5G in the Philippines is making significant improvements, according to network speed analyst Ookla, which adds that PLDT’s wireless arm Smart Communications currently gets the bragging rights in terms of coverage and speed.
Most Philippine mobile network providers started offering 5G services in 2020. Smart, for example, launched 5G in June 2019 for fixed wireless units, and made it available for mobile subscribers in February 2020 in Metro Manila. Meanwhile, rival Globe Telecom began offering 5G in July 2020, targeting consumers with 5G-ready gadgets in Metro Manila.
Roughly two years later, according to a study released by Ookla on Monday, Smart’s 5G network recorded a median download speed of 200.43 Mbps and 19.67 Mbps upload speed during the first quarter of 2022, while Globe recorded a median download of 121.29 Mbps and upload speeds of 9.93 Mbps for the same quarter.
Both 5G networks used spectrum in the 3,500 megahertz band, considered the “sweet spot” for 5G network capacity and coverage.
According to Ookla, easing of right-of-way (ROW) rules by the Department of Public Works and Highways in March 2021 contributed to the improvements in 5G development in the Philippines. The new ROW rules lifted the ban on the construction of critical infrastructure, particularly cell sites, along national roads.
With the active involvement of the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC), both 4G and 5G developments are expected to continue improving in the Philippines. From just 9.4% coverage in the first quarter of 2021, 5G availability nationwide nearly doubled to 18.1% in the first quarter of 2022.
Smart and Globe are both planning to invest further in 5G. Smart is investing up to $1.5 billion (P85 billion) in its 5G rollout nationwide, while Globe has spent $1.6 billion to build 2,000 outdoor 5G sites and in-building solutions.
Third telco DITO Telecommunity, which debuted in the Philippines market last year, is only just getting into the 5G game. DITO partnered with Nokia to deploy 5G services in Mindanao in May 2021. In March 2022, the telco began rolling out its pilot 5G home Wi-Fi service in 146 Metro Manila villages in Metro Manila. DITO claims villages in City of Manila, Caloocan City, and Quezon City will be able to access download speeds up to 500 Mbps. Ookla says that while DITO’s 5G coverage is limited, some 5G tests in Caloocan achieved a 5G median download speed of 512.66 Mbps.
Meanwhile, the Ookla report observed that DITO has played a positive (if not singular) role in driving the 4G market in the Philippines by bringing more competition and meeting all of its coverage and performance obligations thus far – indeed, Ookla says, it leads the market in terms of 4G availability. DITO’s 5G rollouts could similarly add fuel to the Philippines’ 5G expansion.