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The arrival of 5G and DITO have changed the Philippines’ competitive landscape

Smart has been dominating Opensignal’s mobile network experience awards in the Philippines. However, this is no longer the case, with both DITO and Globe steadily increasing their award hauls. Globe has broken Smart’s winning streak on overall Video Experience, Games Experience and Voice App Experience. Meanwhile, DITO is close behind Smart on Download Speed Experience and in the latest Opensignal report wins four awards outright.

The arrival of new entrant DITO, the introduction of 5G, pressure from the Flipino government to improve connectivity and the COVID-19 pandemic — have caused operators to redouble their efforts and up their investment in their networks. However, such programs take place over a number of years and it can take time for the competitive landscape to shift. With this in mind, in this analysis we look across all the mobile network experience reports we’ve published to show how each operator’s position has changed over time.

April 2021 marked the high point of Smart’s dominance in terms of Opensignal mobile network experience awards. Then in October 2021, when we first reported on DITO and the 5G experience of our Filipino users, DITO picked up the 4G Availability award and Globe tied with Smart on 5G Reach and 5G Voice App Experience. Globe has gained ground in every report since then, culminating in it winning seven awards — either outright or jointly — to Smart’s five. 

At the same time, DITO is really making its presence felt, winning an impressive four awards outright in the latest Opensignal report: Upload Speed Experience, Availability, Excellent Consistent Quality and Core Consistent Quality.

Six of out seven of Globe’s outright wins in the latest report (April 2023) are in experiential categories (Video Experience, Games Experience and Voice App Experience — both overall and 5G in all three cases). Looking at the overall experiential awards, this represents a sudden shift in Globe’s favor as previously — between April 2021 and October 2022 — Smart won all three overall experiential awards outright. The transition from Smart to Globe has been more gradual with the 5G experiential awards, with Globe winning the 5G Video Experience award outright in the April 2022 report, before also tying with Smart on 5G Games Experience and 5G Voice App Experience in October 2022 and finally winning all three awards outright in April 2023.

However, it is DITO, not Globe, that is giving Smart reason for concern in the Download Speed Experience category, despite Smart having won this award outright for the past 12 reports in a row. In the October 2021 report Smart led DITO and Globe (which were tied for first place) by around 10Mbps — fast forward to the April 2023 report and DITO is only 2.6Mbps behind Smart. It’s worth noting though that Smart remains unbeaten on 5G Download Speed having won the award outright ever since Opensignal first gave the award to a Filipino operator in October 2021.

Meanwhile, Globe has made truly impressive gains in Games Experience. In the April 2022 report, it was in third place with a score of 37.7 points on a 100-point scale, trailing behind Smart and DITO by 16.3 and 3.4 points, respectively, but now it wins the award outright with a score of 58.8 points and a lead of 1.2 points over Smart’s 57.6 points.

One factor that has played a role in Globe’s recent success is that it made its largest-ever annual investment in its mobile and fixed networks in 2022. In that year it claims to have activated 1,702 new cell sites, upgraded around 13,600 to 4G, and installed 2,267 new 5G sites nationwide. However, Globe is now looking to spend 30% less on capital expenditure (capex) in 2023 ($1.3 billion) with the goal of reducing it further in 2024. PLDT, Smart’s owner, is also looking to reduce its capex from 2023 onwards due to the discovery of its ₱48 billion ($880 million) overspending in this area — which was later reduced to ₱33 billion following settlements with suppliers. The company is looking to spend around ₱80-85 billion  this year in capex. Meanwhile, DITO expects to spend ₱27 billion ($487 million) on its network this year, which would take its total network spend to around ₱230 billion by the end of the year.

We have seen that Globe has chipped away at Smart’s mobile network experience dominance to the point where Globe is now the most awarded operator in the April 2023 report. However, as this insight has demonstrated, past performance is no guarantee of future success and Globe will have to work to defend its position ahead of the competition. Look out for the next Opensignal mobile network experience report later in 2023.