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Availability of 4G not equivalent to great mobile streaming experience: OpenSignal report

OpenSignal surveyed 22 regions in India to ascertain the quality of mobile video streaming in the regions. Among the 22 regions were the four most populated cities Delhi, Hyderabad, Mumbai and Bangalore, and other regions including (but not limited to) Kolkata, Tamil Nadu, and Jammu & Kashmir, Maharashtra, North-east India. 

The report reflected high 4G connectivity in 22 surveyed regions, but found no link between 4G connectivity and quality mobile video streaming. It notes that mobile video streaming banks on not just 4G network, but seamless functioning of other factors. Moreover, the report finds that mobile video streaming varies considerably across regions, despite 4G network remaining largely the same.

Here are some key takeaways from the report. 

4G coverage is relatively high

  • Every region in India has 4G availability of over 80%.
  • 4G availability experienced by smartphone users ranges from 82.6% in the Kerala to 90.9% in Kolkata.
  • The launch of Reliance Jio boosted 4G adoption across the country, and compelled other operators to deal with (and respond to) Jio’s disruptive practices.
  • When 3G and 4G connectivity were combined, smartphone users from Kerala, North-East, Maharashtra, and Jammu & Kashmir spent 90% of their time connected to a mobile broadband-capable network.
  • Only five other countries — Russia, Canada, China, USA, Brazil and Australia — have a larger surface area for mobile networks to reach. But due to patches of wilderness, telecom operators in India have to deploy their networks wider than the above-mentioned countries.

4G connectivity unrelated to high quality mobile video streaming

  • Small correlation: There is no link or correlation between time smartphone users spent on 4G networks and quality of mobile video streaming.
    • The linear correlation between 4G connectivity and mobile video streaming experience is just 0.11 on a scale where 1 would represent a strong positive correlation.
  • 4G connectivity measures radio access networks, but mobile video experience depends on other factors like the cell towers’ mobile radio; the backhaul links from the towers which transport the video traffic; each operator’s core network; and the peering to the content delivery network (CDN) or streaming server where the original video is hosted.
  • For mobile video streaming to be of high quality, the end-to-end operations of and between the above must be consistently good. If the network suffers interruptions or congestion, then the video stream will stall and reduce the mobile video experience. 
  • Therefore, simply having a good LTE radio signal is not enough. It’s critical there are no weak links anywhere.

Video experience differs greatly across regions

  • Smartphone users enjoy the best mobile video experience in Mumbai, Tamil Nadu, Delhi Telecom Circle, Kolkata, and Jammu and Kashmir.
  • Delhi, Hyderabad, Mumbai and Bangalore scored over 41 with little variation between them. All four cities offer better mobile video experience than 17 of the 22 regions surveyed.
  • The difference in mobile video streaming quality is greater than differences in 4G connectivity. Note that Kerala and Jammu & Kashmir rate higher on 4G connectivity than other surveyed regions. 

The methodology

OpenSignal’s metric for mobile streaming experience is based on the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) approach for measuring video quality. It tested sample videos at multiple resolutions accessed from multiple content providers/platforms. The video quality metric focused on three main criteria:

  • Load time before the video begins playing,
  • Stalling rate, characterised by stops and stutters in the video playback, and
  • Picture resolution

Based on the above metrics, OpenSignal measured video experience on a scale of 0 to 100. The spectrum was divided into ranges to determine a rating.

  • 75-100 = Excellent
  • 65-75 = Very Good
  • 55-65 = Good
  • 40-55 = Fair
  • 0-40 = Poor

An “Excellent” score implies fast load times and practically non-existent stalling at all resolutions.

Read OpenSignal’s analysis of their report here.

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