WIRELESS COVERAGE mapping firm Opensignal said Manila lags behind most cities in the Asia Pacific region in terms of download and upload speeds and the quality of the mobile video experience, thereby setting a benchmark which new 5G services need to improve on dramatically to justify the price premium.

Data collected by Opensignal from Feb. 1 to May 2 indicated that Manila has a download speed experience of 11.2 megabits per second (Mbps), and an upload speed of 3.3 Mbps, good enough for ninth in a ranking of 12 cities in the region.

In terms of mobile video experience, Manila ranked 11th of 12 cities, with a “Fair” rating based on an assessment of picture quality, video loading time and stall rate using mobile data.

Opensignal noted the current performance of mobile network providers shows how much they must improve for the impending arrival of fifth-generation (5G) networks and the development of appropriate price points by which they could make the service available to the market.

“With 5G arriving, the mobile speeds smartphone users experience across these lead cities represent the benchmark that initial 5G services must better to justify the 5G name. If the real-world experience of 5G is not significantly faster than current mobile services then operators will find it hard to charge more for 5G service, justify further network investment or explain the benefits of 5G to acquire new customers,” it said.

The report did not compare the broadband speeds in the Philippines by network provider, but its most recent Philippines-centric report in March showed Smart Communications, Inc. delivered average download speeds of 15.2 Mbps in Manila, and Globe Telecom, Inc. 7.6 Mbps in the same area.

The two telecommunications firms are preparing to battle it out in the 5G arena this year, as Smart continues to invest in the next-generation network after firing up its first two 5G cell sites late 2018. Globe is preparing to launch its 5G service this month.

Smart earlier said it was able to record speeds of up to 700 Mbps on its 5G network, while Globe said it could provide speeds from 50 Mbps to 100 Mbps.

In a statement Thursday, Smart said it continues to invest in network improvement with about $5 billion dedicated to transforming its fixed and mobile networks from 2016 to 2020.

“This year, PLDT (Inc.) has set aside P78.4 billion (to) further expand coverage and increase capacity to handle the rapid growth in data traffic. Over half of this capex program has been allotted to build up Smart’s mobile network, particularly its LTE and LTE-Advanced facilities,” it said.

Globe is investing P63 billion this year, the bulk of which will be spent to support the growing demand for data services.

“The good news is we have been improving country Internet speed performance year on year. However, there is much room for improvement. The sector does need the enabling laws and government support… to help enable the necessary infrastructure build for capacity and better performance,” Globe Senior Vice President for Corporate Communications Yoly C. Crisanto said in a text message.

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