Mobile networks ‘breathe’ once a day — they ‘breathe in’ when their millions of users are at their busiest during peak hours and they ‘breathe out’ when almost everyone is fast asleep. This daily cycle of usage means that even over the course of a single day, operators have to ensure that their customers have a good mobile experience during very different conditions and levels of load on their network.
In our recent series of insights on the Philippines’ mobile experience we’ve seen that both our Smart and Globe users have seen remarkable improvements in many aspects of their mobile network experience over the past few years, both at the national level and regionally. This time, Opensignal has analyzed how our Filipino users’ mobile network experience varies over the course of the day with a focus on three key metrics: 4G Download Speed, 4G Latency Experience and 4G Video Experience.
As can be seen above, Smart and Globe’s 4G Download Speed scores fluctuate over a 24-hour period in a similar way. Both peak around 3-4 am, when the majority of users are fast asleep and traffic is at a minimum followed by a drop-off when the morning commute begins, which is essentially complete by 9 am. There’s then a further drop in the mid-evening around 8-9 pm, when our users are most likely to be using their devices in their leisure time. However, it should be noted that the average 4G download speeds observed by our users are more than sufficient for web browsing and most productivity-apps even during peak hours.
Our Smart users observed higher average 4G download speeds than their Globe counterparts across all hours of the day and saw the largest variations throughout the day in absolute terms. However, the difference in speeds between the two operators disguises the degree to which their daily 4G Download Speed profiles resemble each other’s. When we express the data as a percentage of the fastest hourly speed observed, the two operators’ profiles overlap each other to a high degree, indicating that average 4G Download Speed scores on Smart and Globe’s networks are almost equally affected by daily peaks in data traffic in percentage terms.
The speed at which files can be downloaded isn’t the only factor that affects how ‘fast’ users perceive a network to be. There’s also latency, which is a measure of the time it takes for data packets to travel across the network between a user’s smartphone and the servers that host mobile apps and websites. Opensignal’s 4G Latency Experience is measured in milliseconds and the smaller the score, the smaller the delay observed by our users. As can be seen from the chart below, our Filipino users’ 4G Latency Experience changes in the opposite direction to 4G Download Speed Experience over the course of the day as far as scores are concerned, but once again the best experience is observed during the early hours of the morning and the worst during the evening peak. There was less variation in average 4G latency over the course of the day than that seen for average 4G download speeds. The highest hourly 4G Latency Experience Score was only 1.7 times larger than that of the smallest for both operators. In contrast, the highest hourly 4G Download Speed scores were 3.7-4.1 times greater than the lowest seen during the mid-evening.
From a user perspective, we see more of a distinct difference between the two operators when we turn to Video Experience — Opensignal’s measure of the quality of video streamed to mobile devices, which is calculated by assessing real-world video streams over operators’ networks.
Our Smart 4G users observed an Excellent Video Experience in the early hours of the morning, which fell to a Good rating during the working day and dropped to Fair during the evening peak. While our Globe 4G users did not observe the same experience as their counterparts on Smart, they did however have a Fair Video Experience across the bulk of the working day, with Globe’s score dropping into the Poor category only during the evening peak.
This highlights that there are aspects of the mobile experience that cannot be simply extrapolated from simple measures such as download speeds.
In this insight we’ve shown that while our users observe their best experience in terms of 4G download speeds, latency and video streaming in the early hours of the morning, both Smart and Globe have engineered their networks to the point that our users can rely on mobile connections even during the busiest times of the day for most tasks.
There are also good reasons why users can look forward to improvements in this regard — given that 5G technology aims to improve network responsiveness and boost capacity and download speeds. In addition, there are a number of technologies that are being developed alongside 5G such as machine learning that are making network management easier for operators, so that they can allocate capacity where and when it is most needed. A key turning point will also be the introduction of 5G cloud core networks which will act as the foundation for more intelligent 5G services and many new applications in the coming years.
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