VIDEO Experience in the Philippines has improved along with the increasing popularity of video streaming among Filipinos, according to the latest analysis by independent analytics firms OpenSignal.
Video Experience measures the average video experience of Opensignal users on 3G and 4G networks. It involves measuring real-world video streams and takes picture quality, video loading time and stall rate into account.
The analysis, which is available on Opensignal’s website, found that compared to the third quarter of 2018, users’ Video Experience in the Philippines has increased by 29.5 percent, from 35.8 points to 46.4 points in the first quarter of 2020, right before the Covid-19 pandemic.
Latency Experience in the Philippines also improved from 75.4ms in the third quarter of 2018 to 60.6ms in May 2020 during the pandemic. Latency experience represents the typical delay a user experiences when connecting across an operator’s networks in milliseconds (ms), hence, the lower the score, the better.
At the operator level, PLDT wireless subsidiary Smart Communications, Inc. (Smart) has consistently led in Video Experience in the country since the third quarter of 2018, staying ahead despite the improvements also recorded by its competitor.
Smart's Video Experience Score also improved by 26.3 percent from 42.4 points in Q3 2018 to 53.5 points in the first quarter of 2020.
Smart’s Latency Experience also continued to improve amid the pandemic, as the competitor’s Latency Experience declined.
“As a consequence, Smart users observed a large improvement (in both absolute and percentage terms) than their Globe counterparts,” OpenSignal said.
Sustained network investments
Mario Tamayo, senior vice president for network planning and engineering for PLDT-Smart, underscored the company’s sustained network investments as key to these network improvements, which the companies have been able rollout despite challenges posed by lockdown restrictions due to Covid-19.
"The Covid-19 pandemic has brought us to unprecedented situations. With the new norm, we rely heavily on connectivity to enable us to conduct our affairs every day, to communicate with our family, friends and loved ones. It has accelerated the adoption of e-commerce, and more and more companies are going digital. It has changed the way people use and consume content from the internet, as well as reshaped the locations where they use it," Tamayo said in a recent forum hosted by BusinessWorld.
Tamayo said amid the surge in demand at the beginning of the pandemic, the network was able to cope with the demand.
"We managed to expand our reach and capacity, both on the fixed and wireless networks across the country to cater to the increasing customer demand amid the pandemic. All these were made possible because of the PLDT Group's massive investments in the past five years," he said.
"We continue to monitor our progress through the lens of third-party independent companies like OpenSignal, which have acknowledged the consistent performance of PLDT and Smart's networks for the past several quarters. However, our work does not stop there and we recognize that there are still opportunities for improvement as we aim to bring the Philippines to the level of the best in the region," Tamayo said.
'Fair' experience despite pandemic
According to Opensignal, average user experience while streaming video has been “Fair” (40-55) since the third quarter of 2019—up from the “Poor” rating observed in the previous four quarters, adding that Video Experience has remained "fair" despite the impact of the pandemic.
“This indicates that operators’ efforts to ensure their networks would still support video streaming services despite the changes in usage patterns brought were successful,” Opensignal said.
As of August, Smart has further ramped up its LTE rollout across the country, increasing the number of LTE base stations on its network by 15 percent to 28,200. This accelerated network rollout has included the firing up of LTE sites in far-flung areas, including Pag-asa Island in Palawan and the town of Kawayan in the island province of Biliran. To date, Smart's high-speed broadband service serves 95 percent of the population.
Smart’s mobile network is supported by PLDT's fiber infrastructure, which now spans 382,500 kilometers as of end-August, up 19 percent from end-2019.
This ramped-up network rollout is part of PLDT and Smart’s sustained investments in their network, which have totaled some P260 billion from 2015 to 2019. Amid the regained momentum of its network rollout efforts following the easing of lockdown restrictions, PLDT has leveled up its target capital expenditures for 2020 back up to P70 billion or more.