Smart says 70% of its subscribers now using LTE phones, SIMs

PLDT wireless subsidiary Smart Communications said its subscribers have upgraded to Long Term Evolution (LTE) and LTE-Advanced SIMs and devices amid continuous LTE migration efforts.

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As of the first half of the year, about 70% of Smart’s subscribers are already smartphone owners, most of whom are LTE phone users, and have also already adopted LTE SIMs. 

“To complement our LTE network roll-out, we are also working with device manufacturers to put capable handsets within the reach of our customers, who can then use them to maximize the network that we are building,” said Mario G. Tamayo, PLDT-Smart senior vice president for network planning and engineering.

Of Smart’s LTE sites nationwide, 71% have already been upgraded to LTE-Advanced, which means each cell site has multiple LTE base stations activated. In the first half of 2019 alone, Smart deployed an additional 2,900 LTE base stations across its sites, raising the LTE base station count to over 19,000.

“Aside from the network improvement, it is also important to have the right device on hand to fully experience the superior quality and full capability of our network,” Tamayo added.

A recent study by mobile analytics firm OpenSignal found that users of different smartphone brands and models experience “significant differences” in mobile network experience, depending on their smartphones’ network communication features, which enable faster download speeds and smoother video streaming.

OpenSignal’s study, “How the Smartphone Affects Mobile Network Experience”, collected more than 117 million measurements from over 23.3 million devices between April 1 and June 30, 2019.

“All smartphones are not created equal; they vary in network capability, as well as cameras and displays,” wrote OpenSignal’s Ian Fogg, noting that among the world’s three largest smartphone makers, Samsung users experienced faster download speeds than Apple and Huawei users in more than a third of the countries included in the study.

“Newer and more expensive smartphone models usually support more network capabilities, such as newer versions of the 4G standard. Consumers with less-capable smartphones will not be able to enjoy the best mobile network experience that their mobile operator provides,” OpenSignal added.

The OpenSignal study split smartphone users into three groups – low, mid and high-tier – based on a smartphone’s mobile network capabilities.

“Because high-tier smartphone users have models with more mobile network capabilities, such as the ability to combine five or more radio carriers — carrier aggregation — or use advanced 256QAM, this class of users is more sensitive to mobile network improvements deployed by the world’s mobile operators. As they add new network technologies, these users will be the first to experience the benefits,” the OpenSignal study said.

In the Philippines, users with high-tier smartphones experienced much faster download speeds of 18.3 Mbps, compared to 10.1 Mbps for mid-tier phones, and 7.4 Mbps for low-tier phones.

According to OpenSignal, high-tier smartphones include the Samsung Galaxy S8, S9, S10, Note 8, Note 9; the Huawei P20 Pro, P30 Pro, Mate 10, 20; and the iPhone XS. Mid-tier smartphones include the Samsung M40, A80, A6s; Huawei P30 Lite, Enjoy 9e, Y6; and the iPhone XR, X, 8, 7 and 6s. Low-tier smartphones include the Samsung A2 Core, J4 Core; Huawei Nova 2; and iPhone SE or 6.

High-tier smartphone users in the Philippines also experience greater download speeds that are 2.4 times better than that of mid-tier smartphone users, according to OpenSignal.

Online multiplayer games such as Mobile Legends also work better for high-tier smartphone users as well, the same study found.

“High-tier smartphone users experienced latencies 18% or 11.1ms faster than low-tier smartphone users, and 14% faster even than mid-tier smartphone users,” OpenSignal said.

The rising adoption by subscribers of LTE SIMs and LTE smartphones, alongside the increasing data usage for video and games and robust subscriber growth, have boosted PLDT’s consumer wireless business revenues for the first half of 2019, which grew 20% year-on-year to P34.4 billion.

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