POSTSCRIPT / August 4, 2019 / Sunday


Opinion Columnist

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Phl wi-fi: Slow, but deep penetrating

WITH its reported average internet connection speed of 5.5 Mbps, the Philippines has one of the slowest network transmission or data transfer rates in Asia, but it ranks 13th worldwide in the number of its internet users.

Data published last month by the Internet World Stats show the Philippines dropping from No. 12 last year to No. 13 this year on the list of the countries with the most number of internet users.

In 2017, the Philippines ranked No. 15 with 54 million users for a penetration rate of 52 percent of the population. This year, IWS reports the country’s penetration rate has improved to 62.9 percent with its 67 million internet users.

China has the largest number of internet users, which is to be expected with its 1,420,062,022 population (18.4 percent of the world). But its internet penetration rate is only 58.4 percent, lower than the Philippines’ 62.9 percent.

India is second biggest user with over 560 million internet subscribers, but its penetration rate is only 40.9 percent in a population of 1,368,737,513, also lower than that of the Philippines.

United States comes third in the world, with over 292 million internet subscribers, or 95.6 percent of its 326,766,748 population.

Brazil, a very large country in South America, is fourth with its 149,057,635 internet users, for a penetration rate of 70.2 percent of its 212,392,717 population.

Our populous neighbor Indonesia comes fifth biggest in number of internet users, with a penetration rate of 53.7 percent of its 266,794,980 population – but also lower than the Philippines’ 62.9 percent.

Internet World Stats did not have yet this year’s average internet transmission speed for each country, but last year it clocked the Philippines’ average speed at 5.5 Mbps, reportedly among the slowest in the region. (Mbps is megabits per second, a measure of network transmission or data transfer speed. A megabit is equal to one million bits.)

Akamai Technologies reported in 2017 these average speeds: South Korea, 28.6 Mbps; Norway, 23.5; Sweden, 22.5; Hong Kong, 21.9; Singapore, 20.3; Switzerland, 21.7; Finland, 20.5; Singapore, 20.3; Japan, 20.2; Denmark, 20.1; United States, 18.7; Netherlands, 17.4; Romania, 17.0; Czech Republic, 16.9; United Kingdom, 16.9; and Taiwan, 16.9.

Among the Philippines’ other neighbors, the average speeds were: Thailand, 16.0 Mbps; New Zealand, 14.7; Australia, 11.1; Vietnam, 9.5; Malaysia, 8.9; Sri Lanka, 8.5; China, 7.6; Indonesia, 7.2; and India, 6.5.

The internet comparison site Cable, which ranked countries with the fastest broadband internet based on over 267 million speed tests across 207 countries or territories in the 12 months until May 8, 2019, reported that the global average broadband internet speed is 11.03 Mbps.

Including the Philippines, there were 141 countries with average speeds below 10 Mbps, a speed that UK telecoms watchdog Ofcom says is the minimum required to cope with the demands of a typical household or small business.

With technological advances, the average global broadband internet speed has been going faster. It was 9.1 Mbps in 2018, and has risen to 11.03 Mbps this year.

 3rd telco’s entry to upgrade service

THE ENTRY of Mislatel Consortium into the telecommunications business is expected to spur competition and improve internet service now dominated by Globe Telecom and Smart Communications.

But not immediately, an industry veteran told us, with so many details having to be hurdled first by both government regulators and the franchise holders in meshing smoothly the telcos’ overlapping operations. The putting up of cell sites alone could be a problem, he said:

“It takes anywhere from six to eight months just to build a tower due to regulatory requirements like barangay clearance, DENR ECC, mayor’s permit, city or municipal engineer’s permit, fire department inspection plus the usual ‘permits’ from the New People’s Army and local hooligans. We need about 50,000 cell sites nationwide.”

Misatel Consortium headed by Davao businessman Dennis Uy, is composed of Mindanao Islamic Telephone Co., Udenna Corp., Chelsea Logistics and Infrastructure Holdings Corp., and China Telecom Corp. Ltd. President Duterte awarded its Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity on July 8 in ceremonies at Malacañang.

We asked Globe and Smart about their operations and plans, but only Globe responded through its Senior Vice President Ma. Yolanda Crisanto. We gleaned from our Q&A with her that:

Speed and cell sites – According to Ookla, a service that tracks access speeds internationally, the Philippines has an average mobile internet download speed of 15.06 Mbps, not 5.5 Mbps. There are already about 17,850 cell towers nationwide.

WiFi subscription — Globe At Home postpaid plans start at P1,299 with 150 GB up to 5 Mbps; Globe Home Prepaid WiFi at P1,999 with FREE 10 GB. Globe at Home Plan P1899/month unli data up to 10/15/20 Mbps, unli calls, access to premium entertainment subscriptions.

Home broadband — Deploying fixed wireless technology for home broadband has been a game changer for Globe as it helps bring connectivity to a greater number of households. Globe has commercially introduced 5G fixed wireless home broadband service called Globe At Home Air Fiber 5G, using fixed location wireless radios that provide fiber-like speeds of 50 Mbps to 100 Mbps. While Globe continues its fiber rollout, its use of fixed wireless home broadband is a quicker and more economical way to satisfy Filipinos’ fast-growing demand for data. This connects households that still do not enjoy fiber-like speeds. These initiatives bring the Philippines closer to first-world internet connectivity.

Use of Chinese technology — Huawei has been a key technology partner of Globe. From a pure technology perspective, Huawei as a global technology leader is more than a year ahead of its competitors, enabling Globe to have an advantage in serving its customers.

(First published in the Philippine STAR of August 4, 2019)

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