Race on LTE availability, speed tests telcos’ mettle

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    THE race on speed and availability of Long-Term Evolution (LTE) services has put the spotlight on the country’s two telecommunication players and their ability to cut the digital gap between rural and urban areas of the country.

    The latest analysis made by independent mobile analytics company OpenSignal showed Smart Communications Inc. has overtaken rival Globe Telecom Inc. in providing superior availability and faster download speed of LTE services in rural and urban areas from September to November this year.

    OpenSignal analyzed the urban-rural divide in the Philippines when it comes to 4G availability and download speed experience.

    OpenSignal said it found 4G availability to be 14 percentage points higher in urban areas compared with rural areas when averaged across operators.
    LTE download speed is faster in urban than in rural areas.

    “Similarly, we found a 1.8 megabits per second (Mbps) difference in download speed experience between rural and urban areas, with almost all urban areas scoring higher than rural regions,” OpenSignal said.

    Splitting by operator, Smart scored 70.1 percent in terms of 4G availability in rural areas versus Globe’s 64.8 percent, and 82.5 percent in urban areas while the latter recorded 80.3 percent, said OpenSignal

    “While we found a tremendous difference in 4G Availability – the time users spend connected to 4G – between rural and urban and we also found notable differences between Smart and Globe in our users’ 4G Availability in both types of area,” it added.

    The download speed experience in the Philippines differs between rural and urban areas by less than 2 Mbps when averaged across regions.

    The analysis also found that Smart is ahead in terms of download speed experience in both rural and urban areas, posting download speeds of 8.8 Mbps versus Globe’s 6.2 Mbps, and 10.5 Mbps versus Globe’s 7.8 Mbps, respectively.

    “User on Smart enjoyed a download speed experience of almost 3 Mbps faster in both rural and urban parts of the country, or 38 percent faster than our users on Globe,” OpenSignal said.

    The OpenSignal analysis also showed that Smart offered faster download speed experience in the National Capital Region and in both rural and urban areas in Ilocos, Central Luzon, Cagayan, Davao, Northern Mindanao, Soccsksargen, Western Visayas and Central Visayas.

    “Smart users’ faster speeds made it untouchable in ten urban regions, including the National Capital Region, where our users on Smart benefited from an impressive 15.2 Mbps, an enviable 5.6 Mbps faster than the speeds our Globe users saw in the capital,” OpenSignal said.

    In a statement, Smart said more of its customers are now on LTE as of September 2019, as it sustained network improvement efforts and ramped-up LTE migration campaigns.

    This means that a growing number of Smart, TNT and Sun subscribers are able to enjoy marked improvements in their data experience given that LTE provides the best customer experience in terms of speed and reduced latency, the company said.

    In the first nine months of 2019, Smart increased its 4G/LTE base stations by about 5,500, pushing the number of total LTE base stations across Smart’s network to about 21,700.

    Smart’s improved LTE network, alongside Smart’s redoubled efforts to encourage subscribers to move up to LTE, resulted in the 82-percent increase in the number of LTE data users, compared to a year ago.

    In the first nine months of the year, mobile service revenues grew 20 percent year-on-year to P52.6 billion, with mobile internet revenues jumping 47 percent to P34.5 billion.

    This is on the back of the surge in mobile internet traffic of Smart, TNT and Sun mobile brands, which reached 1.1 exabytes (1,106 petabytes), twice as large as the volume recorded in the same period last year.

    Meanwhile, Globe said mobile revenues in the nine-month period reached P83 billion, up 13 percent from P73.7 billion in the same period of 2018.

    Globe’s mobile revenues remained the top contributor accounting for 75 percent of the total service revenues led by its prepaid brands. Mobile data revenues totaled P52.2 billion in the first nine months of 2019.

    Globe said this was propelled by a combination of its compelling data bundles, better network coverage, improved smartphone affordability and the growing number of subscribers who engage on social networks, stream videos and music content as well as gaming.

    Globe’s mobile data traffic also improved from 641 petabytes in same period of 2018 to 1,200 petabytes this period, supported by the continued growth in consumer’s appetite for data.