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As I See It

NTC test: Which is better, Globe or Smart?

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When you call or text somebody via your cell phone, do you get connected at once? Or is your call or text unable to get through at once? Do you get disconnected sometimes/oftentimes? What telecoms network are you using, Globe or Smart? Which of them does not connect or get disconnected more often?

The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) conducted a network benchmark test comparing the Grade of Service (GoS) and overall signal quality of both Globe and Smart against NTC Cellular Mobile Telephone System (CMTS) standards in 16 cities in Metro Manila, through network drive tests using prepaid SIMs of both telcos with a sample size of over 3,000 test calls. The study was brought about by the increasing complaints to NTC from customers about dropped calls and undelivered text messages. This is what I call the real theater of war between Globe and Smart where no one has control because this is an independent study conducted by the duly authorized government agency that has control over mobile network systems.

The competition between the two telcos is getting tighter in the realm of mobile telecommunication services in terms of value for post-paid and prepaid plans, promotions, advertising and publicity, hence the NTC test. Smart had launched a multimillion-peso advertising campaign in the tri-media, claiming to be the strongest network in the country today with its upgraded network technology while undermining the services of its toughest competition in Globe which is currently undergoing a $700-million network modernization program. Smart is more aggressive in the battlefield of advertising. It seems to be resorting to the unconventional form of advertising, at least in this part of the world, where mudslinging is not a norm. However, the real battle is not won through advertising, otherwise known as the battlefield of perception in the minds of subscribers. The real battle is in the performance of network systems which allows us to receive call and text messages in a clear and timely manner. Who is winning, Globe or Smart? The NTC test results below give us the answer.

Smart has already announced on its website that its upgraded network will be ready by mid-2012. On the other hand, Globe is still operating on its legacy network and is undergoing its network modernization project which is scheduled to be completed early next year. With this scenario, Smart has a clear edge over Globe with the former having a superior upgraded network worth billions of pesos.

Here are the results of the NTC study. I have divided the categories into 4 rounds, as in a boxing match. The round-by-round results:

Round 1—GoS or Call Setup Failure Rate (CSFR). With the GoS or CSFR standard set by NTC at 4 percent, Globe recorded a nearly identical 4.45 percent while Smart registered a distant 9.95 percent. In this most important benchmark of call success rates, Globe has a clear advantage of 95.55 percent even with its legacy network in operation, which means subscribers will find it easier to call a Globe number. Smart fared poorly, registering only half of Globe’s rating even with the advantage of Smart having its upgraded network already in place. I will give round 1 to Globe.

Round 2—Dropped call rate, an occurrence that most of us subscribers experience. For this round, NTC has set the standard at 2 percent and test results showed that Globe and Smart performed within the standard, registering 1.6 percent and 1.5 percent, respectively. However, results on dropped call rate belie the claims made by Smart in its multimillion negative advertising campaigns pointing to Globe as having more dropped calls, whereas the results showed that with Smart’s upgraded network, it still has the problem of dropped calls only with a marginal difference of 0.1 percent compared to that of Globe. For this round, I make it a tie.

Round 3 to 4—Average Signal Quality (ASQ) refers to the clarity of calls (not garbled or choppy) and the Average Received Signal Level

(ARSL) refers to the signal strength (strong signal means full bars on your mobile phone). For signal quality, Smart registered 0.63 while Globe registered 0.72 (the closest to zero is better). I give this round to Smart. On the signal level, both telcos were below the -85 dBm standard. The two networks are also tied in these rounds.

Round 5—The final metric which is the Call Set Up Time, where NTC has set the acceptable standard of below 14 seconds. Globe’s legacy network made it to the acceptable standard by registering 11.9 seconds. Smart, with its upgraded network, was not too far ahead of Globe, registering 11.74 seconds with only .16 seconds difference, statistically not significant. This is a measure of how fast domestic calls get connected from one number to the other. Again, this round is a tie for both Globe and Smart.

Globe was supposed to be an underdog in this study because the network is still operating on what is considered an inferior legacy network as compared to Smart’s billion-peso upgraded “strong” network. With an inferior network system, Globe has fared well in the standards set by NTC and performed at par with the upgraded network of Smart. If we are to score each round, Globe and Smart are tied at 4-4.

In a press conference held by Globe to shed light on the NTC study, it said that “while there is no perfect network, our objective in bringing to life a brand new modernized network is to provide our subscribers with superior customer experience. Our network modernization is real, not imagined.”


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