Filipino cellcos’ 4G coverage and quality up markedly since 2017, report finds

1 Sep 2020

Independent mobile analytics firm Opensignal has published its findings on 4G LTE availability in the Philippines concluding that the country’s de facto duopoly, PLDT Inc. (including Smart Communications) and Globe Telecom, have made ‘impressive improvements’ to their networks since it carried out similar analysis in Q4 2017. In its latest report for the April-June 2020 quarter, Opensignal found that 4G availability – defined simply as the proportion of time 4G users spend connected to 4G or LTE – increased by close to 20%. For example, for Smart Communications’ subscribers, the figure rose by 27.8 percentage points, from 59.1% in 4Q17 to 86.9% in 2Q20, while the cellco’s LTE service, when combined with its 3G coverage, now provides mobile internet service to over 93% of the country’s cities and municipalities and 95% of the population. Further, between Q4 2017 and Q1 2020 (the last quarter before the COVID-19 pandemic impacted negatively on users’ Download Speed Experience), the average download speeds observed by Globe and Smart users rose by 3.5Mbps (84.2%) and 4.3Mbps (78.1%), respectively. ‘Smart has consistently been in the lead for this measure of the mobile network experience,’ the report said. In addition, Globe’s 4G availability score rose above 80% for the first time in the second quarter of this year, reaching 80.9% compared to 66.4% in 4Q17.

Coming not long after the country’s president Rodrigo Duterte called out the two companies for what he sees as their poor record on improving mobile services – in July 2020 he used the vehicle of his penultimate State of the Nation Address to warn PLDT and Globe to improve dramatically or face the possibility of closure or government expropriation for what he reportedly called their ‘lousy’ services – Opensignal’s findings suggest the pair have been making strides despite what the president may think. ‘Our users in the Philippines have also seen at least ten consecutive quarters of improvement in the proportion of time that they spend connected to 4G,’ the firm said.