According to the latest report of OpenSignal, Smart Communications is better when it comes to LTE or 4G speed but Globe Telecom still leads in 4G availability — but only by a slim margin.
“With only two national operators, the Philippines remains a unique country when it comes to mobile broadband. Globe and Smart have taken markedly different approaches to their network infrastructure, indicating key reasons why Globe won our 4G availability award while Smart took the LTE speed crown,” said the report, which was released on Wednesday, March 14.
According to study, it was much easier to find a 4G signal on Globe’s network as OpenSignal users were able to tap into Globe’s 4G service 67.5% of the time, which is still short of the 70% availability indicative of a maturing LTE rollout.
“And it’s a big improvement from the 55.3% 4G availability we recorded on Globe?s network from our March 2017 report,” OpenSignal said.
The report said Globe shouldn’t let up on network expansion as Smart is catching up. A year ago, OpenSignal users were only able to latch onto Smart’s LTE network four out of every 10 times.
“In this test period, our users found a 4G signal in six of every 10 attempts, showing that Smart is working hard to increase its 4G reach. Indeed, Smart has been very active in this front, announcing last year it was upgrading 4,000 cell sites to LTE,” it noted.
LTE speeds on Smart have continued to ratchet up over the last year while those on Globe have been relatively stagnant, according to the test results.
“Our 4G download tests on Smart jumped from 9.8 Mbps in March 2017, to 10.6 Mbps just six months ago, to 12.5 Mbps in the most recent test period. Contrast that performance to Globe’s results over the same time period to see a marked difference: 7.4 Mbps a year ago, 7.2 Mbps six months ago and 7.7 Mbps in the current reporting period,” the report said.
OpenSignal also said its users also experienced slower network responsiveness on Globe as 4G latency was 60.7 milliseconds compared to the 47.2ms latency measured over Smart’s LTE airwaves.
When it came to 3G services, OpenSignal said there was essentially no difference between Globe and Smart in this metric. Both averaged 3G download speeds of 2.5 Mbps in the measurements.
For 3G latency, however, Smart’s network provided a faster response time of 154.6ms, landing it an award in this category. Six months ago, the two operators shared the 3G award, but Globe’s latency of 175ms in the current reporting period wasn’t enough to produce a tie this time.
Globe’s superior 4G availability results definitely gave its overall speed score a boost, but its slower 4G download speeds didn’t help, the report said.
“Based on OpenSignal test data, Globe?s overall download speed was 4.4 Mbps. We measured Smart’s overall speed average at 5.8 Mbps, which was enough for it to keep OpenSignal’s overall download speed award,” it added.
On a regional level, the results found that operators largely replicated their national results, although there were some exceptions. In the Visayas region, Smart managed to pull nearly even with Globe in LTE availability, resulting in a statistical tie.
“Meanwhile, Globe challenged Smart for our 3G and 4G latency awards in several regions. And while the two operators were drawn in our national 3G speed category, clear winners emerged in two of our regional results: Smart won our 3G speed award in Manila and the surrounding area, while Globe won it in South Luzon,” the report said.
While the two carriers may be doing battle with each other, as a whole, the Philippines offered significantly worse LTE speeds and availability than most other countries in the world, the report said, noting that several of its peers in Southeast Asia offer faster LTE speeds and much higher levels of 4G access.
“The average global LTE download speed, for example, is 16.9 Mbps, which is well above the 9.5 Mbps downloads our testers found across all 4G networks in the Philippines. Among the seven countries in Southeast Asia that we analyzed, the only one with slower tested 4G speeds was Indonesia with a download average of 8.9 Mbps. By comparison, at the top end of the chart was Vietnam where the average 4G download speed was 21.5 Mbps,” it said.
When it comes to finding a 4G signal, the Philippines is again second to last among its neighbors: With LTE availability of 63.7%, the Philippines just edged out the 62.5% LTE availability of Myanmar. The other five Southeast Asian countries all had 4G availability scores above the 70% mark.
“This isn’t terribly surprising overall, given that the Philippines is made up of more than 7,600 islands, which can be challenging in terms of network rollouts, but limited competition also may be a factor. The geography obviously isn’t changing, but competition levels could increase if the local regulator gets its way,” it said.
“The Philippines is currently in the midst of a spectrum auction to entice a third operator. If it can find one, that could put pressure on Globe and Smart, although it might take several years for a viable third player to build out its 4G services.”