Globe Telecom, long the second largest mobile operator in the Philippines, pushed ahead of PLDT’s mobile unit Smart in Q4, and clocked up more than ten million subscriber additions through 2016.

Globe had been slowly gaining on the market leader since 2012 when it had a 32 per cent market share. However, over the past two years it rapidly closed the gap as Smart shed 7.8 million customers. Globe finished 2016 with 66.6 million subscribers compared with Smart’s 62.1 million, giving Globe a 52 per cent market share according to GSMA Intelligence.

The operator began to close in on Smart in 2015, when Globe registered 12.2 million net additions and Smart lost nearly five million mobile customers. Smart’s market share since Q4 2015 fell from 61 per cent to 48 per cent by end-2016.

PLDT, which saw profitability and market share drop sharply, in November announced a management reshuffle in an effort to turn around its prolonged slump.

The move came after the operator reported a 49 per cent decline in its Q3 profit.

Both companies have faced slowing growth, with PLTD’s service revenue for the first nine months of 2016 declining 3 per cent to PHP119 billion ($2.4 billion), with cellular services falling 8 per cent to PHP66.6 billion. Globe’s revenue for the July-September period was flat at PHP29.5 billion, with increases in home broadband and corporate data offsetting a 2 per cent decline in mobile service revenue to PHP2.25 billion and a 10 per cent drop in fixed-line voice to PHP898 million.

The two operators, temporarily setting aside their rivalry in an attempt to slow the entry of a third player, in May purchased the telecoms assets of San Miguel Corp and both have rushed to roll out base stations on the 700MHz band to expand coverage and boost capacity.