In a recent insight, Opensignal analyzed the urban-rural divide in the Philippines when it comes to 4G Availability and Download Speed Experience. We found 4G Availability to be 14 percentage points higher in urban areas compared with rural areas when averaged across operators. Similarly, we found a 1.8 Mbps difference in Download Speed Experience between rural and urban areas, with almost all urban areas scoring higher than rural regions.
Splitting by operator, while we found a tremendous difference in 4G Availability — the time users spend connected to 4G — between rural and urban and we also found notable differences between Smart and Globe in our users’ 4G Availability in both types of area. In rural areas the difference was greater, with 5.3 percentage points separating the experience on each operator compared with a narrower, but still significant 2.2 points difference in 4G Availability between each operator in urban areas.
The difference between rural and urban experience reflects the challenge of providing a good mobile experience in rural areas regardless of operator, and provides evidence for why initiatives such as sharing cell towers in rural areas are an important tool to help narrow gaps in the quality of the mobile experience between users in metro areas and those in regional and rural areas.
The Download Speed Experience in the Philippines of our users differs between rural and urban areas by less than 2 Mbps when averaged across regions. However, the wireless operator chosen by users is a key differentiating factor as our users on Smart enjoyed a Download Speed Experience of almost 3 Mbps faster in both rural and urban parts of the country, or 38% faster than our users on Globe.
While users on Smart scored just slightly higher than Globe for 4G Availability across rural and urban areas, the Download Speed Experience of our Filipino users is very polarized.
Our rural users on Smart enjoyed a faster speed than Globe in all but three regions — Central Luzon, Central Visayas, and BARMM — where they tied. What’s more, in SOCCSKSARGEN and Cagayal, our Smart users’ Download Speed Experience was more than twice as fast as the speed our Globe users saw in the same region.
Urban users saw more competitive speeds on Globe, and even managed to beat Smart users in CAR. However, Smart users’ faster speeds made it untouchable in ten urban regions, including the National Capital Region, where our users on Smart benefited from an impressive 15.2 Mbps, an enviable 5.6 Mbps faster than the speeds our Globe users saw in the capital.
These findings are all the more remarkable when taking into account Smart's recent acknowledgement that it had increased 4G data users by 82% in the last year. Normally, a larger number of users mean there is more competition for an operator’s 4G resources, which usually results in increased congestion and therefore lower average speeds.