According to Smart Communications Inc. (Smart), about 70% of its subscribers are already smartphone owners, most of whom are LTE (long-term evolution) phone users, and have also already adopted LTE SIMs.
LTE offers a much faster upload, download, and browsing speed compared to the lower versions of wireless connection. Smart has been upgrading its network nationwide with 71% of its sites are now LTE-Advanced, which means each cell site has multiple LTE base stations activated. Smart said it deployed an additional 2,900 LTE base stations across its sites in the first half of 2019 alone, raising the LTE base station count to over 19,000.
“To complement our LTE network roll-out, we are also working with device manufacturers to put capable handsets within the reach of our customers, who can then use them to maximize the network that we are building,” said Mario Tamayo, senior vice president for Network Planning and Engineering, PLDT-Smart.
Mobile network experience
A recent study by mobile analytics firm OpenSignal found that users of different smartphone brands and models experience “significant differences” in mobile network experience, depending on their smartphones’ network communication features, which enable faster download speeds and smoother video streaming.
OpenSignal’s study, “How the Smartphone Affects Mobile Network Experience”, collected more than 117 million measurements from over 23.3 million devices between April 1 and June 30, 2019.
The OpenSignal study split smartphone users into three groups — low, mid and high-tier — based on a smartphone’s mobile network capabilities.
“Because high-tier smartphone users have models with more mobile network capabilities, such as the ability to combine five or more radio carriers—carrier aggregation—or use advanced 256QAM, this class of users is more sensitive to mobile network improvements deployed by the world’s mobile operators. As they add new network technologies, these users will be the first to experience the benefits,” the OpenSignal study said.
Carrier aggregation is a key feature of LTE-Advanced, which Smart has already deployed throughout its network. Aside from carrier aggregation, Smart has also activated 4×4 Multiple Input, Multiple Output (MIMO) and 256 Quadrature Amplitude Modulation (QAM) technologies, which boost speeds by allowing more data to be carried across the network through more efficient use of spectrum.
In the Philippines, users with high-tier smartphones experienced much faster download speeds of 18.3 Mbps, compared to 10.1 Mbps for mid-tier phones, and 7.4 Mbps for low-tier phones.
High-tier smartphone users in the Philippines also experience greater download speeds that are 2.4 times better than that of mid-tier smartphone users, according to OpenSignal.