Smart’s 5G site in Argao enables mountain telemedicine, bringing help and hope

PLDT wireless unit Smart Communications Inc. (Smart) has fired up more 5G sites across the country, underscoring the company’s leadership in providing nationwide connectivity, particularly 5G.

With its fast-tracked rollout, more communities have also been reached by Smart 5G’s super-fast data service, which is now in more than 3,000 sites across the country. One of these is Barangay Linut-od, a mountain barangay in Argao in the province of Cebu, situated 23-kilometers away from the town proper. The availability of this technology in the area has enabled remote patient health consultation—or what we now know as “telemedicine”.

Mario G. Tamayo, Head of Technology at PLDT and Smart, emphasized the importance of expanding the network to support far-flung communities, even with the hurdles posed by the pandemic. “Rolling out the network in an archipelago and the countryside presents various unique challenges. But we are committed to expanding our network and making sure our technology reaches all communities and have the best customer experience with Smart.”

Smart powers Mountain Telemedicine

The COVID-19 pandemic has made telemedicine the practical mode of patient-doctor consultations. ​It offers a low-cost and more convenient means of delivering healthcare services that can support mountain communities and reach more residents living in far-flung areas like Linut-od.

Among the beneficiaries of mountain telemedicine is a 51-year-old patient in Linut-od, Elena Camson, who was diagnosed with End-Stage Renal Disease in 2018. Before the firing up of Smart’s cell site in the barangay, Elena had to travel to the town proper for her medical consultations. “When there was still no network signal here, we had to go to the city for check-ups. We used to walk from our house to another barangay where we can ride jeepneys to reach the city,” says Elena.

Argao’s community doctor, Dr. Stanley Caminero operates two charity clinics in Argao: one in the municipality’s town proper and one in barangay Linut-od. With telco facilities enhancing the delivery of medical services, efforts at promoting healthcare can now reach longer distances and underserved communities.

“A strong network signal is a huge help in our advocacy to treat patients, which is made possible by telemedicine. Patients can directly contact us whenever they feel sick or if they are in need of consultation, especially if they cannot immediately proceed to the city hospital,” shared Dr. Caminero.

Since the Smart cell site in Linut-od, Argao was fired up in 2019, the delivery of essential health services in the barangay has also improved. Cristina Alberca, Barangay Health Worker for 3 years, has also felt the difference and the massive improvement in the mobilization of their services since the availability of signal and connectivity in the barangay.

“Back then, we had to tread our way to the different puroksor districts because we did not have direct access to them. With Smart’s fast connectivity, our job has been made easy. We’ve created several group chats via online multi-media platforms where we can directly send announcements, updates, and schedules in order to also prevent crowding,” shared Alberca. Alberca and other barangay health workers have utilized technology and connectivity in ensuring the timely delivery of quality healthcare in the mountain barangay.

Dr. Caminero underscores the value of fast and reliable connectivity in enabling a more inclusive healthcare service, especially in unserved and underserved communities, “Through Smart’s 5G signal, we can assure quality service and accurate diagnoses to our patients. I hope for the continuous connectivity advancement in our mountain barangays, especially those areas that are still not reached by network providers. It can greatly aid us, especially in treating patients living in the mountains with little access to quality healthcare service.”

Smart’s 5G nationwide rollout, strengthening its leadership

Launched last year, Smart ‘s 5G service was quickly expanded to cover key cities in Visayas and Mindanao, strengthening the company’s commitment to bring the best digital technologies closer to more Filipinos across the country. This advancement has benefitted several communities, including mountain barangays in Argao.

Continuing this big push for 5G in the country, Smart also recently expanded its Unli 5G offer to cover all Smart 5G sites nationwide–an unprecedented move that enables more Filipinos to enjoy Smart’s most powerful offer on its fastest technology yet.

5G, the latest upgrade in wireless communications, offers fiber-like data speeds on mobile and ultra-low latency, enabling excellent customer experience in uploading and downloading large files, uninterrupted playing of online games, seamless streaming of high-resolution videos, and next-level audio-video call experience which aids mountain telemedicine, among others.

These initiatives are part of PLDT and Smart’s continuous expansion of their fully integrated network, the largest in the country. Smart’s mobile network, which serves 96% of the population from Batanes to Tawi-Tawi, has also been recognized as the fastest mobile network in the country by third-party analytics firms including Ookla and Opensignal. Enabling Smart’s 5G network is PLDT’s fiber infrastructure, the country’s most extensive at over 478,000 kilometers as of end-March 2021.

Smart5G, has also been cited as the fastest 5G network in the Philippines by Ookla. Based on consumer-initiated tests taken using Speedtest® by Ookla, Smart has consistently posted the fastest 5G speeds for Q1 2021, with median download speeds of 190 Mbps – more than double the competition’s speeds for the same period.

PLDT and Smart’s relentless push to provide connectivity for all is aligned with the group’s long-standing commitment to help the Philippines attain the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, particularly SDG #9: Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure.