A few notes on the quality of Internet service available in Tigbauan, Iloio. We have tried the following. The fees are monthly and generally for unlimited use. Actually there are “fair use” limits which you are unlikely to exceed unless you are downloading movies. You will be locked into a contract, generally for two years, although with the Smart Pocket WiFi you can buy the device and load it as you see fit with no contract.
- “SmartBro” wireless Internet. Roof mounted antenna. P999 for “up to 2MBS”. See http://pldthome.com/surf/mybro/about
- “WiMax” available from Globe Telecom. P999 for “up to 1MPS” See http://tattoo.globe.com.ph/wimax.html
- Smart 3G Cellular Internet using the Smart Pocket WiFi Plan. P999 for up to 7.2MPS See http://www1.smart.com.ph/bro/products/pocket-wifi
Our most recent experiment was buying and using a Smart Pocket WiFi receiver. This is a small device which looks something like a cellphone and costs P2,000 to buy. It combines a 3G-capable receiver and a wireless router in a small battery operated package. There is also a plug in charger. We were prompted to give this a try because we were frustrated by the other two options which used roof mounted antennas and gave us about 1MPS speed, at best.
A friend of ours from Iloilo City had just bought a new Galaxy S4 cellphone. While visiting us at our house, he was surprised to see that we had Smart 3G cellular service in Tigbauan. Most rural places have 2G at best. Our friend ran a test on speedtest.net which showed a 3MPS download speed — three times better than we were getting with Globe WiMax. So we went to the Smart Telecom store at SM City, bought the Pocket WiFi device and a five day load to allow us to test the connection. That night we were astounded to have a 6MPS 3G Internet connection! Hallelujah!
Now for the bad news. As a practical matter, we do see better speeds, especially with YouTube and other videos which are generally un-watchable on our 1MPS WiMax service. On the other hand, the Pocket WiFi is less consistent, sometimes failing to connect at all.
We tested the device using an iPad, a Nokia Lumia Windows Phone wi-fi and our regular laptop and desktop computers. The Pocket WiFi service was sometimes fast but balky and inconsistent, even though it scored very well on several Internet speed test sites. Perhaps those more technically inclined can help us understand why 3-6MPS 3G is not always faster than 1MPS WiMax. Reader Dan makes the point (below) that the local connection may be fast but the available Internet bandwidth to connect to foreign servers is capacity restricted.
An advantage of the Pocket WiFi is that it is battery operated and can supply Internet access during power outages, whereas our Globe WiFi modem and router can’t operate without power. If you keep the Pocket WiFi device’s charger plugged in, you’ll always have about four hours of Internet access during the outage.
We have unplugged our Globe WiMax and will give the Pocket WiFi a multi-day trial and then report back.
Now back to our previous experiences with Internet access in Tigbauan. Bear in mind that some of our experiences are somewhat dated. Service may have improved.
Both Globe and Smart wired DSL may be available in parts of Tigbauan. Since we built our home in a place without telephone lines, wired DSL is not an option for us.
When we lived in Iloilo City we had Globe 1MPS DSL. The quality was not especially good. Sometimes we’d get the 1MPS, but often the service was slow and unreliable. When we moved to an apartment in Tigbauan we used PLDT’s SmartBro wireless broadband, the kind with an antenna on the roof pointed at a base station on the nearest Smart cell tower. We were surprisingly happy with SmartBro. It was not fast. We had the “999” plan which gives us unlimited Internet access at “up to” 384K for P999 per month. It’s was not suitable for streaming video or large downloads but works pretty well for routine web browsing, downloads and VOIP. It was reliable, more reliable than our Globe 1MPS DSL which rarely reached anything like 1MPS and often just stalled out loading pages.
That was until we built and moved into our new house. We checked with PLDT before we bought our Tigbauan property about the availability of PLDT’s “SmartBro”. Our property was quite close to the Smart cell tower, but for some reason the SmartBro service at the new house has been lousy, much worse than at our Tigbauan apartment. It seems to be getting worse, despite many complaints to Smart and promises that it would be fixed. According to Smart representative there are problems with the base station antenna on the Smart tower. VOIP is virtually unusable, streaming video only a dream. Finally we gave up on SmartBro at our new house and signed up for Globe 1MB WiMax service. It has it’s problems too, but generally VOIP is usable, a key factor for us.
The Globe sign-up process was an adventure. Globe’s WiMax site prominently offers a thirty day trial period on WiMax. The Globe staff seemed unaware of this policy, some saying that it only applied in Manila. We had to call Manila to convince the Globe Iloilo staff that the satisfaction guarantee applied to Iloilo.
We had signed a two year contract with Smart and they were not anxious to let us out of it. Initially they did not approve our request to cancel the contract. Then they asked us to write a description of why we wanted out of the contract. We had saved proof of poor connection quality in the form of screen-shots from speedtest.net and had documented our numerous complaints to Smart. We put this together in the form of a letter to Smart’s vice president for network quality and delivered the letter to the Smart office at SM City Iloilo. We said we’d mail the letter documenting Smart’s lousy service to Smart HQ in Makati if our contract cancellation request was not approved. Three days later we received a call saying our request had been approved. Hopefully Smart will resolve their problems.
Here’s the speedtest.net results measured on my SmartBro connection very early in the morning at our Tigbauan apartment — not bad!
Here’s a speedtest.net result at our new house. A dial-up modem would be an improvement:
This is the Huawai BM622i modem supplied by Globe for WiMax service. Normally it’s connected to an outside antenna via a cable but we are so close to the Globe cell tower providing the service that we have 100% signal strength using the internal antenna in the Huawai. Now that we’ve solved the DNS connectivity problems, we’re happy with the Globes service. We just made a long call to the U.S. using Google Voice. The call was free and the quality good. At first we were getting about .75MB download speeds but that has declined to about .35MB.
Also note that the Huawai has a port for a telephone. Once Globe gets around to upgrading its service in Tigbauan, they’ll be able to offer a wireless “landline” service. That will be great for us because there is no landline service where we live. However we note no such improvements in the three years we have had the Globe service.
For details on how we solved our DNS server problems, see: /globe-internet-dns-problems/