Has Kolkata really beaten Singapore and Hong Kong in 4G telephony?

So far as the availability of 4G LTE services are concerned, Kolkata, apparently, fares better than some of the most popular regions like Singapore and Hong Kong. The West Bengal capital, with an overall score of 90.7 per cent, tops not only among the 22 telecom circles of India but leaves behind Hong Kong (90.4 per cent), Singapore (86.6 per cent), Taipei (89.8 per cent) and Kuala Lumpur (80.8 per cent) in terms of 4G coverage, according to a report in UK-based data analytics firm OpenSignal.

What does this really mean? Is it a confirmation of India's unusually improved mobile data performance? If you talk only about 4G LTE coverage, yes perhaps. But coverage is only one part of the overall performance. User experience and efficiency are driven more by the speeds offered. 

India's average 4G download speed of 9.14 Mbps pales when compared with Singapore's 52.84 Mbps and Hong Kong's 29.06 Mbps.

Besides, though India adopted 4G LTE technology in 2012, it was only after the launch of Mukesh Ambani-owned Reliance Jio's telecom services -- the company operates only on 4G technology -- that the country’s 4G LTE coverage improved significantly. Now, the data for India’s 22 telecom circles in the 90 days from the start of May 2018, as analysed by OpenSignal, show that the country’s 4G LTE footprint has grown significantly, and all the circles have more than 80 per cent 4G LTE coverage.

According to the OpenSignal report, Kolkata was the only circle in India with a 4G availability score of over 90 per cent. The other top circles were close behind, with Punjab coming second with 89.8 per cent on this metric, followed by Bihar (89.2 per cent), Madhya Pradesh (89.1 per cent) and Odisha (89 per cent). By comparison, India’s capital Delhi stood 12th with a coverage of 86.73 per cent, closely followed by the financial capital Mumbai (ranked 13th with a 86.65 per cent coverage).

It is important to note that the overall internet penetration in India might have improved, but the mobile internet speed continues to remain sluggish. On this count, India fares quite poorly, and is ranked lower even to neighbours Pakistan and Sri Lanka. According to a report by online speed testing platform Ookla, while the global average mobile download internet speed stood at 22.81 Mbps in July, India's average download speed of 9.14 Mbps was even slower than Pakistan's 12.42 Mbps and Sri Lanka's 16.80 Mbps.

In another recent report, OpenSignal highlighted that Indian operators moved their focus on growing 4G reach rather than improving speeds for their 4G services. According to the report, the overall availability of 4G services increased for every major operator, and all major 4G providers, including Bharti Airtel, Vodafone, Idea and Jio, crossed the 65 per cent LTE availability threshold. However, the 4G download speed of most operators improved only marginally.

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