Mobile data speeds across the country continued to improve as the LTE service of PLDT wireless subsidiary Smart Communications (Smart) set the pace nationwide in the fourth quarter of 2017, according to a survey of the wireless coverage research firm OpenSignal.
The OpenSignal survey, which measured the performance of operators in major Asian markets, showed that the average Smart LTE download speed across the Philippines was 12.7 Mbps, up 38.5% from the same period a year ago, and well ahead of its competitor’s 7.5 Mbps.
The results also showed that Smart LTE speeds ranked 28th, while its competitor placed 40th out of 43 operators included in the rankings, which included operators from Singapore, South Korea, Japan, and Taiwan.
Smart LTE speeds led the way in all the regions of the country: 13.3 Mbps in the National Capital Region (NCR), 12 Mbps in the Visayas, 12.8 Mbps in South Luzon, 14.7 Mbps in Mindanao and 11.4 Mbps in North Central Luzon, compared to the competitor’s 8.5 Mbps, 6.6 Mbps, 6.4 Mbps, 7.9 Mbps and 7 Mbps, respectively.
The OpenSignal results also showed that Smart led in terms of network responsiveness, with its LTE service posting lower latency nationwide. Network latency measures how much time it takes for a packet of data to get from one designated point to another.
“These results are proof that our multi-year investments in network improvements are paying off. By continuously expanding our LTE networks, we are bringing a faster and more responsive network to our customers across the country,” said Mario G. Tamayo, PLDT and Smart Senior Vice President for Network Planning and Engineering.
Big increase in speeds in Visayas, Mindanao
According to the OpenSignal results, Smart LTE in the Visayas registered the biggest improvement, with speeds now at 12 Mbps, up 62.38% from the same period a year ago.
In Mindanao, Smart LTE registered 14.7 Mbps, even higher speeds than the national average, and significantly ahead of the competitor’s 7.9 Mbps.
Feeling the change in NCR
The results also showed that Smart is widening its lead in LTE speeds in NCR, where LTE availability is now around 75%, and where Smart LTE speeds have improved to 13.3 Mbps, up 33.13% from the same period a year ago.
“PLDT and Smart are leading the way toward world-class mobile internet connectivity in the Philippines,” said Eric R. Alberto, PLDT Group Chief Revenue Officer. “Our continuous efforts at upgrading our network enables us to offer a wider array of digital services and life solutions, make the best video, social media and gaming experience more accessible to our customers as their trusted digital partner, and improve the business of our partner-retailers,” he added.
In 2018, parent company PLDT’s capex will well exceed P50 billion, and is expected to stay at that level over the next two years. That would bring the Group’s total capex from 2016 — the year PLDT embarked on its network and IT transformation programs — to nearly P260 billion, or approximately US$5 billion (at current exchange rates). This is on top of the nearly P175 billion or US$3.4 billion of capex that PLDT invested in network building in the immediately preceding five-year period (2011 to 2015).
Last year, Smart’s LTE and 3G expansion program initially covered Boracay, Metro Davao, Metro Cebu, Rizal, and Metro Manila and has since proceeded to other parts of the country. As a result, the company is on track to fulfill its commitment to the National Telecommunications Commission to cover over 90% of the country’s cities and municipalities with mobile broadband using LTE and 3G by 2019.
Smart’s accelerated LTE deployment has enabled Smart to also roll-out LTE-Advanced (LTE-A), which allows for even greater speeds through its capability called Carrier Aggregation (CA).
CA allows for the combination two or more radio frequency bands in order to deliver bigger bandwidth and much faster data speeds to mobile users.
Smart is further boosting LTE speeds nationwide by rolling out LTE-A in more areas. This includes the deployment of four-component (4CC) carrier aggregation, which features the combination of four radio frequency bands.