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Small cell technology can help bridge the digital divide in the Philippines


January 31, 2023

One of the noticeable impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic is the increased use of the internet and mobile technologies. Whereas many Filipinos had previously only used the internet for basic browsing and social media, the emergence of social distancing restrictions prompted more to adopt mobile e-banking, e-commerce, and most importantly, telecommuting.

However, the high bandwidth demands of work-from-home setups and online classes strained the capacity of many internet service providers at the onset of the pandemic.

Even in areas where conventional macro cell telecommunications infrastructures are present, the basic technologies employed by Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) restrict the bandwidth available to users, leading to unreliable connections. 

Unfortunately, this meant that Filipinos who needed to rely on mobile internet infrastructure, particularly those in the countryside, often received inadequate service.

Small cell tech may bring more Filipinos into the digital age

Investment in “small cell” networks may provide an answer to the country’s still-unreliable mobile internet service—something Aboitiz InfraCapital is banking on

Small cell networks are similar to conventional macrocell networks, except they are physically smaller and typically have smaller coverage. They’re not intended as a replacement for conventional macrocells but are meant to supplement and multiply the capabilities of existing conventional networks.

Small cells usually have less coverage and capacity than traditional macrocells, but they are much easier to set up and cost less than the infrastructure for macrocells.

Small cells infra means reliable internet for all

Using small cell technology, MNOs can easily plug gaps in connectivity and capacity to complement macro cell towers—and usually in just a couple of days, if not sooner. 

Key cities in the Visayas and Mindanao, for instance, while mostly covered by existing macrocell infrastructure, have been experiencing network congestion issues in the past few years. This was chiefly due to the lack of capacity, which became even worse as more people started working and learning from home. 

Thanks to Aboitiz InfraCapital and its partner MNOs, small cell infrastructure is already plugging these service gaps with minimum investment required. 

Aboitiz InfraCapital has been working with the country’s major telecommunication companies to facilitate the rollout of small cell networks in more underserved areas. The low cost of implementation may even allow broadband internet to be delivered to remote areas with small populations where new macrocell infrastructure may be seen as too expensive.

Small cells improve service quality

Not only will expanding small cell networks benefit Filipino households in underserved areas, but they may provide a golden opportunity for businesses and local government units as well. The growth of small cell networks will allow the wider and more granular implementation of location-based services that are already widespread in built-up areas like Metro Manila.

The highly localized user data available through small cell networks can have implications for everything from social media updates to the effective delivery of medical services. We may even be able to start tracking data specific to one barangay or even one condominium building. The data drawn from such localized networks are likely to have a host of benefits that have not yet even been imagined, just waiting for future Filipino innovators to harness it.

Small Cells are a big win for all Filipinos

The adoption of small cell technology will bring Filipinos closer to the dream of a much more interconnected future. It can even enable “Smart Cities” by making high-speed broadband connection a standard for all—wherever one is in the country.

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