Smart Bro Plug It vs. Globe Visibility: Battle of the Network Stars

clash of titans

Photo: Benjamin Grimm and Bruce Banner square off in an argument over mobile broadband.

It was shaping up to be one of those “bad trip” evenings. Our PLDT DSL connection mysteriously went on the blink. And typically, the customer support rep we got on the phone was no great instiller of confidence. She would have to refer the problem to someone else to diagnose, she said, and we wouldn’t hear from them until sometime tommorow.

Luckily we live in one of those peculiar households that is blessed (or cursed?) with a plethora of gadgets at any given time. So if we had to survive a day or two without DSL, we could always whip out a number of wireless devices at the drop of a hat and access mobile broadband. The better to ‘walk the talk,’ as you might say.

This particular evening we had at our disposal a small menagerie of 3G phones, a bunch of prepaid SIMs, and a couple of USB HSDPA modems from two different providers: SmartBro Plug It Prepaid (ZTE MF622), and one from Globe Visbility (Huawei E220). It looks like we were going to rough it a bit, but nevertheless, “we knew we would survive,” to paraphrase Gloria Gaynor.

This was also an opportunity for some Speedtests to pit the access methods against each other. Here are the results. Note that the tests were all conducted in a condo smack dab in Tordesillas Street, deep in the concrete canyons on Salcedo Village, Makati.

Nokia E61i using Smart 3G (Buddy prepaid SIM):


Smart Bro Plug-IT Prepaid:

smartbro plugit

Globe Visibility:

As with all wireless broadband tests, your mileage may vary depending on your location. In this case, the Smart Bro modem happened to latch on to a Smart HSDPA signal in the area, which really goosed the broadband. The Nokia smartphone is a plain jane UMTS (3G) device and limped on at 3G speeds. And although Globe advertises an HSDPA network, it looks like Globe HSDPA was nowhere to be found in our area (right in the middle of the Makati CBD).

Our elation over the results was shortlived, however. Over in Quezon City, our Twitter friend Jerome Gotangco of Morph Labs had Twittered his own Speedtest results with PLDT WeRoam, pwning us all.

we roam

As a Lee named Stan once said, “Excelsior!”

29 thoughts on “Smart Bro Plug It vs. Globe Visibility: Battle of the Network Stars

  1. In a very good (very early) day it goes to 2000+ kbps. But notice the variance of the upload speeds. They’re not great but good enough to upload some photos. I tried it with video to vimeo and youtube and it just sucks eggs. I guess we have to wait for HDSPA/HSUPA modems.

  2. Jim, may I also add that the speed test are variable depending on the target location. If I try to connect to a European test point or even in the Bayantel test point which is probably just a few kilometers from my home, I get pathetic results. I guess the speed test is dependent on the interconnections between providers. In the Tokyo test, I average 1,500kbps at any hour of the day while doing the LA server test is not consistent but gives stellar results in a good day.

  3. The download speed for the weroam looks nice… and i completely understand that these are mobile services… but here’s my pet peeve… in a world where every internet citizen’s inalienable right is to be both producer and consumer of content, why do we live in a world were uploads and downloads are asynchronous?

  4. Good quickie tech overview Jim, thanx!

    One thing about tPLDT DSL, outages aside 🙂 is … their devious marketing and pricing – you may expect that your DSL net connection comes with a landline, sometimes it does, sometimes they will charge you seperately (ouch!) for this.

    When i inquired with PLDT CorpComm i was informed that the actual details of the bundling provision is left to the discretion of the local business office.

    So it seems that some PLDT business offices are fairly honest and straightforward (i hear Pasig is ok), while some will do everything to “maximize revenue” in a less than transparent manner (my experience in Pasay).

    Take your pick and place your bets, folks! 🙂

    (very happy with Globe wireless landline 🙂

  5. Wyn, don’t even get Maan Tolentino started on the subject of Globe Broadband unless you want to hear a lot of [expletive deleted] – and I have the Twitters to prove it! 🙂

  6. Well, Maansky’s issues with Globe would be true for *all* ISPs and can be summarized as follows:

    1. setup and support (i do my own :); and more critically (for her) …

    2. SMTP

    For the latter, most ISPs nowadays assume that folks no longer use email programs.

  7. @Technograph – Maybe that’s the irony of it all – Globe Visibility performs well in some remote areas but right in the heart of the Makati central business district it underperformed.

    I have a friend who lives in a condo in Pioneer (right next to Globe) and at home she can’t even raise a decent Globe 3G signal. As a result of this and other quirks her company canceled 30 corporate Globe Visibility accounts recently.

  8. not sure if this is the right venue to ask this question but i have globe visibility and recently people from globe upgraded the software on my huawei because it didnt work with windows vista. now it works with windows vista on my computer but when i use it with a router, other PCs/laptops could not connect to the internet anymore (via the router). i don’t know what to do. i’ve called globe about it and they said that the upgrade had nothing to do with it. any ideas? i would really appreciate it.

  9. I have a Globe Visibility subscription using the Huawei E220 modem. I also have a Smart prepaid sim. Good thing the modem isn’t Globe-locked and I’m able to use it when playing Counter Strike at PLDTPlay.

    In my experience, the quality of the HSDPA connection is very sensitive to the location and orientation of the modem. I found my modem’s sweet spot and get 1.4 to 2mbps during non-peak hours with Visibility. isn’t very reliable. The most I got was 1200kbps from the Tokyo server, even faster than the QC server, yet I’m able to download at a consistent 250KBps.

    With Smart, I usually only get WCDMA and I have to spend a few minutes relocating and reorienting the modem to get HSDPA (If I get HSDPA at all). I live in Makati CBD, one block away from the PLDT main office so I was expecting a better Smart 3G/3.5G connection.

  10. I suggest you repeat the test again and use the same server to test. or at least use several servers. Since for example, PLDT has its backbone in SG so they would probably clock in faster than lets say, Globe which has its backbone in HK or somewhere else.

    Since as I saw from your post that LA was used for some tests.. I dont have that much knowledge about networking but as far as I know, if you do traceroute, more hops are needed to go to LA than to SG or HK.

    Also, the data should be more accurate if tested all at the same time since network congestion is lighter at certain parts of the day.. Since all this wireless technology relies on a cell site, if by any chance maraming naka connect sa certain cell site, it would be a problem.

    Just my 2 cents, email me if you have comments.

  11. @jim,

    i was faced with the same predicament a few days back and didn’t have the benefit of reading this blog prior to my purchase. i took a leap of faith and decided on smart bro.

    which is probably a good thing because i too live near the globe telecom building in pioneer and was being assured by the staff at globe-shangri la that signal should be good because my place is near the globe building. based on your friend’s experience, it looks like i might have lucked out.

  12. Globe Telecom’s WeRoam sucks. I find it unreliable for business.

    What’s worse is that its GSM signal is deteriorating. In my house in Quezon City, I used to move around easily in all the rooms without losing Globe’s signal. Well, that was 3 years ago.

    Now, fast forward to 2008, Globe signal is so weak and unusable inside my same house. I tried so many phone brands, from the cheap to high end models. They all cannot get a decent signal. Globe’s GSM signal is DOWNGRADED on purpose. Obviously, to save on costs. Screw Globe!!!!

    Now, I switched to SMART. I can now have signal anywhere in my house, full bars.

  13. Hello Jose,
    where exactly in QC you are located?
    SMART has a good signal in your location? I’m planning to get Globe Visibility but just want to make sure that I will have the right decision. Tnx

  14. hi,

    i’ve got a globe visibility kit its model no. is zte mf626
    but in my location im only getting gprs signal.
    do you think the smart bro’s sim will work on my globe visibility?

  15. Hi Jim,

    I live in Ortigas Center and get a decent Globe signal (using my 6120c phone). Still wondering whether I need to get a separate Globe Visibility modem, because every time I read feedback it’s an up and down review.
    Still waiting for a reasonably priced non-simlocked HSDPA modem with an acceptable price point. Staying tuned to your blog. Thanks for the info.

  16. Hi, I’m wondering if the zte mf626 is globe-locked. Or can a Smart SIM be used on it too?

    I’m looking forward to any response.


  17. Globe visibility modem works with smart sim. I tried to send message and it sent. i dont know about the internet function of it, it might work if you setup the the connectivity to it, you just have to know the smart thingy. I am wondering though if you can make a call through computer using the modem mf626 with the sim on it. i dont see call option in the menu.

  18. hi huys..i just want to ask if which is better in connection and speed between globe visibility and smart bro plug it. I am planning againt o try globe. Some friends told me that smart is better than globe, other says globe is better than smart. Which one should i trust. I am using my notebook. I bought my smart bro plug it last week and the first time i used works but after several days i find it more difficult to browse..i got no problem when connecting but when a few minutes browsing, my problem exist in browsing..its really hard to connect in Yahoo Messenger. It really sucks…instead of using my notebook i went outside in an internet cafe..Please advise!!! thanks

  19. Hello Guys im Katie 15 years old, im kinda thinking about asking my parents about upgrading my internet life, coz up to now im only using dial up and i dont have plans to avail any DSL packges from PLDT or Globlines just to surf, download some few stuff, upload some pics at my site, but im so interested to
    have one of those SMART BRO or Glove Visibility broadband prepaid service. But i dont have any idea “which is which” ? I live in San Juan and i dont have any idea if the signals coming from both SMART or Globe is ok here but all i want to do is, if possible jack those modem thingy on my laptop while im spendting time with my friends house who also lives here in San Juan and if im mm room jack it to my PC and surf the internet and do my usual thing like im doing with my dial up connection.. Any help or suggestions will be highly appreciated. thanks!

  20. To all consumers who are yearning for some source of online connection, be warned… DO NOT BUY GLOBE VISIBILITY PREPAID! Let me share with you my harrowing experience…

    I used to stay in Manila until I decided to relocate to Balayan, Batangas. I easily adapted to my new surroundings as quickly as I fell in love with it. I have my own desk-top computer but there was something missing that I used to enjoy in Manila, and it was the luxury of a hook up to the World Wide Web. Sure we have access to internet providers in this part of Southern Luzon but it’s such a hassle to come up with their requirements like proof of billing since I don’t pay any bills now (and I ain’t complaining, lucky me), and the nearest authorized internet dealer I could go to is a couple of towns away. There are also several internet cafes in the area and the rates are undoubtedly much cheaper, but the comforts of privacy are not there. See, I demand utmost silence and isolation when reading my emails, writing e-letters, chatting on YM, and above all when broadcasting through the webcam and making calls using the I-phone. Think about the commotion spawned by those unruly snot-nosed kids playing on-line games, those curious eyes of fellow I-café patrons sneakily gawking at your screen, those casual ears that are in actual fact eavesdropping on your carefree conversations. Imagine yourself video-chatting with a potentially good catch, your prospect’s starry-eyed gaze fixed upon you, and then like greased lightning, gets you distracted by asking who the heck those people are walking back and forth behind you. Now how romantic is that!

    Last January 18, 2009, I went on a scheduled day-trip to Manila. As we were speeding by SLEX, my eyes caught the billboard of Globe Visi…Say what was that again??? For a P2,500 prepaid kit, you get fast, reliable internet connection anytime with speeds of up to 2Mbps and be connected 24ever for only P5 every 15-minute session… Globe Visibility. WOW, it’s a lot better deal than the competitor’s offer of P10 every 30-minute session!!! This is it… this is the manna from heaven I’ve been waiting for! Then I chanted some sort of mantra to myself: I now abolish the restrictions that compelled me to stay invisible to the world… I do hereby swear to become visible, by hook or by crook!!!

    I finally reached my destination. It was a good thing my appointment was at Glorietta Makati because I am absolutely certain there is a Globe dealer somewhere there. After the meeting, it didn’t take long for me to scour the place since there was, by some good fortune, a Globe event going on at the center of the mall. Can this be what they call divine providence, I asked myself. I hurriedly approached the first sales person I saw standing by the booth. It wasn’t hard for the guy to talk me into closing a sale since I was already determined to buy one. I only asked him one question. Is the signal strong enough to reach my location in Batangas? “Yes ma’am, you could use your Globe Visibility wherever your cell phone has a signal,” was his sure answer. Having said that, I didn’t need any more convincing. I’ve forever utilized Globe as my mobile phone provider so I’m aware of their strong signal in my area which is always at full bar. I handed him my P2,500 for the prepaid kit (it also came w/ a free P100 prepaid card load) and went back home straight away to Balayan against the clock. I was so thrilled, I felt like a little child who couldn’t wait to open her Christmas present till after the stroke of midnight.

    When at last I arrived after a couple of hours later (it certainly felt like ages), I rushed directly to my bedroom. With hands trembling, I tore away the packaging and voila, I see a tiny white gadget that looks a lot like a lighter. I rummaged inside the box for the manual, read the instructions, proceeded to install it, loaded my free P100, and sent a text message to my cousin’s maid to send me another P300 worth of e-load.

    This is the moment of truth, I told myself… I could finally update my Windows XP, my antivirus software, my Internet Explorer, download Yahoo Messenger, Orbit Downloader and LimeWire, download mp3, and perhaps watch some film clips on YouTube. I then went on to plug in the USB stick to the USB cable. A window popped out called Mobile Partner. I checked the signal strength indicator, it was at 90%. I then realized that the only signal I can get in my area is from a GPRS network connection. I checked the average speed for GPRS, it’s 30 to 40 Kbps. That’s ok, I told myself, I could live with that. I then clicked on connect. Yippee! It works; it says I’m currently connected.

    I clicked on Internet Explorer… it directed me to Microsoft Update webpage…waiting… waiting… waiting to load…

    I looked at the signal strength; it’s weakening… 25%… 18%… 12%… 10%… 5%… 0%! Wait a minute, what the hell is going on here? Then out comes the message “Internet Explorer cannot display the webpage. “ I checked the status bar and to my dismay, I got disconnected from the network. Ok there goes my P5 for a less than 5-minute session.

    Try again… I changed my Internet Settings and chose as my homepage. Perhaps it will load faster now. I checked signal strength, it’s at 99%. This will definitely work now I assured myself. Clicked connect, clicked IE… loading… loading… still loading… Why the F word is it taking so long? I then look at the statistics, upload speed/kbps at 0.02, 0.12, 0.04, 0.09, .01, 0.00; download speed/kbps at 1.12., 0.3, 0.8, 2.23, 0.12, 0.00. Hey, I thought GPRS’ average speed was supposed to be at 30 to 40 Kbps! Then out comes the message “IE cannot display the webpage.” Disconnected again in less than 3 minutes…Goodbye P5!

    Let me try again (…to the tune of). Clicked connect, clicked IE. Loading… Out comes Yahoo homepage. Finally, I could check my e-mail. Clicked Sign in. Loading… loading… loading… done but with errors on page. Clicked Inbox. Loading… loading… loading… loading… done. Ok it’s working now, but it’s too slow. Checked signal strength at 100%. Looked at statistics, upload speed/kbps at 0.01, 1.05, 0.54, 0.08, 1.00, 0.36, 0.00, 0.76, 0.00, 0.00, 0.00; download speed/ kbps at 3.75, 0.54, 0.00, 6.56, 5.34, 2.58, 0.78,.0.00, 0.00, 0.00. That’s weird, signal strength is 90 to100% but why is the speed erratic and it can’t even transfer data! Checked transfer time, been using this damn thing for 1:21 minutes with almost nothing achieved. There goes my P30 for zilch!

    And that tormenting experience was only during the first night alone, I had a total of 6 sessions, 4 got disconnected in less than 5 minutes, and the remaining 2 sessions were veeeery slooooooow. Since I am not a techie, what I have written above are just examples of “behavioral pattern” from this crappy thingamajig. Just imagine the anguish and despair I had to go through during the succeeding days that followed.

    Today is January 30, 2009, it’s been 12 days since the night I first welcomed Huawei E160 HSPDA USB Stick into my home. Let me tell you straight, I already spent P1,500 loading for this piece of junk which gave me a maximum record download speed of only 6.75 Kbps and upload speed of 5 Kbps, a measly fraction of Globe’s advertising claim of 30 to 40 Kbps. Did I get my money’s worth? I was able to update my Windows XP, my antivirus software, and Internet Explorer. I was able to download Orbit Downloader. I was finally able to download Yahoo Messenger after 7 days of persistent attempts. I decided not to download LimeWire; it is stressful and will only add to my extreme anxiety. I was never able to watch a single clip from YouTube; a 15-seconder video could easily eat up your P5 load, a waste of time and money. On the bright side, I was able to check my emails and browse for some recipes. That’s it folks, all for P1,500 in 12 days! Now you be the judge.

    Bottom line, it does not require for anyone to be a computer junkie to know they’re being screwed. As a consumer, I don’t need to be an Einstein for me to come to terms with the fact that I‘m being shortchanged. I don’t mind paying for as long as I get my money’s worth.

    This infuriating incident has stirred me to launch a personal campaign against these crooks, in their own sphere of influence which is the internet. Globe Telecoms is raking in revenues through dishonest means. They have to pay attention to their customer’s grievances otherwise they could easily lose them to other networks.

    I am posting this using Globe Visibility and will document the length of time it took me to post this on their websites.


  21. its really true what miss coral said. i bought globe visibility on december 23 when i was in cebu.. i can browse some of the website but i cant log on in either ym or skype or any these..its soo annoying!its really freakn sux! dont buy globe visibility!

  22. i am planning to buy this globe visibility and just deduct it from my school allowance because it reduces now to 1850 but after misscoral’s post, i am hardly thinking now than before. i finally read a post straight from batangas where i am also located. maybe i’ll just wait until i can buy a new phone that will enable me to connect to internet. anyway i am just planning to buy it for some outgoing purposes but i have a globe internet connection at home which works well at 995 per month.

  23. Bakit kaya napakahirap maconnect ng webcam sa yahoo messenger?, lage nalang server busy ang sinasabi..Globe Broadband gamit ko, sobrang hirap gamitin sa chat,malakas naman ang cgnal pero di parin makonek ang webcam pag nagchachat…paano kaya to?

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