Philippines 5G networks improve download speed to 500Mbps

5G mobile networks are making significant improvements in the Philippines, according to speed analyst Ookla on monday noted that most Philippine operators launched 5G mobile networks in 2020 shortly after operators in Thailand did.

It also said that one of the major Philippine telecommunications service providers launched 5G technology in June 2019 for fixed wireless units and launched the same for mobile subscribers in February 2020 in Metro Manila.

Another major service provider in the Philippines launched 5G in July 2020, originally targeting Metro Manila subscribers with 5G-capable devices.

“Both operators used spectrum in the 3,500 megahertz band, which is considered as the sweet spot in terms of 5G capacity and coverage,” Ookla said in the report.

Ookla data likewise showed that one of the telcos recorded a median speed of 200.43 Mbps and 19.67 Mbps upload speed in the first quarter of 2022, which were way ahead of the second telco which registered a median download of 121.29 Mbps and upload speeds of 9.93 Mbps.

The agency also noted how the availability of 5G in the Philippines nearly doubled in just one year – from 9.4 percent coverage in the first quarter of 2021 to 18.1 percent in the first quarter of 2022.

“Part of this is related to the easing of right-of-way (ROW) rules,” Ookla said.

New ROW rules enforced by the government in 2021 lifted the ban on the construction of critical infrastructure, particularly cell sites, along national roads.

Ookla cited a reason for the improvement is the active involvement of the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) in allowing more telcos to enter the playing field.

“A third player was introduced to the market to add competition, improve performance and reduce prices in the market,” it said in its report.

Ookla added that the Philippines was not the only country to benefit from ROW reforms. India made the same move in October 2021, or eight months after the Philippines did.

In the Philippines, one telco reached 25.5 percent 5G coverage in the first quarter of 2022 while the other reached 15.3 percent coverage.

Ookla said it attributed this to the “spectrum deployment strategies” of each company.

Meanwhile, one telco had 1.6 million connected 5G devices to its network in the first quarter of 2022, or more than triple its level – 376,000 – in the first quarter of 2021. The other telco, by end of March this year, had more than 2 million devices connected to 5G.

Ookla noted that plans of both telcos to further invest in 5G bodes well for the spread of the technology, which delivers a faster connection to the internet.

According to the network speed analyst, one telco is investing up to P85 billion in the 5G rollout nationwide that started in December last year.

The telco’s mobile data traffic grew 30 percent year-on-year to 1,010 petabytes while the number of 5G base stations rose to 7,300 in February 2022 from just 5,000 in 2020, corresponding to a 5G population of 66 percent, Ookla said.

The other telco added 390 sites in just the first three months of 2022, extending the 5G network reach to 95 percent of the National Capital Region and 85 percent of key cities in Visayas and Mindanao.

“This company spent at least P92.8 billion to build 2,000 outdoor 5G sites and in-building solutions, 1,407 new cell sites, and 1.4 million fiber lines,” Ookla said.

Meanwhile, the third  Philippine telco has partnered with hardware supplier Nokia to deploy 5G services in Mindanao in May 2021. In March, this telco rolled out 5G home wi-fi services with 145 Metro Manila villages as pilot areas.

Villages in the cities of Manila, Caloocan, and Quezon would be the first to benefit from 500 Mbps of download speeds. Tests involving 5G in Caloocan showed download speeds of 512.66 Mbps in the first quarter of this year.

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