While looking for a topic to write on for our Wednesday column, we were confronted by several issues: the impending COVID vaccine, the arrival before long of Santa Claus in this predominantly Christian country, and the internet speed available to millions of students in blended learning due to the pandemic.
We are told that internet connectivity has improved in this country of 110 million people, with 67 million internet users, including millions of students in the K-12 curriculum although the country still falls below the global average in terms of mobile and fixed-line broadband speeds.
Smooth internet connectivity cannot be over-emphasized with blended learning, an approach to education that combines online educational materials and opportunities for interaction online with traditional place-based classroom methods.
Not to mention beating appointments and deadlines in business and the news room.
In school, this requires the physical presence of both teacher and student, with some elements of student control over time, place, path, or pace modular and distance.
We can just imagine cataclysmic results for the learners and the teachers with such slow, if erratic, internet connectivity.
Industry tracker Ookla has said, based on its Speedtest Global Index, the country ranks 107th out of 176 countries in terms of fixed broadband, and 111th out of 136 countries in mobile internet, basing its ranking on the results of its Speedtest utility that measures download speeds, upload speeds and latency.
To the matter. Ookla said the global average for fixed broadband is 87.84 megabits per second (Mbps) for download, 47.16 Mbps for uploads, and latency of 21 milliseconds (ms), the last meaning the time it takes for data to be transferred between its original source and its destination, with lower latency preferred.
The Philippines’ average speed for fixed lines is 27.07 Mbps for downloads, 27 Mbps for uploads, with a latency of 27 ms.
Singapore, which has 5.8 million people, leads globally in the quality of fixed broadband. Thailand (pop: 66.5 million), Malaysia (pop: 32.7 million), Vietnam (pop: 96.5 million) and Laos (pop: 7.3 million) all have faster internet speeds than the Philippines for fixed broadband.
For mobile internet, the global average is 39.18 Mbps for downloads, 11.63 Mbps for uploads, with a latency of 38 ms.
South Korea (pop: 51.2 million) takes the top rank in mobile internet quality. Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia (pop: 16.8 million) all outrank the Philippines in mobile internet speeds.
Data for the Speedtest Global Index comes from the hundreds of millions of tests taken by real people using Speedtest every month, Ookla said.
Ookla noted that download speeds for fixed broadband in the Philippines have increased 477 percent from 3.18 Mbps in the third quarter of 2016 to 18.35 Mbps in the same period this year.
There is of course some sparkle of hope with the government’s move to reduce red tape in building new cell towers which drove the network improvements, according to Ookla, which added these improvements should continue to place higher in the global rankings.
But it pointed out the Philippines “will need to continue removing barriers to infrastructure enhancements and increasing connectivity across the country in order to improve these rankings.”
Earlier on, Secretary Gregorio Honasan of the Department of Information and Communications Technology said the country’s internet connection was “not yet that good,” changing his earlier statement that drew public backlash.
In a Senate hearing on his agency’s proposed 2021 budget, the DICT chief said they were trying to improve the internet speed as the country trailed behind those of its neighbors in Asia.
October data showed PLDT’s fixed broadband speed at 24.67 Mbps for the second and third quarter period of the year. Converge ICT had 22.44 Mbps, SKY Broadband at 18.25 Mbps, and Globe at 9.74 Mbps.
For mobile, Smart had a speed of 19.97 Mbps while Globe posted 13.47 Mbps.
Over a four-year period, the country saw nearly 5 times or 477 percent improvement in broadband download speed to 18.35 Mbps in the third quarter from the 3.18 Mbps in the same quarter in 2016, Ookla said.
Likewise, mobile download speed rose 99.1 percent to around 9 Mbps compared to 4 Mbps in third quarter of 2016.
Telecommunications companies PLDT-Smart, Globe, DITO Telecommunity, Converge ICT and NOW Group earlier announced their respective plans to roll out faster 5G networks.
Next year will be the launching of new telco entrants such as DITO Telecommunity, Converge ICT and RED Broadband.
A study has offered an approach in improving Internet connectivity in the Philippines by bridging the gap between the Internet infrastructure market and government policies.
At the same time, the study suggested the main reason why this country is still branded with its slow internet speed is because the country severely lacks cell sites.
Compared to 70,000 cell sites of Vietnam or over a million cell sites of China, the Philippines has the lowest cell site density in Asia, with the Philippines having only 16,400 active cell sites that serve up to an estimated 67 million internet users.
Much work has to be done. But done well. (AI/MTVN)