4G first hit the market last year in the form of HSPA+ and beta testing of LTE. 2011 was more of a rollout and practice year, though, for both Smart and Globe. It looks like 2012 will truly be the start of the 4G war as both companies are beefing up their HSPA+ offerings and preparing for LTE.
Globe first fired the first salvo last year when they released the Globe Tattoo Tonino Lamborghini, an HSPA+ USB stick that could get up 10 Mbps. Smart countered by announcing that they’re investing in LTE, the next generation network with speeds up to 100 Mbps. Globe hit the market first with HSPA+ while Smart worked on building their LTE network. However eventually Smart decided to enter the HSPA+ battle as well when they released the Smart Bro Rocket product line in prepaid format (Globe’s Tattoo Tonino Lamborghini was limited to postpaid).
In the background of the HSPA+ war, Smart has been doing public beta testing of their LTE network. I’m part of that program, and I have to say I’m impressed with the speeds. I regularly get up to 17 Mbps (download speed) at home. The only issue right now with LTE is that Smart only has a very limited number of LTE sites. I’m very lucky that our condo is part of their coverage.
2012: Year of HSPA+?
For this year it looks like the focus will be on HSPA+. Globe just announced a new line-up of USB sticks that can connect to HSPA+. These new sticks can go up to 7.2 Mbps on prepaid and up to 21 Mbps on postpaid. Smart has yet to announce any changes with their HSPA+ offerings. The marketing push behind these products will drive demand and growth for HSPA+.
Another major factor is the new handsets coming to the Philippines. High-end phones like the Apple iPhone 4S, Samsung Galaxy Note, and the Samsung Galaxy S2 can connect to HSPA+. More units are on their way as well.
By the way, here’s a video showing HSPA+ in action using the iPhone 4S both on Globe and Smart:
3G will definitely still be here but we can expect HSPA+ to grow dramatically this year.
2013: Year of LTE
If the Consumer Electronics Show 2012 is a sign of things to come then it’s safe to say that 2013 will be the year of LTE. All major handset manufacturers are churning out phones and tablets that are LTE-capable. Telcos in the US like AT&T and Verizon are focusing their marketing efforts already on this as well. We can’t do that here because the LTE network isn’t as established, not yet. Smart is still in beta testing and Globe just announced last November that they’re upgrading their network for LTE as well.
In 2013 we can expect 3G to be the mobile Internet entry point, HSPA+ to be the standard, and LTE as the premium channel for high-end users.
I don’t know about you but that’s pretty exciting. Competition is definitely fast tracking development and growth and at the end of the day the ultimate winner here is the consumer.
Carlo Ople is currently with the New Media Department of TV5. Prior to this he was a freelance Digital Marketing Consultant, Digital Marketing Manager for Friendster, and Marketing Manager for Level Up! Games. He’s married to the love of his life, Michelle Orosa-Ople. The two met together during their first year in college in 2000 and have been together ever since.