden World Awards of the International Public Relations Association.

Holistic approach

According to Estuar, EpiNurse provides a holistic approach by empowering nurses in Nepal not only in care management but also in surveillance reporting during the different phases of a disaster.

Members of the Nursing Association of Nepal undergo training on the SHINE OS+ mobile app.

“EpiNurse will be powered by SHINE OS+ in developing three applications that will allow EpiNurses to collect data at the school and community levels for preparedness, as well as surveillance data during and post-disaster,” she said. “The system will be simple, straightforward and localized so that the language and the design suit the Nepal culture and community.”

Estuar also said it was possible to apply the same technology for public health monitoring here in the Philippines. “EpiNurse aims to provide a global standard in disaster surveillance,” she said.

Patient information

Smart public affairs center head Maria Jane Paredes welcomed the replication of the project in Nepal. “SHINE OS+ has been embraced by medical practitioners here in the Philippines because of how it made patient information more organized and accessible, while keeping the data private. We hope Nepal benefits from this project as well,” she said.

SHINE OS+ is also available as a mobile app for Android and iOS devices to assist health workers on the field. Medical practitioners interested in SHINE OS+ may email [email protected] (Press release)

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Tech

LTE, 3G speeds significantly up in Metro Cebu

The nationwide network modernization program of Smart Communications, Inc. (Smart), the mobile unit of PLDT, Inc., is in full swing and recent field tests in Metro Cebu are showing impressive LTE and 3G speeds in the Visayas region’s premier urban hub.

Internal field tests conducted in key areas in and around Metro Cebu have shown that download speeds on Smart’s LTE service have jumped at least 146% to 19.7 Mbps and have reached up to 52 Mbps in certain areas like Cordova, while upload speeds have also risen by 134% to 14.3 Mbps.

Download speeds on Smart’s 3G service, on the other hand, are also up 275% to 6 Mbps, while upload speeds likewise improved 45% to 1.6 Mbps.

LTE speeds in Metro Cebu

LTE speeds exceeding 20 Mbps have been recorded in both indoor and outdoor areas around Metro Cebu.

LTE speeds of more than 24 Mbps were recorded in SM Seaside Mountain Wing and Banilad Road in Cebu City, while speeds in excess of 37 Mbps were reached in Jollibee Minglanilla.

LTE speeds above 21 Mbps were also posted in tourist-favorite Lantaw Native Restaurant in Mactan and at the Mactan International Airport, while LTE reached speeds of 47 Mbps in Brgy. Tingub in Mandaue City.

Magellan’s Cross. Speeds exceeding 20 Mbps were recorded at Magellan’s Cross using LTE-capable handsets.

Carrier aggregation, LTE-Advanced

On the other hand, speeds in excess of 90 Mbps have also been achieved in and around the Minglanilla Sports Complex, using carrier aggregation (CA) and LTE-Advanced (LTE-A)-capable handsets.

Carrier aggregation refers to the capability of LTE-A to combine two or more radio frequency bands in order to deliver bigger bandwidth and much faster data speeds to mobile users.

“We are accelerating the rollout of LTE because it provides an immediate significant boost to the speed, quality and reliability of our service. Moreover, it lays the foundation for the rollout of LTE-A with CA and puts us in a position to further improve internet service as more handsets capable of CA become available in the market,” said Joachim Horn, chief technology and information advisor for PLDT and Smart.

Just initial results

“These are just initial results, and we are already nearing the midpoint of our implementation in Metro Cebu,” Horn added.

“We are asking for people’s patience and understanding as we make changes in our network facilities. These activities are being done during the most inactive hours of the day, and we are putting systems in place to minimize the impact on our subscribers. In the end, our commitment to all our subscribers is that they will enjoy progressively better mobile data services in the next few months, particularly for those using LTE devices,” said Horn.

These improvements were brought about by an increase in 3G and LTE base stations in Metro Cebu, which are up by 16% and 108%, respectively. As a result, data volume traffic on 3G and LTE have also increased, according to network monitoring data.

Fast, reliable network

“In upgrading mobile and data services in Metro Cebu, we are helping improve the quality of life in one of the country’s biggest provinces, where millions work and play,” said Horn.

Metro Cebu is home to more than 2.8 million Filipinos, while passenger arrivals at the Mactan-Cebu International Airport hit nearly 9 million last year. It is also the country’s largest outsourcing destination outside of Metro Manila.

“This progress in Metro Cebu is just a preview of what Smart will be rolling out to the rest of the island and the rest of the country—a fast and reliable mobile data network for all Smart subscribers,” Horn added.

Nationwide expansion program

This is part of Smart’s nationwide network expansion and overhaul program to improve both coverage and quality of service, particularly its LTE service. Earlier, Smart already completed its network overhaul program in Boracay and Metro Davao, where users have already reported improved quality of LTE services.

A major leg of this network expansion is also currently underway in and around Metro Manila, where it is likewise expected to significantly boost Smart’s voice, SMS, and mobile data services, specially its indoor LTE coverage.

The fruits of the Metro Manila rollout can now be felt in nearby Rizal, where Smart’s average LTE download speeds jumped 455% to 23.3 Mbps, and average 3G download speeds rose by 37% to 3.7 Mbps, on the back of significant increases in the number of LTE and 3G base stations in the province.

Redemptorist Church. LTE-capable handsets were also able to post download speeds as high as 36 Mbps outside Redemptorist Church.

Acceleration of LTE deployment

Network improvement activities in Metro Cebu include re-equipping cell sites to use low-frequency bands such as 700 MHz, 850 MHz, and 900 MHz for its LTE and 3G services. These frequency bands travel farther than high-frequency bands thus providing mobile data services better coverage, including indoors.

Smart’s network rollout took a big bulk of parent company PLDT’s ramped-up capital expenditure program of $1 billion for 2016, with an additional $100 million allocated to utilize the new frequencies freed up with the acquisition of San Miguel Corporation’s telco assets.

In the three-year network roll-out plan that PLDT submitted to the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) last July, Smart said it is focused on accelerating its LTE deployment, to make it progressively available to users in 1,551 cities and municipalities across the country by end-2018.

LTE, an all-IP network, delivers superior experience for users, particularly for data. It can also be quickly upgraded to LTE-A, which can provide even faster speeds and greater capacity to subscribers who are using LTE SIMs on LTE-capable handsets.

Bandwidth-heavy services

Smart began rolling out its LTE-A service in April 2016 in preparation for the rise of bandwidth-heavy services such as video streaming and gaming. Initially rolled out in Boracay, Smart’s LTE-A service delivers peak speeds of more than 100 Mbps to users with LTE-A capable smartphones.

“The Smart network modernization program is a key part of the PLDT Group’s massive nationwide effort to roll out superior and reliable fixed and mobile networks for the delivery of a wide range of content and gigabit digital solutions. Through the group’s superior telecommunication networks, PLDT and Smart will deliver impressive customer experience,” said Atty. Ray C. Espinosa, Chief Corporate Services Officer at PLDT and Smart. (Press Release)

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Business Community Tech

Smart’s mobile digital lab for preschoolers wins award in Singapore

Smart TechnoCart – a mobile digital laboratory donated to public schools to develop literacy among kindergarten students – won the Social Contribution Award at the prestigious Asia Communication Awards (ACA) ceremony held recently in Singapore.

Organized annually by London-based industry publication Total Telecom, the ACA recognizes outstanding performance by Asian carriers, multimedia content providers, vendors, and other communication service providers.

The TechnoCart, developed by Philippine mobile leader and PLDT unit Smart Communications, is a 2ft x 2ft cart containing 20 student tablets and a laptop, projector, and mobile WiFi for the teacher. The tablets are preloaded with the Batibot mobile application, the first educational app for kids in Filipino which is aligned with the kindergarten curriculum of the Department of Education.

Smart TechnoCart
Smart public affairs senior manager Stephanie Orlino receives the Social Contribution Award for Smart TechnoCart.

Digital learning

In just a year, 29 public schools from as far as Pangasinan in the North and Tawi-Tawi in the South have received a Smart TechnoCart. Fifteen of these were donated by Smart, while the rest were sponsored by individuals and organizations who wanted to help spread the benefits of digital learning to more public schools.

Because the TechnoCart can be easily wheeled from one classroom to the next, each unit can reach up to 20 kindergarten classes or 250 students per day.

“The Smart TechnoCart introduces public school kindergarten classes to the benefits offered by tablets and relevant digital content. It is one of Smart’s many initiatives to use technology for the development of various sectors of society,” said Smart public affairs senior manager Stephanie Orlino.

Positive feedback

“Since we launched the program last year, we have received a lot of positive feedback from teachers. They say their students’ skills have significantly improved, and that they have become more eager to learn,” she added.

Preschool teacher Violeta Bellen of Bacacay East Central School in Albay, one of the recipients of the Smart TechnoCart, shared: “Absenteeism has declined. One time, classes were suspended because of heavy rains. But a lot of the students still went to school. They asked me, ‘Teacher, aren’t we using the tablets today?’ I had to tell them to go home.”

“During our first grading lecture, my children were not really interested in reading letters and they didn’t even participate in our daily activities. Only a few of them could identify the letters or the numbers. But when the TechnoCart arrived they improved a lot. They really enjoy tracing letters using the Batibot app, and I am surprised they can now easily identify the letters,” said kindergarten teacher Hja. Shaiha A. Irahani of Datu Halun Laboratory School in Tawi-Tawi.

Smart Technocart
The Batibot app, downloadble for free on Google Play, has fun features that teach kids the alphabet and basic skills like grouping similar objects. It also features stories that highlight values.

Awards

Aside from winning in the ACA, the year-old Smart TechnoCart program has also received a Gold Anvil from the Public Relations Society of the Philippines, and a Quill Award of Excellence from the International Association of Business Communicators-Philippine chapter.

Those interested in sponsoring Smart TechnoCarts may get more information at www.smart.com.ph/learnsmart.

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Brand Partnership Tech

Smart starts deployment of LTE-Advanced mobile service

PLDT wireless subsidiary Smart Communications (Smart) has begun to roll out the country’s first LTE-Advanced (LTE-A) service, which can provide significantly higher data speeds than existing LTE services using a capability called “carrier aggregation.”

Initially deployed in Boracay, Aklan, one of the country’s leading tourist destinations, Smart’s LTE-A service there has posted speeds of up to 260 Mbps.

“With the introduction of our LTE-Advanced service, the next stage of development of 4th generation of mobile technology, Smart is again at the technology forefront, setting the bar higher for mobile service experience,” said Joachim Horn, PLDT and Smart chief technology and information advisor.

Smart joins the short list of operators around the world that have tested and rolled out the technology, which is also referred to as 4.5G. This list includes Optus in Australia, Sprint in the US, and Turkcell in Turkey, among others.

Boost internet services

“Combined with our other network improvement initiatives for both our mobile and fixed line networks, the introduction of LTE-A will help boost internet services in the country and enable more Filipinos to enjoy and benefit from the fast-growing range of digital services that PLDT and Smart offer,” he said.

Smart LTE-A
SUPERIOR EXPERIENCE. For Smart subscribers using LTE-A capable devices, this translates into superior experiences when using various data services, particularly bandwidth-heavy services like video- and audio-streaming, and gaming.

“We are also planning ahead, in anticipation of future advances in technology. Our current investments in network facilities are already being done in a way that will enable us to be ready for 5G when it arrives sometime in 2020. For this purpose, we are working closely with NTT DoCoMo, which is one of the global pace-setters in the development of 5G,” Horn added.

Carrier aggregation refers to the ability of LTE-A to combine two or more radio frequency bands in order to deliver bigger bandwidth and faster data speeds to mobile users.

Superior experience

“This is like being able to put together two or more separate highways in order to create a wider highway through which vehicular traffic can flow more freely and at a much faster rate,” Horn said.

“Wireless technologies being a shared resource, the actual customer experience is typically less than the peak speeds being registered during tests. But, carrier aggregation on LTE-A, by combining the capacities of two or more frequency bands, will enable Smart to deliver to subscribers with LTE-A devices consistently higher speeds than is possible using LTE. In Boracay, we have combined three frequencies, which is a first in the country,” he said.

For Smart subscribers using LTE-A capable devices, this translates into superior experiences when using various data services, particularly bandwidth-heavy services like video- and audio-streaming, and gaming.

Currently, the LTE-A capable devices include the Samsung Galaxy S7 and the Samsung Galaxy S7 edge. Other handset manufacturers are expected to introduce their own LTE-A devices soon.

LTE-A tests

Smart ran several tests of LTE-A in 2013 – in Boracay during the Geeks on a Beach startup conference; in Davao City during the Kadayawan festival; and in Makati City. The introduction of LTE-A capable devices since then has opened the door for its roll-out.

Horn explained that LTE-A is the “cutting edge” of a broader effort to improve the cellular and mobile internet services of Smart and Sun subscribers.

In a network integration program started last year, for example, Smart and Sun have been synergizing their networks to improve the coverage and quality of service for the subscribers of both brands using 2G, 3G and LTE capable devices.

Increase in coverage

“For example, where it makes technical and marketing sense, we equip a single cell site – either of Smart or Sun – so that this can serve the subscribers of both brands,” Jorn said.

As a result of this program, depending on the area, the effective coverage for Smart and Sun subscribers increases by anywhere from 50% to 100%. The program is expected to be completed by end-2016 or early 2017. This was part of PLDT’s P43-billion capital expenditure program (capex) in 2015 and will be funded by the 2016 capex budget which has been set at the same level.

In this program, specific attention is being given to enhancing 3G/HSPA/HSPA+ coverage and capacity because about 90% of Smart and Sun subscribers who go online use 3G handsets.

“Improving our 3G data service thus delivers immediate benefits to the largest number of people in our subscriber base. At the same time, we have been expanding the coverage of our LTE network because the number of subscribers using LTE phones is steadily rising,” Horn said.

“And now, we have also begun to deploy LTE-A. The pace of this deployment will be driven by several factors, including the rate at which subscribers start using LTE-A capable devices,” he added. (Press Release)

Categories
Tech

Smart named best mobile operator anew in World Communication Awards

For the 2nd straight year, the country’s mobile leader Smart Communications was named Best Mobile Operator in the prestigious World Communication Awards, an annual recognition program for innovation and outstanding performance in the global telecommunications industry.

In a ceremony held recently in London, Smart bagged the coveted prize over Australian company Telstra and Middle Eastern operator Ooredoo.

Last year, Smart won in the invitation-only category over six other finalists, including Globe Telecom and Turkcell.

Digital strategy

The WCA is organized annually by London-based industry publication Total Telecom.

In naming Smart Best Mobile Operator, the WCA recognized the company’s ability to “develop its business by moving into new areas or through service innovation.”

Powered by its strengthened digital strategy which focuses on new mobile data offers and digital partnerships, Smart posted an all-time high growth for its mobile data and broadband businesses in the first nine months of 2015. Combined revenues reached P15.6 billion, aided by a 139% upsurge in mobile data usage within the network.

Smart Life
PARTNERSHIPS. Smart forged partnerships with leading global digital technology companies like Uber and Airbnb, and with entertainment companies like iflix, FOX, MCA Music, and Sony Music and introduced a slew of digital offers under the “Smart Life” campaign.

‘Smart Life’ campaign

Smart recently forged partnerships with leading global digital technology companies like Uber and Airbnb, and with entertainment companies like iflix, FOX, MCA Music, and Sony Music. It introduced a slew of digital offers under the “Smart Life” campaign, which gives Filipinos the best of entertainment, convenience, urban comforts, and peace of mind wherever they go.

These new partnerships are tied into a more streamlined suite of mobile data offerings, bannered by Smart’s Big Bytes 50 offer that includes 350MB of open-access data, plus 600MB of additional data for iflix, FOX, and SPINNR, valid for three days.

Undisputed leader

Smart has received several international awards this year, including Best Mobile Music App for SPINNR which was given at the Global Mobile Awards in Spain. Smart’s president and chief executive officer Napoleon L. Nazareno was also named Telecom CEO of the Year at the Telecom Asia Awards in Indonesia.

Smart remains the undisputed Philippine leader in mobile, with 67 million cellular subscribers under the brands Smart, Sun, and TNT. It has 3.8 million broadband subscribers under the brands Smart Bro and Sun Wireless Broadband. (Press Release)

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Community

Smart promotes preparedness lifestyle to children

As part of its advocacy to promote a culture of preparedness, mobile leader Smart Communications (Smart) unveiled a series of disaster-readiness educational videos especially designed for children who are most vulnerable during disasters.

The video series, entitled Maging Laging Handa, covers precautionary measures and safety tips for various calamities such as typhoons, floods, tsunamis, storm surges, earthquakes, and landslides.

Reviewed and approved by PAGASA, Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology, and the Mines and Geosciences Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the video materials will be used by DepEd as additional resources for the disaster risk reduction education of elementary students. A teacher’s guide as to how these videos can be integrated in the curriculum has already been developed by DepEd.

“We are very happy to collaborate with our government partners on this project. It’s good to include the children, as early as now, in the entire preparedness exercise as we try to become a nation that is more capable and ready for any type of disasters,” said Smart Public Affairs Group Head Ramon Isberto.

The video features Tonipet Gabba as online instructor; three puppets namely Inay Lena, a mother hen; Brownie, a dog; and Kali, a carabao; and all-original Tagalog songs aimed at making the learning journey richer and more exciting.

The videos were able to simplify disaster-related concepts like the typhoon signals, rainfall warning signals, and the differences between a storm surge and a tsunami.

The Maging Laging Handa videos are available online via the #SafePH website at www.smart.com.ph/SafePH.

Smart as an organization has embraced preparedness, and has been aggressively promoting the culture of preparedness among its partner organizations under its #SafePH program.

The telco has been holding caravans all over the country for household preparedness, and supporting different government agencies to help strengthen disaster management capacities of the LGUs.

To aid in disaster communications and response, Smart has developed mobile apps and technology solutions such as the Batingaw and Project Noah apps, and the Smart Infocast. The telco has also been consistent in providing immediate libreng tawag services to areas affected by disasters using its satellite services.

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Business Tech

Smart gives free rides, in-car WiFi in partnership with Uber

Smart subscribers in Metro Manila can now gear up for a sleeker and more convenient ride through the city as the country’s undisputed mobile services provider is giving away free rides on Uber, the world’s leading ride-sharing tech company.

As an exclusive treat, Smart is giving away two free Uber rides – worth P300 each – to Metro Manila-based subscribers who are also first time-users of the Uber app. The rides can be used anywhere within Metro Manila from now until Sept. 30.

To avail yourself of Smart’s free Uber rides, simply visit www.smart.com.ph/uber and register your Smart number. Upon successful registration, you shall receive a Promo Code which you can input on the Uber app before requesting a ride.

Free in-car Smart WiFi on Uber rides

This exciting promo comes with Smart and Uber’s groundbreaking partnership that will allow Uber passengers to enjoy free in-car Smart WiFi – a first in Southeast Asia.

With free in-car Smart WiFi on Uber rides, more Filipinos can now experience the Smart Life even while stuck in traffic or breezing through the metro. This means you can now update your social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and stay productive by accessing your work and personal email on the way to work or school.

The snarling rush hour traffic on the way home can also be a bit more bearable now that you can stream your road trip music on Spinnr and catch your favorite sport and Fox shows on Viewstream, or even binge-watch trending series and shows on iFlix and YouTube – all in the comfort of your Smart WiFi-powered Uber car.

“Uber and Smart share the same vision – a world where transportation is smarter and more convenient to passengers. By powering Uber cars with free Smart WiFi, we are able to bring the Smart Life experience to more Filipinos who can now stay productive and entertained while rushing to work or school, heading to the mall or on the way back home after a long day,” said Ariel P. Fermin, executive vice president and head for consumer business for both PLDT and Smart.

More exclusive Uber perks for Smart subscribers

Uber’s free in-car Smart WiFi will be available initially in select Uber Black vehicles and will be rolled out in other Uber vehicles over the next few months. Smart is also set to introduce exclusive voice and data packages, bundles and add-ons for Uber partner drivers, as well as offer special promotions, discounts and on-demand experiences for subscribers.

Experience the Smart Life on the road now by downloading the Uber app on Google Play Store, App Store and Microsoft Store for free. Also follow Smart’s official accounts on Facebook and Twitter @SMARTCares for the latest promos and services. (Press Release)

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Events Feature News

Smart, MyCebu.ph to deliver info on tourism, heritage sites through phone scanning

Philippine wireless leader Smart Communications, Inc. (Smart) and Cebu-based website MyCebu.ph have partnered to deliver information on tourism and heritage sites to mobile phones and tablets through quick response or QR code scanning.

The project is being undertaken in partnership with the Department of Tourism.

Smart and MyCebu.ph will place special markers on tourism and heritage sites all over Cebu. The markers will contain a snippet of information about the site and a QR code that, when scanned, will open an article about the landmark. To be able to load the information, users must be connected to the Internet and they must have a QR code reader in their devices. Most phone platforms offer free QR code scanners in their respective application markets.

QR Code demo on Colon Street
MYCebu.ph editor Marlen Limpag explains to bloggers and journalists gathered on Colon Street, the country’s oldest street, the QR Code data tagging of Cebu tourism and heritage structures, a joint project between MyCebu.ph and Smart Communications Inc, done in partnership with the Department of Tourism. During the demo on Colon St., journalists and bloggers were able to load a photo of old Colon by scanning the QR Code contained in a special marker.