Blog | PH mobile Internet falls by 40% in 1Q 2017

By Winthrop Yu

WYu at ISOC-FMA 20PHnet

Despite Globe and PLDT-Smart having taken over SMC’s former frequency assignments including the much ballyhooed 700 MHz in June of last year, the Philippines mobile-only average Internet speeds fell by nearly 40% in the first quarter of 2017.

This was reported in Akamai Technologies’ State of the Internet Connectivity 1Q 2017 report released in June. Akamai’s mobile-only table is distinct from their main geographical rankings in which the Philippines again placed last in the region.

But there is something strange about the Philippines’ entry in Akamai’s mobile-only table …

The Philippines’ mobile-entry figures show a sudden jump from 8.5 Mbps in 2Q 2016 (before the SMC take-over) to 13.9 Mbps in 3Q 2016, almost immediately after the last elections and the SMC take-over. Then an equally sharp drop from 14.3 Mbps in 4Q 2016 to 8.7 Mbps in 1Q 2017. This essentially puts the Philippines’ reported mobile-only average Internet speeds back to what they were before the elections and the SMC take-over.

Why the sudden ups and downs, what do those reported figures really mean?

Akamai SOTI Mobile-only Table as of 1Q 2017 QoQ zoomed

A clue may be found in the asterisk beside the Philippines’ entry in Akamai’s mobile-only table as it is the only country in that table that has an asterisk. All the other countries in the table do not have an asterisk and show a more-or-less steady progression from slower to faster speeds.

What does that asterisk beside the Philippine’s mobile-only entry signify? Akamai itself explains:

“All mobile speed measurements collected can be influenced by the use and location of proxies within mobile networks. … If a country’s major mobile carriers make heavy use of such proxies, peak connection speeds recorded for that country are likely to be more representative of the speeds achieved between Akamai and the proxies (residing in data centers) rather than speeds achieved between Akamai and the mobile devices themselves.”

What that means in layman’s terms is that the reported average speeds in Akamai’s mobile-only table do not necessarily reflect speeds to end-user devices such as your phone or tablet. Instead, the measurements are affected by telco servers facing and connecting to Akamai’s servers, something which the telcos themselves can change and reconfigure at any time.

But if the mobile-only table is so unreliable (for the Philippines) is there then no reference? Yes, there is — Akamai’s main (geographical) table does not include mobile data from the Philippines. This means that the measurements reported in this main Akamai table are not affected by mobile data or any frequencies which they may use, such as 700 MHz.

While the Philippines remains in last place in the region in the main Akamai rankings, it does show an improvement of 20% in average Internet speeds in 1Q 2017. This is certainly (some) good news! But if mobile Internet and frequencies have nothing to do with that 20% increase, then what does? That, is another story for next time.

The author is the chair of Internet Society–Philippines