Mobile services provider Smart Communications, Inc. (Smart), wireless arm of the country’s largest integrated telco PLDT, has again been cited for providing the best mobile internet service in the country, according to a crowdsourcing-based survey by an international internet testing organization.
umlaut, the global benchmarking company formerly known as P3, gave the ‘Best in Test’ award, as well as recognized Smart for delivering the best-rated broadband coverage, user download experience and latency experience.
Germany-based umlaut also cited Smart for consistently showing higher throughput rates than its competitor, even as COVID-19 restrictions hampered network personnel movement across the country.
These findings were based on an analysis of 610 million samples collected from 268,000 users nationwide from February to July 2020.
Continuous network development
In awarding the Best in Test certificate, umlaut said Smart posted an overall score of 692 out of a maximum of 1,000 points in umlaut’s benchmarking survey. This score includes Smart’s performance in terms of broadband coverage, download speed, and latency.
“From mid-April, Smart showed an upward pattern in their umlaut score, unlike their competitor,” umlaut said, adding that Smart’s scores “reflected continuous network development.”
umlaut also noted a “clear gap” between Smart and its competitor in terms of throughput rates. In Metro Manila, for example, umlaut cited that Smart showed “up to 50% higher maximum throughput rates” compared to its competitor over the six-month period.
“Our unique testing and scoring methodology focuses on the customer’s network experience and covers a wide range of mobile services, including popular applications. We see Smart ahead of the competition overall. This is particularly remarkable in a large country as Philippines and shows that the operator is continuously investing in its network,” says Hakan Ekmen, CEO of umlaut.
Mario G. Tamayo, PLDT Senior Vice President for Network Planning and Engineering, says Smart has adopted umlaut’s progressively tough standards since 2017. umlaut’s framework is based on a unified measurement method that covers majority of the population and main areas of mobile use.
“Since 2017, Smart has adopted the umlaut worldwide Mobile QoS benchmarking standards to stay focused and measure real CX performance. Smart has consistently won these true QoS tests by a large margin vs competition despite standards becoming tougher every year,” said Tamayo.
“We continue to monitor our progress through the lens of third-party independent global benchmarking companies like umlaut. Our work does not stop, especially in times of calamity. We will continue to invest so that we can keep more of our countrymen connected,” Tamayo added.
Joachim Horn, PLDT chief technology and information advisor, said that PLDT and Smart’s nationwide, completely SDN-based, optic and IP transport network, launched in February, enabled the companies to respond to increased customer demand for data, especially at the start of the lockdowns due to COVID-19.
“This new technology also enabled us to remotely control, add capacity, activate services and optimize and manage user experience. Because of this, we were able to cope with the massive increase in traffic and were able to do so 95% to 98% by working from home,” he said.
PLDT and Smart earlier announced they were accelerating their transport network transformation, which is key to delivering cutting-edge technologies such as 5G, LTE and fiber-to-the-home. The multi-year digital transformation journey began in 2017.
Designing for peak throughput
Horn also highlighted the importance of ‘designing for peak throughput’ in order to deliver consistent customer experience at a sustained level of data traffic.
“We have to design not just for the average—we have to design for peak throughput,” he said. “When we can cope with the peak throughput in the busiest time of the day—only then can our network be able to serve all customers on the service level we have promised.”
These network initiatives form a large part of the PLDT Group’s sustained investments in their network, which totaled some Php260 billion from 2015 to 2019. With its network rollout regaining momentum following the easing of lockdown restrictions, PLDT has leveled up its target capital expenditures for 2020 back up to Php70 billion or more.
Powering PLDT and Smart’s services is PLDT’s most extensive fiber network, which is now at 395,000 kilometers as of end-September. This fiber network also supports Smart’s mobile network by providing high-capacity links for its LTE base stations.
In 2019, Smart was also given the “Best in Test award” and was cited for having the best and widest 4G/LTE coverage, and fastest upload and download speeds.
The Germany-based company also said that Smart provided the best network performance during the country’s hosting of the 30th Southeast Asian Games in December 2019.
As the official telecom partner of the 30th SEA Games, Smart deployed Massive MIMO, LTE and LTE-Advanced technologies to ensure superior customer experience, particularly for mobile data, in three main competition venues: Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City, Philippine Arena in Bulacan and New Clark City in Tarlac, umlaut also said.
Covering more than 200 mobile networks in more than 120 countries worldwide, umlaut’s network benchmarks are widely accepted as the global de-facto industry standard.