March 5, 2021

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The Philippines ranks 6th in ASEAN mobile internet speeds

The Philippines is now in 6th place in mobile internet speed among the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) according to a report from a global speed test. Globally, the country moves up to the 86th spot in the mobile internet speed rankings in January 2021. This is a marked improvement from its 111th rank in the same period last year.

For the first time, it surged on top of Myanmar (25.21 Mbps, 88th worldwide) and Malaysia (23.74 Mbps, 94th). It also stayed ahead of Cambodia (19.98 Mbps, 106th) and Indonesia (17.33 Mbps, 121st). The five ASEAN members with faster mobile internet speeds than the Philippines are Singapore (66.44 Mbps, 22nd worldwide); Thailand (50.00 Mbps, 36th); Brunei (36.75 Mbps, 56th); Vietnam (34.68 Mbps, 62nd); and Laos (27.55 Mbps, 80th).

As for fixed broadband speed, the country improved slightly from 31.44 to 32.73 Mbps. The country remains 100th worldwide and sixth in ASEAN.

The Digital 2020 Report, as of January 2020, for the Philippines, states:

  • there were 73 million internet users in the Philippines
  • the internet penetration in the Philippines stood at 67%
  • there were 173.2 million mobile connections in the Philippines
  • the number of mobile connections in the Philippines increased by 38 million (+28%) between January 2019 and January 2020
  • the number of mobile connections in the Philippines was equivalent to 159% of the total population

As per lawmakers in the Philippine Congress, there is no question that the political pressure brought to bear on telecommunications companies is starting to bear fruit. Members of the Congress noted that President Duterte, in his 5th State of the Nation Address, has threatened to take over the assets of telecommunications firms if they failed to improve their services.

Notwithstanding the oversight, the national government has been assisting Telco’s in their infrastructure build-up by expediting the approval of tower permits as a measure to improve internet services amid the ongoing pandemic. The Department Information and Communications Technology (DICT) Secretary says that the agency will continue to coordinate with the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) to help ensure that the telco’s roll-out plans comply on time.

The agency also added that their vision of digital transformation shall be realised if all Filipinos, regardless of who they are and where they are in the country, have quality access to internet connectivity services at affordable prices. This is also why lawmakers in the country are pushing for the passage of a measure seeking to empower the NTC so that it can set compulsory deadlines for industry players to deliver faster internet speeds under the pain of harsh regulatory fines.

The bill also seeks to tag high-speed internet as a basic telecommunications service to which every Filipino enjoys a right of access, rather than a value-added service (VAS). At present, internet connection in the country is classified as a VAS, therefore telecommunications firms are relatively free to set the terms of the service.

Moreover, the government reported that it set aside PHP18 billion for various infrastructure projects aiming to improve national internet speeds. The DICT promised that it can simultaneously install active components for fibre optic cables in various provinces and deliver expected results in six to nine months given the requested funding. Part of the PHP18 billion will be spent on radio towers which will be deployed in areas with no fibre optic cables.

In perspective, neighbouring countries with similar initiatives, such as Indonesia, Australia, and New Zealand, have allotted significantly higher budgets for their National Broadband Network. Indonesia is reported to have allocated over US$22 billion (P1.07 trillion) for its five-year national broadband plan, while Australia and New Zealand have allocated around US$37 billion (P1.79 trillion), and US$1.19 billion (P58 billion pesos), respectively. Other countries, such as Singapore, are improving their systems by spending around US$550 million (P26.72 billion) and opening their network to all service providers.

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