No longer a duopoly, Philippines’ mobile market sees improved 4G, 5G availability – Ookla

No longer a duopoly, Philippines� mobile market sees improved 4G, 5G availability � Ookla
File photo shows cell site.
The STAR / File

MANILA, Philippines — Social media-savvy Philippines has long contended with perennial issues of low mobile internet speeds. But a report by internet analytics firm Ookla found that the country is seeing improved 4G and 5G availability, linking it to the disrupted duopoly of the Filipino mobile market. 

Using Speedtest Intelligence data, Ookla found that 4G Availability — the proportion of users on all devices who spend the majority of their time connected to 4G technology — improved to 84.8% in the first quarter of 2022 from 80.6% in the same period last year. 

While Ookla measured the time users spent on 4G technology, the internet analytics firm said “operator’s network coverage is just one part of the story,” adding that other factors such as compatible handsets, SIMs and tariffs are also important to consider. 

Of the three telco major players, Ookla ruled out that China-backed DITO Telecommunity had the highest 4G availability with 91.2%, followed by veteran telco players Globe with 84.9% and Smart with 83.8% in Q1 2022. 

Caloocan City also performed best in terms of 4G availability across the country’s most populated cities with 94.1%, followed by Quezon City at 86.7%, Manila at 88.2%, Davao City at 73.5% and Cebu City at 69.7%. 

“Our analysis suggests that DITO’s entry combined with regulatory changes, resulted in more network investment and an overall improvement in 4G coverage and performance across all operators,” the report said. 

Ookla also found that the country’s 5G availability – or the proportion of users on 5G-capable devices who spend most of their time on 5G networks – nearly doubled in the past year. The report recorded a 5G availability of 18.1% in the first quarter of 2022 from 9.4% in the same period last year. 

The report attributed this to the easing of the Right of Way rules by the Department of Public Works and Highways, thereby lifting the ban on the construction of critical infrastructure, particularly cell sites, along national roads.

The three telco players also planned to invest more in 5G networks, Ookla said. Smart’s 5G base stations increased to 7,300 in February 2022. Globe also added 390 new sites in the first three months of 2022, while DITO began to roll out a 5G home Wi-Fi service pilot in 146 villages in the Metro Manila area in March 2022. 

No longer a duopoly 

Third telco player DITO launched its commercial operations in Visayas and Mindanao in March 2021, breaking the Philippines’ mobile market duopoly. 

The telco, backed by Davao-based businessman Dennis Uy and state-run China Telecommunications, recently announced that it has reached close to nine million subscribers nationwide. 

Dito also said that the telco firm was targeting a 12 million subscriber base by the year’s end.

Globe remains the market leader in the mobile market with 87.4 million subscribers followed by Smart with 70.3 million subscribers, according to Ookla’s first quarter report of 2022. The China-backed telco firm holds a 1% market share as of March 15, 2022. — Intern, Jan Cuyco

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