A look at the Philippines' phenomenal growth in overall download speed

We've seen a lot of 4G progress in the Philippines since our first State of Mobile Networks report for the region came out in March of 2017, but we thought it would be interesting to take a closer look at the Philippines' gains by tracking the month-to-month changes in average overall download speed for Globe and Smart over the last year. Why overall speed, you might ask? Overall speed takes into account multiple OpenSignal metrics. It factors in 4G download speeds, 3G download speeds and the level of access consumers have to each type of network. But overall speed is also a useful means of tracking the typical mobile data experience, as it measures the day-to-day speeds consumers actually receive.

The good news is those everyday mobile speeds are only improving for both of the Philippines' operators. From our March-to-May-2017 test period to our most recent February-to-April test period, Globe's overall speed increased 63% while Smart's overall speed almost doubled in our measurements. That's amazing growth for any operator.

What exactly caused that huge growth in overall speed may surprise you. Both Globe and Smart saw their 4G speeds increase in our tests over the last year, but those increases were modest (under 20% for both operators) compared to the growth they both saw in overall speed. So what produced that surge? Both operators were busy expanding the reach of their LTE services last year. Their 4G availability scores all increased considerably, which means that 4G smartphone owners were able to latch onto faster LTE connections more often. In our March 2017 report, Smart had a 4G availability of just 40% while Globe's was 55%. By our March 2018 report, Smart's availability score had increased to 60% and Globe's had increased to 67%. As our testers were able to connect to Globe and Smart's 4G signals more often their typical everyday speeds began to rise at a steady clip.

As you can see from the plot lines of the chart, Globe and Smart were nearly even in overall speed in our summer test periods last year, but after September, Smart's speeds really began to take off. Two things happened here, according to our data: 1) Smart began to close the once huge gap between itself and Globe in 4G availability, and 2) its 4G speeds began increasing at a faster rate. Then right after our last Philippines report was published, the separation between Smart and Globe in overall speed suddenly started getting wider. Our results show Smart's 4G speeds began growing much faster and its 4G availability continued to tick upwards while Globe's remained relatively static.

Smart has definitely been making noise about its recent 4G network upgrades and footprint expansion so we're likely seeing the results of those investments in our metrics, but it looks like Globe is doing plenty of investment on its own. Both Smart and Globe also have lots of incentive to improve their networks this year as the shadow of a potential third operator looms.

We'd love to hear about your own overall speed experiences on either Globe of Smart. Did your day-to-day speeds change noticeably over the last year? Let us know in the comments section below.