In a three month analysis ending on early 29 February 2020, Opensignal reported that among telecom operators in India, Airtel leads in most metrics for wireless internet access quality. On a national level, Airtel led in metrics that measured video streaming quality, download speed, internet calling and latency; Vodafone was in the lead in upload speeds only, while Jio was number one when it came to availability and coverage of 4G. The last one makes sense since Jio’s network is only 4G/LTE to begin with, and does not have legacy 3G/2G components.
Opensignal measures these statistics by collecting data from users who have installed their app, which provides speed tests and wireless carrier coverage maps.
The report does not discuss the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on mobile networks, as this started on March. However, Opensignal said that WiFi usage has actually decreased among its users even though more Indians have been at home throughout the day, indicating boosted use of wireless networks.
Overall experience remains low
Though all three major carriers have upgraded their networks intensively since Jio’s entry, the overall user experience remains average, per Opensignal’s measurements.
- In video streaming, no telco crossed a score of even 60 out of 100 — 55 is what is considered ‘Good’ (after ‘Fair’), and Airtel and Vodafone barely made the cut, while Jio ran short. “A Fair rating is characterized by sluggish load times and frequent stalling, most notably on higher resolutions,” Opensignal noted.
- Even on voice calling, which uses very little data, telcos were, at best, ‘Acceptable’, with no carrier rated ‘Excellent’, ‘Very Good’, or even ‘Good’.
- In latency, telcos ranged from 54 to 73 milliseconds, which is not too bad, but higher than the 50ms average that is usually seen on 4G networks.
- Legacy telcos suffered enormously when it came to 4G coverage experience, with Vodafone/Idea scoring 4/4.5, and Airtel scoring 6.8, on a scale of ten.
- BSNL’s performance was the poorest across all metrics.
Even still, Opensignal says that the pressure of Jio’s network has led to improvements in legacy telcos’ networks. “The two incumbent operators Airtel and Vodafone Idea have been deploying technologies deploying technologies such as Dynamic Spectrum Re-farming (DSR), spectrum re-farming from 3G to 4G, M-MIMO, L900, TDD and small cells to close the existing 4G gap with Jio. We can see some notable changes in our measurements as a result of these initiatives,” the report said.