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Airtel tops download speeds, while Jio tops network availability: Open Signal

Bharti Airtel is the fastest operator in India with a 4G download speed of 11.5 Mbps, while Reliance Jio topped in 4G network availability, wireless coverage mapping firm Open Signal said in its State of Mobile Networks: India 2017 report. The report added that Airtel topped download speeds in both 3G and 4G segment. The telco’s speed was “3 Mbps faster than the results we measured on its nearest rivals Vodafone and and Idea,” the report added.

However, TRAI’s latest speed test results claimed that Jio is the fastest operator with an average speed of 16 Mbps, while Airtel’s speed was just at around 7.66 Mbps. A recent Ookla sponsored report also said that Airtel was the fastest operator, but Jio had challenged these claims with the advertising regulator ASCI.

The huge disparity between these reports is due the sample size or number of users/devices surveyed. Open Signal’s latest report claims to have collected data from 93,464 users with more than 1 billion data points. TRAI’s speed results depend upon the number of users performing speed tests using the TRAI MySpeed app. As of now, the app has over 1 million downloads on Google Play. Ookla’s speed test results also depend upon individual user tests, but the company did not mention the sample size when it put out the report.

Speeds are still slow: Open Signal

Although telcos in India continue to invest into network expansion, Open Signal added that “India’s 4G speeds are still quite low”. “In our speed analysis, all of India’s operators fell well short of the 17.4 Mbps global average for 4G download speed,” the company added. Akamai also pointed out that only 38% of connections it surveyed in India were above the 4 Mbps threshold while the country was still 2nd lowest in the Asia-Pacific region with an average speed of 5.6 Mbps. South Korea had the highest average speed of 26.1 Mbps, according to Akamai.

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On Jio’s LTE network availability and competition

During the launch, Reliance Jio had touted its network as a 4G-only network which depends on LTE for voice transmission. Following this, rival operators have been focusing more on 4G. In fact, Airtel, which is the biggest operator in terms of subscribers, had a 4G presence in only 15 circles in March 2016, before Jio’s entry into the market. After Jio’s entry, Airtel expanded 4G to all 22 circles, with the latest being Jammu and Kashmir.

Open Signal said in its report that although Jio didn’t top 4G speeds, its LTE signal was available 91.6% of the time, which is apparently higher than global standards. “In comparison, no other Indian operator scored higher than 60% in our availability tests,” Open Signal added. The report said that Airtel, Vodafone, and Jio were the only operators in the country which had 4G network coverage in the “most economically important regions” of the country. These include metro cities like Delhi and Mumbai, Bengaluru and Chennai.

On 3G speeds in India

Airtel and Vodafone topped 3G speeds respectively with 4.7 Mbps and 4.3 Mbps average download speed. While Anil Ambani-led RCOM came last in 3G speeds with an average download speed of just 2.6 Mbps. “BSNL and Idea landed in the middle of our 3G chart, each with a measured average download of 3.4 Mbps,” Open Signal added. Vodafone topped the charts in terms of network latency, i.e. the time taken for a packet to travel from Node A to Node B, measured in milliseconds. Vodafone had an average network latency of 54.3 milliseconds on 4G and 83.7 milliseconds on 3G.

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