SMART Communications, Inc. continues to enjoy the top spot for mobile network experience in the Philippines according to the latest report of Opensignal, but its fourth-generation (4G) download speed has seen a decline in recent months.

The United Kingdom-based wireless coverage mapping firm said in its Mobile Network Experience report, which covered data from May 1 to July 29, that Smart is still the leading telecommunications firm in the country in terms of video experience, download speed, upload speed and latency.

“In our latest look at the Philippines mobile network experience, it’s pretty clear that Smart remains the operator to beat,” it said, citing the operator’s lead in the four metrics it looked into, and a draw for 4G availability.

But the report noted rival Globe Telecom, Inc. has been advancing as well, as it saw “some impressive improvements in its Download Speed and Latency Experience scores to put the pressure on the leader.”

Opensignal conducts twice every year an analysis of mobile network experience based on the performance of a country’s telecommunications providers. It uses five metrics: 4G availability, video experience, download speed experience, upload speed experience and latency experience.

For the three-month period, the report said Smart and Globe tied in terms of 4G availability, or the proportion of time users can access a 4G connection with a 4G capable device. The wireless unit of PLDT, Inc. recorded a 74.3% 4G availability while the Ayala-led telco posted 75.3%

“The competition in this metric is heating up nicely as both Globe and Smart appear to be focusing their efforts on improving their 4G Availability, to the benefit of the whole Filipino mobile network experience,” Opensignal said.

In terms of video experience, Smart beat Globe with a score of 47.6 against 30.4, meaning Smart subscribers have a better experience watching videos with reasonable load times and minimal stalling despite low resolutions. As for Globe, the report said subscribers “will struggle to get anything close to an acceptable Video Experience.”

Smart again edged out its competitor in download and upload speeds, as its average download speed stood at 9.4 Megabits per second (Mbps) in August against Globe’s 6.5 Mbps, and average upload speed at 3.3 Mbps versus Globe’s 1.7 Mbps.

However, Opensignal noted Globe’s network improvement on download speed was bigger as it jumped 1 Mbps from 5.5 Mbps in March, and Smart only moved up 0.4 Mbps from 9.0 Mbps in the same month.

It also said Smart saw a slowdown in its 4G download speed to 12.7 Mbps last month from 13.6 Mbps five months prior, while Globe improved in the same criteria to 8.3 Mbps from 7.6 Mbps over the same period.

“Smart has kept hold of our Download Speed Experience award — but its rival is doing great work on closing the gap,” the report said.

Competition is also tighter in terms of latency, or the lag time when transmitting a command, but Smart remained on top of Globe with a faster latency experience of 61.9 milliseconds (ms) against its competitor’s 64.2 ms.

“Smart has won our Latency Experience award, but the gap between the Philippines’ two operators is much narrower than in our speed metrics,” it said. Globe improved its latency by 10 ms in the past six months while Smart improved by 7 ms.

“As the Filipino operators improve their users’ latency, we should see the effects filtering into our video and voice metrics in our next report,” Opensignal added.

The survey noted while the new major telco player Dito Telecommunity Corp. is yet to enter the market, it is already seeing a stable improvement in the performance of the two telcos.

“Even with just two operators, mobile network experience is continuing to improve in the Philippines, even if some people may think Smart could have benefitted from a lack of competition for our awards,” it said.

“But competition is set to increase, as the existing Philippines’ operators are set to be joined by a third national player — Mislatel’s DITO — expected to launch sometime in 2020….”

“Neither Globe or Smart have been complacent in recent years, and we’re still seeing some decent growth from both operators in many of our metrics.”

Hastings Holdings, Inc., a unit of PLDT Beneficial Trust Fund subsidiary MediaQuest Holdings, Inc., has a stake in BusinessWorld through the Philippine Star Group, which it controls. — Denise A. Valdez