Network mapping company OpenSignal today rolled out a new metric called ‘average peak download’ speeds for measuring Quality of Service (QoS) standards offered by telcos in India. It defines ‘average peak speeds’ as a measure of 4G ‘experience’ received by the consumer when the network is at full capacity instead of “the typical everyday experience which is often limited by network congestion and other technical factors.” In this way, average peak speed only accounts for the fastest speeds achieved by the operator between a given time period.

MediaNama asked OpenSignal if any of the operators it studies/surveys are its affiliate or advertisers. The company, however, refused to reveal it: “We can’t reveal information about our specific customers, but we do sell our analysis and test data to all kinds of companies and entities, including operators and regulators. We anonymize our data so we only provide information relating to the performance of the mobile connection.

The methodology used and findings

Data was taken from only devices that conducted “multiple automated speed tests in a three-month period” from December 2016 to February 2017. Only the fastest speed test from those devices was considered. For this, the lowest 95% of the results are discarded, leaving only with 5% of the fastest speeds. The average of that top 5% is considered as ‘average peak speed’ metric. Here is what the company claims to have learnt while deploying the metric in India:

  • Top 3 telco’s peak speeds: Peak speeds for Airtel, Idea and Vodafone are four to five times faster than their everyday speeds. This means that there is some amount of slowdown or delay as the network packets reach the user’s end.
  • New entrant’s peaks speeds are higher than top 3 telcos: Jio’s peak average peak speed of 50 Mbps is 13 times faster than its average download speed of 3.9 Mbps. Open Signal added that “Jio’s network is technically capable of delivering far faster speeds than Jio’s customers actually receive. Jio’s network is overloaded. Network congestion slows down Jio connections much more than the connections of other operators.”

Going by Open Signal’s findings, it seems to suggest that Jio has more 4G capacity than Airtel, Idea and Vodafone put together. But due to congestion, networks are slowing down when delivered to the end user. Airtel had an average peak speed rate of 56.9 Mbps and also was the fastest operator with 12 Mbps download speeds. Idea and Vodafone had a download speed of 9 Mbps, while their average peak speeds stood at 29.8 Mbps and 36.5 Mbps. And as pointed above, Jio was the slowest among all (3.9 Mbps).

Why there is huge disparity between peaks speeds and actual speeds

The company mentioned that even though a cellular network might be capable of supporting higher speeds, congestion, interference, distance and other technical factors affect speeds delivered to the end user. Apart from network level issues, “your phone’s processor and the server where your content resides plays a role in determining your internet connection speed,” Open Signal said in a blog post.

For e.g. “if a cellular network’s capacity is 300 Mbps, that capacity has to be shared by every other user connected to a particular tower or cell in the network, so those 300 megabits get divided up among multiple devices,” the company added. This is probably why most cellular operators are advertising packs on the basis of capacity (data usage, no of days, unlimited data, etc.) and not download speeds.

Also Read: Why TRAI’s MySpeed app test results aren’t reliable