Pag-asa Island now has LTE, Smart says

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 4) — Telecommunications giant Smart Communications said it has finally expanded its LTE network to include Pag-asa Island in the West Philippine Sea.

This is a positive development from the June incident wherein visiting government officials and news teams received text messages welcoming them to China and Vietnam upon arriving on the island.

Philippine-occupied Pag-asa Island, internationally known as Thitu, is the seat of the municipal government of Kalayaan under Palawan province, but it is also being claimed by China, Taiwan, and Vietnam.

“Despite challenges due to the island's location in the West Philippine Sea, Smart has recently activated its 4G/LTE services on Pag-asa Island,” Smart Communications announced in a Facebook post.

In telecommunications, LTE or Long-Term Evolution is a standard for wireless broadband communication for mobile devices and data terminals.

Residents can now use mobile data to access chat apps and watch videos online, Smart said. It committed to continue the rollout of its LTE services which now serve 95 percent of the population.

In June, Smart said its cell site on Pag-asa Island was down, that’s why visitors would receive text messages prompting them to subscribe to a roaming data plan.

But even if the cell site was operational, some users could still get the welcome messages from Chinese and Vietnamese telecommunications companies as their signals still reach the island, Smart explained.

The Philippines recently completed a beaching ramp on Pag-asa Island, which would make it easier to bring in the equipment and supplies needed to repair the airstrip.

China tried to stop the construction, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said, while photos showed it deployed a number of ships near the island. The Philippines earlier fired off diplomatic protests against the swarming of Chinese vessels around Pag-asa.

The Philippines and China maintain close ties, saying they have "agreed to disagree" on the arbitral ruling.

The landmark decision recognized Manila's sovereign rights to areas within its exclusive economic zone, which China insists owning, and invalidated Beijing's sweeping claim to almost the entire South China Sea.