US agency showers Smart with 5G grants amid tech rivalry with China
MANILA, Philippines—PLDT Inc.’s Smart Communications has won a fresh grant from the US government, which is bolstering support for the telco’s 5G expansion that would be largely backed by Chinese technology.
The US Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) said in a statement it awarded Smart with a “training grant” to support the telco’s investment in equipment and services from US tech giant Cisco Systems Inc. for its nationwide 5G expansion.
The USTDA is an independent government agency that exports US goods and services to emerging economies.
“This grant demonstrates USTDA’s commitment to supporting cutting-edge information and communications technology infrastructure in the Philippines, while promoting innovative solutions from US companies,” said Vinai Thummalapally, USTDA acting director, in the statement.
Last year, USTDA also extended a separate $1 million training grant to Smart for skills upgrades and capacity building through Cisco.
PLDT is in the midst of expanding its footprint in 5G, the next-generation mobile standard that will eventually replace the prevailing 4G mobile networks in the country.
But it also comes during a period of heightened rivalry between US and Chinese businesses and tech companies.
Last November, US president Joe Biden signed into law the Secure Equipment Act that would bar equipment from Chinese companies, such as Huawei and ZTE, from being used in US networks due to national security concerns.
Philippine telcos, however, have embraced Chinese equipment in their networks for their cost-effectiveness and technological capabilities.
In 2019, PLDT chair Manuel Pangilinan revealed his company selected Huawei and “a bit of Ericsson” as equipment suppliers ahead of the company’s commercial rollout of 5G.
Earlier the same year, Globe Telecom chair Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala called Huawei an important partner that “will give us a distinct advantage in our ability to supply 5G technology to the market.”
The Philippines’ third major telco player, Dito Telecommunity, is partly owned by state-run China Telecom.
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