Francesco Rizzato, Senior Technical Analyst
Opensignal’s latest report on the Philippines has highlighted how Smart closed the 4G Availability gap with the other incumbent, Globe. Smart and Globe tied for our 4G Availability award, both with scores passing the 70% mark, meaning our users with a 4G device and subscription were able to connect to an LTE network in 7 out of 10 attempts. But did that also mean smartphone users could enjoy seamless mobile experiences, regardless of their network provider? Well, not really. Big differences remained in all of our other mobile experience metrics, with Smart far in the lead.
We decided to have a closer look at the newest metric we launched in September 2018, Video Experience. In our global analysis we found that Video Experience and connection speed are linked in countries where speeds are relatively slow, and since the Philippines is still building out LTE capacity, it falls in that group.
However, there was still a lot of light between the two operators in the metric. Smart earned a Good score with 56.6 on our 100-point 4G Video Experience scale, while Globe rated Poor by scoring 34.9 points. But what’s the meaning behind those scores? Among the components that shape Video Experience, we have Video Load Time and Video Stalling Occurrence metrics – which can provide additional insights on what smartphone users experience when playing videos on the two networks.
Opensignal’s 4G Video Load Time represents the average period of time mobile users have to wait for a streamed video to begin playing over an LTE connection. According to our analysis, Smart’s users on average had to wait 5 seconds for the video to start, but that time was even longer for Globe’s users who on average waited 8.3 seconds before seeing the first frame. By comparison, smartphone users in countries that achieved Very Good scores (65-75 of 100) in our 4G Video Experience metric on average had to stare at loading icons for less than 3 seconds.
4G Video Stalling Occurrence measures the proportion of users that experience an interruption in playback after a video begins streaming. Again, we observed a big gap between the two operators with 15.7% of Smart’s users and 40.3% of Globe’s experiencing stalling when streaming video to their smartphones.
Many network operators that achieved Very Good Video Experience scores have just one in every ten users experiencing interruptions when playing video on an LTE connection. Having four out of ten users seeing their screen freeze during playback is definitely one of the reasons why Globe achieved a Poor score.
Now that 4G access in the Philippines is becoming more and more of a commodity, all operators will need to focus on improving their subscribers’ experience in other areas beyond LTE reach. Our analysis shows that Smart has been doing its legwork, but it also raises the question of whether we will need to wait for 5G to see any improvement in Globe’s network experience