India's 4G coverage increasing but data speed lags behind: Report

4G and 5G

Even though 4G coverage is increasing in India and most of the telecom operators providing 4G services have crossed the 65 per cent coverage threshold, there is little improvement in 4G speeds.

As per a report by OpenSignal, a wireless coverage mapping company, Reliance Jio is still far ahead of its key rivals in 4G availability, beating all three (Bharti Airtel, Vodafone and Idea Cellular) by at least 27 percentage points, Airtel has emerged as the winner in terms of data speed.

"In the last six months, we have measured substantial improvements in 4G availability in India, as operators have made access to LTE signals a new priority. 4G speeds, however, remained stagnant, but that could soon change as the wave of consolidation clears the way for new high-capacity networks," OpenSignal said in its State of Mobile Networks: India (April 2018) report.

The report said major operators have gone to great lengths to expand the reach of their 4G services. OpenSignal has compared all the metrics like speed and coverage with its earlier report which came in October 2017. This is the third report by the mapping company tracking state of India's mobile networks.

For its latest report, OpenSignal has analysed data to compare the 4G services of Airtel, Idea, Jio and Vodafone as well as the 3G services of BSNL. As per the findings, Jio continued to dominate 4G availability metric as testers were able to access an LTE signal 96.4 per cent of the time. Airtel's 4G availability stood at 66.8 per cent whereas Vodafone and Idea had 4G availability scores of just over 68 per cent.

"All three still have a considerable way to go before they catch up to Jio, which was 27 percentage points clear of its nearest competitor in this metric," the report said. With most of the operators actively increasing their 4G reach, India has moved into the 85th percentile in LTE availability where it joined high-performing 4G countries like Sweden, Taiwan and Australia.

Though India is making big leaps forward in 4G availability, the same can't be said about 4G speed. "Our results show Airtel's 4G speeds ticked up incrementally, while the other three operators saw their speeds fall off slightly since our last report," OpenSignal said.

As per the report, Airtel's average 4G download speed stood at 9.3 Mbps, but it was well below the global 4G download average of 16.9 Mbps. Jio had an average 4G download speed of 5.13 Mbps in the same period whereas Idea had 7.27 Mbps and Vodafone had 6.98 Mbps. In terms of overall (3G+4G) average download speed, Airtel tops the list with a speed of 6.01 Mbps followed by Jio with 5.13 Mbps. Idea and Vodafone's speed stood at 4.5 Mbps and 4.48 Mbps respectively.

OpenSignal said Airtel's overall average download of 6 Mbps beat out Jio's average of 5.1 Mbps in the current report, but it finds an interesting contest brewing between the top two operators in this category.

"Airtel won overall speed in our first India report only to see Jio claim the prize six months ago. Airtel has always had a big advantage over Jio in our 4G speed metric, but Jio makes up for it with superior 4G availability results. Jio customers simply have access to faster 4G connections far more often than Airtel customers, according to our data," the report said.

OpenSignal said it expects India's major 4G operators will go past the 70 per cent LTE availability mark this year but faster 4G speeds will have to wait for now.

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