India is poised to become a full-grown 4G nation in 2018, according to a report by OpenSignal. Crisil predicts that data penetration in India will double (80 per cent) by 2020, compared to 40 per cent currently. The growth has been largely attributed to the entry of Reliance Jio, given users were able to access its LTE signals 91.6% of the time within six months of launch.
According to the report, Jio’s scores were the highest as no other mobile operator managed to score higher than 60 per cent in the tests. Even with improvements over next six months, rivals like Vodafone, Airtel, and Idea could not close in against Jio, which provided LTE signal at 95.6 per cent of the time in the same test period.
One of the major reasons for the boost in 4G connections is introduction of free voice calls and affordable data plans by telecom operators. The launch of low-cost 4G smartphones is likely to help people get people connected as well.
To give a perspective, 4G data accounted for 3.9 million terabytes out of total data usage of 4.2 million TBs, during the quarter ending June 2017. According to TRAI, this is 500-fold increase in 4G data usage from a year ago when it stood at 8,050 TBs.
India – the second largest telecom market in the world – is ahead of countries like Sweden, Taiwan, Switzerland, the UK when it comes to LTE availability. In India, “users were able to connect to an LTE signal over 84 per cent of the time, a rise of over 10 percentage points from a year earlier”.
“While LTE availability saw a meteoric rise, the same cannot be said of 4G speeds. In our latest State of LTE report, India occupied the lowest spot among the 77 countries we examined, with average download speeds of 6.1 Mbps, over 10 Mbps lower than the global average,” the report points out.
People in India experience a drop in average download speeds during 2017, thanks to network congestion. As more and more users subscribed to 4G services, the networks experienced congestion, which resulted in slower download speeds across networks.
Low-cost data prices will continue to attract people to 4G next year as well, though Jio could increase its prices. “In addition, the expected consolidation of the telecom market will likely lead to several operators combining their spectrum holdings, which could provide India the necessary boost in speed,” the report reads.