My conclusion? The average Philippine broadband Internet speeds should be 10+ Mbps and the country ranked in broadband Internet speeds as 8th out of the 15 countries in the Asia Pacific (APAC) region. Really? Yes, really.
This blog started when Globe Telecom sent me a press release entitled, “Globe urges Akamai to include PH mobile internet performance in report.” So, let me go through my motions on how I came to my conclusion.
The Akamai Technologies State of the Internet (SOI) report published every quarter of every year is one the most read and sought out report by telecommunications companies, internet service providers and news media firms, to name a few. The most popular and one of the largest (if not the largest – I have no data to consider either ranking) content delivery network (CDN) and distributed computing platforms in the world, Akamai’s rise-to-fame began after it was founded in 1998 and it started providing content delivery network services to big data companies such as Yahoo, Apple, Microsoft, IBM, HP, and others.
I remember attending an Akamai customer conference in Macau in 2001 where Akamai associates boasted being the sole content delivery network for Yahoo in APAC. During the conference, they explained in detail how my access to the Yahoo website and the searches I made never really had to reach the United States, where the actual data for my search results physically resided. With Akamai’s server farms scattered in APAC, North America and EMEA, this meant a lot of Yahoo’s data were mirrored (e.g. duplicated) in the Akamai’s server farms. For the ordinary user, a browser-triggered access to the Yahoo website and its big data meant not needing to go all the way to the U.S.; it merely went to one of the geographically nearby Akamai server farms where Yahoo’s web pages and data were mirrored. And this meant faster access because of lesser hops.
But I digress. Going back to my topic, I got a copy of the Globe Telecom press release that publicly asks Akamai to include mobile broadband Internet data results in Akamai State of the Internet report. According to Yoly Crisanto, SVP for Corporate Communications at Globe, “By using the average speed for fixed broadband Internet to represent the internet speed for the whole country is erroneous. It is not reflective of the true state of Internet considering that majority of Filipinos are using mobile data to access the Internet. In comparison with other countries, this will again put the Philippines in bad light and will be used as reference in many studies and reports.”
Figure 23 above is a section cut from the Akamai State of the Internet report Q1 2016.
Crisanto is totally correct to state the above. First, Akamai’s Sate of the Internet report does not have the Philippines listed in its rankings in section 8, aptly titled “Mobile Connectivity.” This obviously means only fixed line broadband Internet connectivity was used in their report to show the Philippine average broadband Internet speeds. Consider also the number of fixed line telephones or landlines versus the cell phone population in the Philippines. There are about 9 million fixed line telephones in the country versus 106 million mobile phones, with today’s population passing the 100 million mark. So, if Akamai only presents fixed (line) broadband Internet usage data to represent the Philippine in the Akamai State of the Internet report every quarter, Akamai clearly misrepresents the Philippines versus the rest of the world because that is what the report does – pitting the country in a global broadband Internet ranking system.
Recently, I went out with the Globe technical team in one of its day-time runs to test the newly installed Globe 700 MHz cell sites in Quezon City. I had three mobile phones with me capable of 3G broadband Internet, LTE broadband Internet and 700 MHz broadband Internet, respectively. The midway mobile broadband Internet speeds I got at the corner of Balete Drive and Aurora Boulevard was in the ‘50s Mbps while doing 83 Mbps along Katipunan Avenue fronting UP Town Center in Quezon City. For LTE, I was hitting about 35 Mbps for a mid-day use while my 3G phone was giving me 12 Mbps thereabouts.
The 2014 Philippine statistics gives a broadband Internet mobile phone penetration of 40 percent using 3G capable phones while 2 percent for LTE phones. Add these two other data tidbits: my current broadband Internet DSL subscription at home remains 3 Mbps and the Akamai State of the Internet report Q1 2016 lists the Philippines with an average broadband Internet speeds of 3.5 Mbps.
Continuing, if we represented population of the type of broadband Internet usage and compared this to the Akamai State of the Internet report, this report is only considering 7.8 percent of total broadband-capable Internet usage and this is what is representing the Philippines in one of the most sought-after technology report every quarter. Using simple math, this also means Akamai is only considering 26 percent of what should be the average broadband Internet speeds of the country, guess-estimating it at a little higher than 10 Mbps if we considered all three broadband Internet types: fixed line broadband Internet, mobile 3G broadband Internet, and mobile LTE or 4G broadband Internet. Therefore, the average Philippine broadband Internet speeds rank should not be 113th out of the 243 unique countries and regions connected to the Akamai network infrastructure and listed in the Akamai State of the Internet report; it must be in the middle ‘50s.
So, if the complaints made by Philippine government agencies, media and special interest groups, in creating their position on issues that affect the telecommunications industry, is referenced and based solely on the Akamai State of the Internet report, then all those individuals and organizations are wrong.
The Philippines should be ranked 8th out of the 15 countries represented in APAC for average broadband Internet speeds and, as I mentioned above, in the mid ‘50s rank out of the 243 countries, not 113.
But of course, individual user experience is still the perception of real average broadband Internet speeds on the ground, not some technical report by a content delivery network provider. The lack of cell sites to service more mobile broadband Internet users is a political challenge, not a financial one. Consider the deployment of the 700 MHz spectrum when both Globe and PLDT bought that right-of-usage from San Miguel Corporation. Immediately after its purchase, Globe installed the 700 MHz telecommunications solution in 20 existing cell sites within a month, and plans to complete 180 more installations in just a few more months. The Globe 700 MHz implementation plan is meant to alleviate the 3G and LTE usage from a populated area so that Globe 700 MHz-capable phones connect to the Internet outside the 3G and LTE or 4G spectrum. This also means money to install more cell sites is not the problem; it is the challenges faced by Globe and PLDT that involve local and national government participation in the process of setting up a cell site.
Anyway, I hope I gave light to the erroneous national perception that (1) the Philippines ranks last in the APAC average broadband Internet speeds section presented by Akamai Technologies, and (2) telecommunications companies are cheapskates when it comes to setting up more cell sites to service the increasing broadband Internet usage needs of the entire country. We are not last and telecom companies are not cheapskates.
The final conclusion is that the Philippines should not rank last in APAC average broadband Internet speeds and the issue of not installing more cell sites is not financial consideration but rather purely political.
Globe press release, sent by e-mail by Rhea Carlos, Globe Telecom External Affairs
List of Countries by Average Internet Connection Speed
Akamai’s [State of the Internet] Q1 2016 Report
Akamai Technologies – Wikipedia
Akamai Technologies – Facts & Figures
Country overview: Philippines Growth through innovation. GSMA Intelligence. December 2014
List of Countries by Number of Mobile Phones in Use
Telecommunications in the Philippines
Internet in the Philippines
Photos: Title photo via Pexels | Main Akamai office in San Mateo by Tyler Karaszewski via Flickr