PLDT revealed it stopped deploying new 5G base stations in early 2022 and is now converting some sites to LTE as part of on-going network optimisation programme initiated after an internal review prompted by a massive capex overrun.

In its Q1 earnings release, PLDT revealed it is repurposing underused 5G sites based on traffic analysis to improve the customer experience and to increase operational, capex and spectrum efficiencies.

Its 5G base station count peaked at 7,200 at end-2021.

Head of networks Eric Santiago said a halt in base station deployment was “a natural consequence of the deep-dive review of internal processes related to capex”. He added PLDT started to reaccelerate its network rollout, taking into consideration recommendations to improve project monitoring and related processes.

The operator closed the quarter with 76,500 base stations, including 38,800 4G sites.

Net profit was flat at PHP9 billion ($162.4 million), attributed to higher capex and a PHP1.5 billion charge for a voluntary staff reduction programme. Consolidated service revenue rose 4 per cent to PHP49.7 billion.

President and CEO Alfredo Panlilio noted inflationary pressures forced it to push for improved cost-efficiency.

Operating expenses dropped 8 per cent to PHP22.8 billion, while depreciation and amortisation charges fell 7 per cent to PHP11.7 billion.

Wireless service revenue declined 1 per cent to PHP23.4 billion, with gains in mobile data offset by declines SMS and voice.

Prepaid ARPU at mobile unit Smart Communications rose 8 per cent to PHP107 and post-paid fell 13.7 per cent to PHP678.

Average monthly data use per customer increased 15 per cent to 10.6GB.

Its prepaid user based dropped by 5.2 million to 63 million, due to a SIM registration push.

Post-paid subscribers remained at just more than 2 million.

Fixed-line service revenue dropped 12 per cent to PHP29.9 billion, as a 10 per cent rise in home broadband sales was erased by weakness in voice and corporate data.

Enterprise revenue increased 5 per cent PHP11.8 billion.

Capex grew 22 per cent to PHP19.3 billion.

The company maintained 2023 capex guidance at PHP80 billion to PHP85 billion, compared with PHP96.8 billion in 2022.

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