Toward a better internet service

"Mobile analytics company OpenSignal bared a huge disparity in the video experience scores of Smart and Globe."


Constant reports about the dismal state of telecommunication services in the Philippines have tarnished the country’s reputation as a viable destination for tech-savvy industries. Instead of innovation or cutting edge, the images that come to mind are slow internet, dropped calls and congested networks. 

Last year, Jack Ma verbalized it for all investors and tourists that came before him. Internet speed in the Philippines is not good, he said. 

A recent report by mobile analytics company OpenSignal bared a huge disparity in the video experience scores of Smart Communications and Globe. 

Measuring video experience on a scale of 0 to 100 where 100 is the best video experience possible, OpenSignal rated the average overall video experience of Smart subscribers at 42.21, placing it on par with the performance of United States carriers AT&T and Sprint. Globe, on the other hand, came in with a score of 29.22, lagging behind Smart by almost 13 points and the second-lowest among the nine countries in Asia-Pacific monitored in the OpenSignal report. 

Using real-time measurements from actual smartphone users in the country, the report is based on the LTE connectivity of 76,034 test devices from May 1 to July 29 this year.  LTE, which stands for Long Term Evolution, is better known as 4G. It refers to high-speed mobile connectivity that is 10 times faster than what’s provided by conventional handsets. 

The quality of video experience is an important metric because it is the true test of network power. Among the details OpenSignal analyzes in order to determine a telecom carrier’s overall performance are download and upload speeds, latency and availability on both 3G and 4G spectrums.

The report for the months of May to July showed Smart LTE download speeds ahead nationwide at 13.09 Mbps (vs Globe’s 7.34 Mbps), as well as across all measured areas: at 15.24 Mbps in National Capital Region (vs. 8.43 Mbps); 13.48 Mbps in North Central Luzon (vs. 6.02 Mbps); 10.59 Mbps in South Luzon (vs 6.47 Mbps); 10.49 Mbps in the Visayas (vs 7.42 Mbps); and 12.23 Mbps in Mindanao (vs 6.95 Mbps). Smart also has lower 3G and 4G latency at 98.28ms and 53.48ms, respectively.

Earlier this year, OpenSignal also awarded Smart for having the fastest LTE network, and gave it four citations: Best in 4G LTE download speed; Best in overall download speed; Best 4G latency performance; and Best 3G latency performance.

These numbers matter because Filipinos are the most avid video consumers of the world, as shown by a separate study done by Limelight Networks in August. Not only are more Filipinos viewing videos on their mobile phones, viewers in the Philippines spend about eight hours and 46 minutes each week on streaming videos. This exceeds the global average and beats the record for India and the U.S. where people watch close to eight hours and 30 minutes of videos online. It also marks a shift in the viewing habits of Filipinos—at this level, they are spending more time watching streaming videos on smartphones than TV broadcasts, especially among the population under 46 years old. 

Another notable trend is that professionally produced content on social media sites and user-generated content attract the most viewers in the Philippines than in any other country included in the Limelight Networks study. In fact, Smart has noted an almost 400-percent increase in the number of YouTube users and a whopping 850 percent surge in the volume of YouTube traffic between April and October this year. The period coincides with a promo that allowed free YouTube viewing for an hour daily with the purchase of various mobile data packages.  

With so many eyes now riveted to online content, quality expectations are on the rise globally. Video rebuffering, or when the video pauses during playback in order to reload, is becoming unacceptable. The study has noted that for 2018, almost 70 percent of viewers will stop watching a video after a second rebuffering, or 2.2 times. Just two years ago, the global tolerance level for video rebuffering stood at 2.7 times, or almost three times of rebuffering before viewers skip the video altogether. 

Apparently, video rebuffering isn’t a problem among Smart subscribers with the telco’s technical qualifications. Is it safe to say the same for the subscribers of Globe? Sadly, the numbers show otherwise, to the detriment not only of its subscribers but of the entire country as well. 

And while Smart so far, has been outsmarting Globe in terms of internet speed, the latter has to do so much to improve its service. Not only for the sake of competition, but in the service of its subscribers, ironically, to which I belong.

Topics: OpenSignal , Smart , Globe , AT&T , Sprint
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