State of Mobile Networks: Philippines (March 2018)

In the six months since our last look at the Philippines, little has changed in OpenSignal's speed, availability and latency rankings. That’s to be expected though since there are still only two mobile operators for now, but a third choice may be coming soon to shake things up. Until then, it’s a two-horse race with customers having a choice between more 4G availability on the one hand, and faster LTE speeds on the other. This report analyzes results from more than 771 million measurements OpenSignal testers collected in the Philippines in the 90 days ending Jan. 31, 2018.

Report Facts

771,762,782
Measurements
51,417
Test Devices
2017-11-02 - 2018-01-31
Sample Period
Philippines
Report Location

Highlights

Globe still leads in 4G availability, but Smart is catching up

While neither of the two Philippines operators provided our users with the 70% availability we have seen in more mature 4G markets, Globe retained our 4G availability award as our users were able to find its 4G connections 67.5% of the time. Smart continued to narrow the gap, however. One year ago the availability difference between the two operators was 15 percentage points. In this report it’s just 8 percentage points.

Smart’s LTE speeds continue to outpace Globe’s

With tested speeds of 12.5 Mbps, Smart won the OpenSignal award for 4G download speeds, making it the third time it has done so. The operator is pulling away from its sole competitor in this category too. We found Smart's 4G speeds increased by 2 Mbps in the last six months while Globe's speeds remained steady at just over 7 Mbps.

Globe and Smart share 3G speed crown but regional results vary

With 4G signals often hard to find, 3G connections remain important. Here, it’s neck-and-neck between Globe and Smart as they both provided 3G download speeds of 2.5 Mbps to OpenSignal testers. However, Smart’s 3G speeds stood out in the small but densely populated Capital Region, while Globe had the faster HSPA tests in South Luzon.

LTE in the Philippines continues to lag other countries

The Philippines saw the arrival of 4G networks six years ago, but there’s still plenty of room for improvement. In OpenSignal's analysis of seven nations in Southeast Asia, the Philippines' 4G availability of 63.7% only exceeded that of Myanmar’s 62.5%. LTE speeds in the Philippines were also far below the global average of 16.9 Mbps.

Awards Table

Download Speed: 4G Download Speed: 3G Download Speed: Overall Latency: 4G Latency: 3G Availability: 4G

Globe

medal medal

Smart

medal medal medal medal medal

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Performance by Metric

Download Speed: 4G

This metric shows the average download speed for each operator on LTE connections as measured by OpenSignal users.

Download Speed: 3G

This metric shows the average download speed for each operator on 3G connections as measured by OpenSignal users.

Download Speed: Overall

This metric shows the average download speed experienced by OpenSignal users across all of an operator's 3G and 4G networks. Overall speed doesn't just factor in 3G and LTE speeds, but also the availability of each network technology. Operators with lower LTE availability tend to have lower overall speeds because their customers spend more time connected to slower 3G networks.

Latency: 4G

This metric shows the average latency for each operator on LTE connections as measured by OpenSignal users. Latency, measured in milliseconds, is the delay data experiences as it makes a round trip through the network. A lower score in this metric is a sign of a more responsive network.

Latency: 3G

This metric shows the average latency for each operator on 3G connections as measured by OpenSignal users. Latency, measured in milliseconds, is the delay data experiences as it makes a round trip through the network. A lower score in this metric is a sign of a more responsive network.

Availability: 4G

This metric shows the proportion of time OpenSignal users have an LTE connection available to them on each operator’s network. It's a measure of how often users can access a 4G network rather than a measure of geographic or population coverage.

Regional Performance

This chart shows the regional winners in each category OpenSignal measures. Click on the icons to see a more detailed graph showing each operator’s metrics in a particular region.

Legend: Globe Smart
Region Download Speed: 4G Download Speed: 3G Download Speed: Overall Latency: 4G Latency: 3G Availability: 4G
Mindanao
Capital Region
North Central Luzon
South Luzon
Visayas

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graph here

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Analysis

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.

Availability vs speeds

It was much easier to find a 4G signal on Globe’s network, according to our data. 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, but it's getting close. And it’s a big improvement from the 55.3% 4G availability we recorded on Globe’s network from our March 2017 report.

Globe shouldn't let up on network expansion, however, 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.

LTE speeds on Smart have continued to ratchet up over the last year while those on Globe have been relatively stagnant, according to our 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. OpenSignal 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.

3G and the overall speed picture

Since it can be challenging to find a reliable 4G connection in the Philippines, 3G services assume greater importance. Based on our testers' experiences, there was essentially no difference between Globe and Smart in this metric. Both averaged 3G download speeds of 2.5 Mbps in our measurements, earning a tie for this OpenSignal award. When it came to 3G latency, however, Smart’s network provided a faster response time of 154.6ms, landing it our 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.

These 3G network test results play into our overall download speed award as it factors in 3G connections when 4G connections aren't available. Lower LTE availability can reduce an operator's overall speed score because when a 4G signal is hard to find, consumers will likely drop to a 3G connection.

Globe's superior 4G availability results definitely gave its overall speed score a boost, but its slower 4G download speeds didn’t help it here. 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.

On a regional level, we 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.

4G in the Philippines still lags most countries

While the two carriers may be doing battle with each other, as a whole, the Philippines offered significantly worse LTE speeds and availabilty than most other countries in the world. Several of its peers in Southeast Asia, as well, offer faster LTE speeds and much higher levels of 4G access.

The recent OpenSignal State of LTE report highlights that situation. 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.

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 in our analysis 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. 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.

Our Methodology

OpenSignal measures the real-world experience of consumers on mobile networks as they go about their daily lives. We collect 3 billion individual measurements every day from tens of millions of smartphones worldwide.

Our measurements are collected at all hours of the day, every day of the year, under conditions of normal usage, including inside buildings and outdoors, in cities and the countryside, and everywhere in between. By analyzing on-device measurements recorded in the places where subscribers actually live, work and travel, we report on mobile network service the way users truly experience it.

We continually adapt our methodology to best represent the changing experience of consumers on mobile networks and, therefore, comparisons of the results to past reports should be considered indicative only. For more information on how we collect and analyze our data, see our methodology page.

For this particular report, 771,762,782 datapoints were collected from 51,417 users during the period: 2017-11-02 - 2018-01-31.

For every metric we've calculated statistical confidence intervals and plotted them on all of the graphs. When confidence intervals overlap for a certain metric, our measured results are too close to declare a winner in a particular category. In those cases, we show a statistical draw. For this reason, some metrics have multiple operator winners.

©2018 OpenSignal, Inc. All rights reserved.

OpenSignal, Inc retains ownership of this report including all intellectual property rights, data, content, graphs & analysis. Reports produced by OpenSignal, Inc may not be quoted, reproduced, distributed, published for any commercial purpose (including use in advertisements or other promotional content) without prior written consent.

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