As we noted in our previous analysis on the Philippines’ mobile network experience, recent remarks by President Duterte placed a great deal of emphasis on the need for the country’s mobile operators to improve the quality of their networks.
Opensignal has seen our Filipino users' mobile network experience improve considerably in recent years across many metrics. One measure that is becoming increasingly important given the rise of YouTube and video-heavy social media services is Video Experience; it quantifies the quality of video streamed to mobile devices by measuring real-world video streams over an operator's networks.
When we looked at this at the national level, our users’ Video Experience has risen from the 35.8 points out of 100 reported back in Q3 2018 to 46.4 points in Q1 2020 (the last quarter to use data from before the time when the COVID-19 pandemic began to affect our users’ mobile network experience), an increase of 10.6 points (29.5%). In addition, the average user experience while streaming video has been Fair (40-55) since Q3 2019 — up from the Poor (under 40) rating observed in the previous four quarters. Our users’ Video Experience has also remained Fair despite the impact of the pandemic, indicating that operators’ efforts to ensure their networks would still support video streaming services despite the changes in usage patterns brought were successful.
Switching from the national to the operator-level, while Smart has consistently scored higher than Globe for this measure of the mobile network experience and both operators have made significant gains. Between Q3 2018 and Q1 2020, Globe’s Video Experience score rose from 29.2 points to 40.9, an increase of 11.7 points (40.1%). In addition, Q1 2020 was the first quarter in which Globe placed in the Fair (40-55) category for this measure of the mobile experience. Meanwhile, Smart’s Video Experience score increased from 42.4 points to 53.5 points, a rise of 11.1 points (26.3%) over the same timeframe.
However, our Smart users saw more improvement in absolute terms than their Globe counterparts between Q3 2018 and the 90 days beginning May. 1, 2020 — with increases of 9.8 points and 7.9 points, respectively — though our Globe users still saw the largest improvement in percentage terms — 27.1% versus Smart’s 23.1%.
Another factor that has important implications for our users is latency. Latency Experience represents the typical delay a user experiences when connecting across an operator’s networks in milliseconds (ms). Simply put the lower the score, the less of a delay our users will typically observe between doing something on their phone that has to go over the internet and observing the outcome. In this regard, our Filipino users also have much to celebrate as the average latency they have reported has dropped from the high of 75.4 ms seen in Q3 2018 to just 60.6 ms in the 90 days commencing May. 1, 2020 — a favourable decline of 14.8 ms (19.6%).
When we break this down by operator, our Globe users saw their average latency improve by 15.8 ms (20.6%) between Q3 2018 and the last quarter that included pre-COVID-19 data. Those users on Smart’s network saw a more modest improvement over the same period of 12.7 ms (17.2%).
However, during the periods that were fully influenced by the COVID-19 pandemic, Smart’s Latency Experience score continued to improve while Globe’s started to rise. As a consequence our Smart users observed a larger improvement (in both absolute and percentage terms) than their Globe counterparts — a drop of 16 ms (21.7%) versus 13.4 ms (17.5%) between Q3 2018 and the 90 days commencing May. 1, 2020.
To recap, our users in the Philippines have seen both their Video Experience and Latency Experience improve significantly since Q3 2018 and as we found in our previous analysis, they’ve also seen impressive progress in both their average download speeds and 4G Availability (the average proportion of time that our 4G users spend connected to 4G services).
Further enhancements to our Filipino users' mobile network experience should be on the way based on the steady progress in recent years. Smart launched its mobile 5G service on Jul. 30 2020 in business districts of Metro Manila and on Sep. 28 2020, it said that it is rolling out its commercial 5G service in key cities in Visayas and Mindanao.
Also, Globe has announced a large network upgrade programme which it claims will be its largest ever — and has recently rolled out 5G in more locations. Opensignal will continue to measure real-world smartphone users’ experience to understand and report on the pace of progress.
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