This is our first 5G experience report for the Philippines. As DITO — the country’s new third operator — has yet to launch 5G commercial services, only the experience of our Smart and Globe users when they had an active 5G connection contributed to this 5G report. As with our companion report — which analyzes the overall experience of all our Filipino users across all generations of mobile technology — Smart dominates the award table in this 5G Experience report.
Smart wins five out of seven categories outright: 5G Availability, both of our speed awards (5G Download Speed and 5G Upload Speed), along with two out of three of our experiential awards (5G Video Experience and 5G Games Experience). In addition, Smart statistically ties with Globe in two categories, so both operators are joint winners of the 5G Reach and 5G Voice App Experience awards.
Smart led Globe by some impressive margins when we compared our users’ 5G experience on both operators: 78 Mbps (78%) on 5G Download Speed, 7.8 Mbps (72.7%) on 5G Upload Speed, 3.6 percentage points on 5G Availability (almost 1.5 times more) and 5.9 points (9%) on 5G Games Experience. However, there was less of a gap between the two operators’ scores on 5G Video Experience with Smart winning by just 2.1 points.
5G take-up in the Philippines has been growing rapidly, but remains a small fraction of the total user base. For example, Globe claimed to have 860,000 5G customers in July out of a total subscriber base of 81.75 million, while Smart said it had 520,000 5G users at the end of June, growing to 800,000 5G users in October.
The speed of 5G adoption is not surprising, given that it is now rare for new mid or high tier smartphone models not to support 5G. The days when 5G was a feature present only in a few flagship devices is in the past. In addition, 5G offers users in the Philippines a much enhanced mobile experience. This can be seen in our recent 5G Global Mobile Network Experience Awards 2021 report, where both Globe and Smart placed in the top 30 for all four measures of 5G Global Impact. 5G Global Impact analyzes the percentage improvement in the download speeds, upload speeds, games experience and video experience observed by Opensignal’s users on an operator’s 5G network compared to that seen on its 4G network.
Both Globe and Smart have been working to introduce 5G standalone access (SA) technology, which runs off a core network built for 5G and does not require a user to connect to 4G as well, which is required in the case of 5G non-standalone access (NSA). SA is also a key enabler for many other aspects of 5G, including Ultra-Reliable Low-Latency Communication (URLLC) and network slicing. Smart switched on its SA network in Makati City in October, while Globe said in late September that it was performing live tests with a SA setup at its facility in the same city. Globe began on-site SA testing in May this year.
In this report, we've analyzed the 5G experience of the Philippines' two established national operators — Globe and Smart — in the 90 days starting July 1, 2021 and ending September 28, 2021. We have also published a companion report which looks at the overall mobile experience of our Filipino users, including those on the Philippines’ new operator, DITO for the first time.