President Duterte recently said that he would close down the country’s operators unless they improved their services significantly by December.
This raises an obvious question: how much has the mobile network experience of our users in the Philippines changed in recent years?
Between Q4 2017 and Q1 2020 (the last quarter before the COVID-19 pandemic impacted negatively on our users’ Download Speed Experience), the average download speeds observed by our Filipino users rose from 4.7 Mbps to 8.5 Mbps, a rise of 3.8 Mbps, which translates into an impressive 80.9% increase in percentage terms.
Operators in countries with high GDP per capita find it easier to invest in the latest network equipment and the cost of rolling out networks in countries with low population densities is higher in those where the population lives only in dense urban areas. We previously found that when users’ Download Speed Experience is compared with GDP per capita, the Philippines is in the middle of the pack.
Between Q4 2017 and Q1 2020, the average download speeds observed by our Globe and Smart users rose by 3.5 Mbps (84.2%) and 4.3 Mbps (78.1%), respectively. Smart has consistently been in the lead for this measure of the mobile network experience.
One important contributing factor is the improvements that our users in the Philippines have seen over the past two years in 4G Availability — the percentage of time that our 4G users are connected on average to 4G. 4G Availability rises as operators invest in their 4G networks and it is very sensitive in this regard, as the most common dead zones users struggle with occur indoors and this is where most of our availability data is collected. Given that 4G speeds far exceed those typically seen on 3G, an increase in 4G Availability is typically associated with a rise in average download speeds. For example, in our April mobile network experience report Globe and Smart’s 4G Download Speed scores were 3 and 3.7 times faster, respectively, than their corresponding scores for 3G Download Speed.
Between Q4 2017 and Q2 2020, the 4G Availability seen by our Filipino users rose by 19.5 percentage points and pushed past the 80% mark. Our users in the Philippines have also seen at least 10 consecutive quarters of improvement in the proportion of time that they spend connected to 4G. In our The State of Mobile Network Experience 2020: One year into the 5G Era report, the Philippines ranked 67th out of 100 countries for 4G Availability, which means that the Philippines had a higher score than a third of all the countries covered in the report for this measure of the mobile experience.
Switching to an operator-level look at 4G Availability, between Q4 2017 and Q2 2020, Globe’s 4G Availability score rose by 14.5 percentage points, while Smart’s climbed by an impressive 27.8 percentage points.
Back in Q4 2017 Globe was 7.3 percentage points ahead of Smart, but by Q1 2019 the two operators were neck-and-neck and in Q2 2020, the 4G Availability observed by our Smart users was 6.0 percentage points higher than their Globe counterparts. In addition, in Q2 2020 Smart pushed past the 85% mark, while Globe’s 4G Availability score rose above 80% for the first time.
As we’ve seen the mobile network experience of our users in the Philippines has improved significantly in terms of both Download Speed Experience and 4G Availability since the start of 2018. However, should the Philippines wish to accelerate this trend then one possible approach would be to draw on some of the actions taken by regulators from around the world to ensure that speeds remained resilient despite the increased load on telecommunications networks that was triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic — such as increasing the availability of spectrum and cutting red tape.
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