MANILA, Philippines – A word war between arch-rivals Globe Telecom and Smart Communications erupted on Thursday after the release of the results of the National Telecommunications Commission's network quality test.
The NTC gave Smart an edge over Globe in a 4 out of 5 benchmarks in a test comparing the quality of the telcos' networks in the second quarter.
In a press briefing, Globe president and CEO Ernest Cu said their network had a significantly better score when it comes to grade of service at 4.45% compared with Smart’s 9.95% based on the NTC results. But both still fell short of the NTC standard of 4%.
Cu pointed out that Globe’s call success rate is higher, even though it is still using the legacy network, compared to Smart which has a lower score using its newly modernized network.
The NTC results, Cu said, showed Globe’s network is mostly "at parity" with Smart and has “no discernible difference” when it comes to drop call rate, signal level, signal quality and call setup time.
For instance, the NTC said Globe’s drop call rate is 1.66%, while Smart’s is 1.53% - both well within the NTC standard of 2%. But Globe noted the 0.13% difference is so small that it means the two telcos are likely to experience the same amount of drop calls.
As for call setup time, which measures how fast domestic calls are connected, Smart had 11.74 seconds, compared to Globe’s 11.9 seconds, well within the NTC standard of 14 seconds.
Cu criticized Smart for its negative ad campaign against Globe’s network, saying the NTC results show there is no basis for saying their network is superior.
“It’s at parity. When you say, we have a higher drop call rate, when is a subscriber able to discern 1 drop call in 100? In this case, they are better in call setup, but a 0.16 difference – does that matter? Does it matter to criticize someone over? Will these small, minute differences say your network is better?” Cu said.
Globe also disputed the NTC's interpretation of the scores for the average receive signal level, which gave Smart's -62.63 dBm score an edge over Globe's -69.83 dBm score. The NTC standard is at >= -85 dBm.
The Globe CEO admitted the company’s network is not perfect, but neither are other networks around the world, including Smart. He challenged any telco to prove that their networks are perfect.
“Our network is not perfect, if it were, we won’t be spending $700 million on modernization… We admit there are some areas and times when dropped calls are high and that’s the reason why we have embarked on building a new network, not just upgrading it,” Cu said.
But Cu admits there has been rising complaints against the company, which he believes have been fueled by Smart’s ads that focus on dropped calls and weak signals.
"When you spend P250 million sensitizing people about a certain problem, you will get complaints,” Cu said.
Globe said half of its $700-million modernization work is done and should be completed by March 2013.
Cu said the company is sending out letters to each of its 1.8 million Globe post-paid subscribers starting next week, informing them of the status of the network upgrade in their area.
Smart fires back
In a statement, Smart hit Globe for its "selective reading" of the NTC test results, saying it "defies arithmetic, and, more importantly, flies in the face of consumer experience."
Regarding Globe's questions on the average received signal level test results, Smart said its lower negative number of -62.63 dBm means a better signal compared to Globe's score of -69.83 dBm.
"Translated into layman’s terms, what this result means is that Smart’s signal level is up to five times stronger than Globe’s. In terms of customer experience, a stronger signal level means better indoor coverage, resulting in better voice quality, less drop calls, faster and more reliable SMS and higher data speeds," it said.
Smart noted that Globe "conveniently downplayed" the parameters where Smart had posted better scores.
"(Globe) focused on the 'blocked call' parameter, which was the only test that showed better results for Globe. On that basis, Globe said that its “legacy network” was better than that of Smart. This is the same legacy network that Globe officials have admitted, in several recent occasions, to be congested," it said.
Meanwhile, NTC Director Edgardo Cabarios said in an interview that the report, which is being conducted on a quarterly basis, was meant to keep both networks on their toes.
"We are not ranking them," Cabarios said. – With Lois Calderon, ANC