Credit Suisse’s Research and Analytics has released its assessment of Reliance Jio’s 4G field trials: Reliance has issued connections to employees/friends.
In what is likely to be a worrying development for incumbent telecom operators like Airtel, Vodafone and Idea Cellular, Credit Suisse has said that calls over Jio connections work as well as regular phone calls.
1. Data downloads
– Mostly 15-30 Mbps download speeds, even on the move. Peak download speed was 70Mbps during the trials.
– In comparison, Airtel 4G gave 10-20Mbps (often slower than Jio), and 3G network speeds of sub 2Mbps (peak 7 Mbps).
According to Credit Suisse, “There is no doubt that speeds will fall once a commercial launch happens and more users get on to the network.”
— Jonathan Bill (@jonsonbill) December 14, 2015
2. Call connectivity:
– Perfect interconnection with other telecom operators, and
– No difference between a call over the LTE network versus a circuit switched call.
– Calls worked in shopping malls, office buildings, marketplaces, train stations and while travelling at high speed on a highway (80 kmph speeds over a 5 min call duration). “The only place we found signal strength drop low (voice call not going through) was in high rise parking area of a mall (here only Vodafone was available – the Mumbai market leader).”
According to Credit Suisse: “We found quite a few coverage holes in Airtel’s 4G network, but between 4G and 3G fall back, Airtel’s coverage was similar to Jio.”
Last month, during its earnings conference call, Airtel had said that it had sought to own “the whole 4G position”. It became the first operator to launch 4G pan-India, in 334 towns across India. “We have the widest spectrum footprint across the country. There is 4G at 3G prices, along with bundled offers across data and voice,” its CEO Gopal Vittal had said.
Note that Reliance Jio wants, for VoIP based calling:
- Setting up Lawful Interception and Monitoring (LIM) systems.
- Verification and authentication of consumers of telecom services.
- Providing necessary facilities for continuous monitoring of the system, not employing any bulk encryption equipment and taking prior evaluation and approval of Licensor for any encryption equipment for specific requirements
- Providing decryption keys to the Government.
- Restriction on switching of domestic calls/ messaging from outside the country.
- Maintaining call detail record/ Internet protocol detail record (IPDR) for Internet including Internet Telephony Service for a minimum period of one year.
3. Handset availability:
– The cheapest recommended phone currently is the Intex Aqua 4G (around $130, which in Rupee terms is Rs 8700).
– Handset availability is limited in the beta phase with only 20 models recommended for full VoLTE functionality (starting $130). This includes RJio’s own ‘Lyf’ branded phones (made by ZTE with Qualcomm Chipset).
– “The other OEMs currently supported include Samsung, LG, Lenovo and ZTE (specific models in each). While this range and pricepoint of handset models is underwhelming for a market like India, we believe more handsets across vendors and pricepoints will be supported in coming weeks.”
In its earnings conference call, Airtel had said that “The 4G ecosystem has suddenly switched over. Two quarters ago, a million handsets were being shipped on 4G. Last quarter it was close to 5 (million), and we believe that this quarter it will be close to 10 million. The ecosystem is evolving rapidly.”…”As devices have started moving, quite rapidly, with pricing of devices falling to Rs 5000, and we believe that very quickly, there will be devices under Rs 5000 as well”…”Devices are coming in with (both) 2300 MHz and 1800 MHz chipsets.”
Much more here.
4. Rural coverage:
– 120km outside Mumbai (in multiple directions), they got seamless call experience along main highways. Into village roads, they lost signal within 5-6 kms (happened 3-4 times at various points). “At these points, Airtel was usually on 2G and Vodafone 3G/ 2G.”
– “we believe RJio’s first phase rollout is primarily urban focused – where the company has matched up with incumbents on coverage – but there is not much rural focus. This is understandable since rural areas account for less than 35% of industry revenues (and even lower share of data revenues). Until the rural network is fixed, RJio could enter into roaming agreements with other operators (RCOM/Aircel etc). We suspect Jio would use sub-1GHz spectrum for rural coverage (850MHz/700Mhz).”
Credit Suisse points out that a perception that voice calls over IP networks are still “perceived to be one of the weakest links in Rjio’s strategy” by some, especially because of its reliance on 2300 MHz. Since the call quality wasn’t very different from regular networks, and this addresses those concerns. Essentially, VoIP doesn’t face significant problems over WiFi networks, and the issue is usually that of latency, when it exists, over both wireline and WiFi networks.
MediaNama readers must bear in mind that these tests were done at a time when there isn’t significant stress on the networks, and the issue could be about pings on the networks. I’m reminded of what one Airtel executive said during a media interaction, while showcasing the Airtel NOC in Manesar, about the issue at the Gurgaon Toll booth (when it was operational): the networks often struggled during peak hours not because of high usage, but because the thousands of handsets were pinging base stations for multiple types of information repeatedly, all at the same time. Apart from this, bandwidth hasn’t been stretched to capacity with video downloads. Credit Suisse, however, believes that coverage should not be too different if the same tests were conducted with a fully utilized network, since “cell radius shrinkage with more users for 4G (OFDMA) networks is unlikely to be as dramatic as 3G (WCDMA).”