OpenSignal has released its report on overall mobile data download speeds in India, from May 2017 to February 2018. The results are relatively surprising, with Jio seeing a drop in speeds from its peak in August last year before plateauing from December to February. The other three leading operators in the country, Airtel, Vodafone, and Idea, saw a different progression in this period, seeing a rise in mobile data speeds from September last year all the way till February. Of course, the biggest difference between Jio and the rest is that Jio is a 4G-only operator, while the rest also offer 3G and 2G networks to users.
According to OpenSignal's Kevin Fitchard, the increase in overall download speeds for Airtel, Idea, and Vodafone was not due to an increase in actual speeds, but rather an increase in 4G LTE availability in the country. "The first thing we notice is that through the summer of 2017 overall speeds for Airtel, Idea and Vodafone were all relatively steady, but in September something happened that starts sending their overall download averages upwards. What we're seeing isn't an increase in LTE speeds or even 3G speeds - both metrics stayed relatively static over the last year. Instead, the three operators began expanding the reach of their LTE networks. Our 4G availability scores for all three operators increased significantly for all three operators in those 10 months. As more customers had access to faster LTE connections more often, overall speeds for Airtel, Idea, and Vodafone increased accordingly," Fitchard wrote in the report.
OpenSignal goes on to note that Airtel and Idea saw the most dramatic improvements in overall speeds, jumping up by almost a megapbit between May 2017 and February 2018. On the other hand, Jio's drop in speeds from August to February is attributed to subscribers consuming the "new bandwidth" that the company put in place in May and helped it stay on top of the charts till December. The new bandwidth or speed boost in in May was likely thanks to network upgrades that boosted capacity on LTE networks, OpenSignal speculates. Notably, OpenSignal's results are in line with the most recent of TRAI's MySpeed app speed rankings, which also showed a continued decline in Jio download speeds.
"It will be fascinating to see how this race in overall speed between Jio and Airtel plays out in the coming year. If Jio can pull another 4G network upgrade out of its hat, it could once again boost its overall speeds beyond Airtel's. But Airtel isn't sitting still. As it improves its network reach, bringing LTE connections to customers more often, its overall speed will likely continue to climb. In short: Jio's growth in overall speed will almost certainly come in big spurts, while Airtel's growth will probably be much more steady. And let's not discount Vodafone and Idea. Any improvement in 4G speed or 4G availability for either operator will help them close the overall speed gap created by the two leaders," Fitchard added.
Is the Reliance Jio effect spreading to postpaid connections in India? We discussed this on Orbital, our weekly technology podcast, which you can subscribe to via Apple Podcasts or RSS, download the episode, or just hit the play button below.