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Indian 4G users contend with world's slowest speed as data usage surges – Nikkei Asian Review

Indian 4G users contend with world's slowest speed as data usage surges – Nikkei Asian Review

MUMBAI (NewsRise) — India’s fourth-generation mobile internet service continues to be the slowest in the world, a survey by OpenSignal said, as investments in network infrastructure struggled to keep pace with the surging demand for data.

According to a report from the U.K.-based OpenSignal, India ranks the last among 88 countries surveyed over October-December with average download speed less than 10 megabits per second. Still, India featured in the top 15 among the list of countries that have consistent availability of 4G data.

A previous report published by OpenSignal in November had named India at the bottom of 77 countries surveyed between July and September.

“India’s barely getting into the 4G curve over the past one year. India’s internet networks run on the first or second generation of 4G software, whereas countries that top the list use advanced technologies,” said Neil Shah, research director at Counterpoint Research, a telecom consulting firm based in Hong Kong.  Also, the data consumption in India, home to more than a billion mobile phone users, is the highest in the world, Shah said.

According to the OpenSignal report, Singapore offers the highest 4G speed in the world at more than 45 megabits per second, followed by Netherlands and Norway. India’s huge population serves a drag on the country’s average data download speeds, it said.    

Data consumption in India has been surging amid the proliferation of inexpensive smartphones and a sharp decline in tariffs. In 2016, billionaire Mukesh Ambani’s wireless venture Reliance Jio Infocomm rolled out 4G Internet services virtually free for initial subscribers, stirring a price war among telecom operators.  

Jio users consume 10 gigabits of data a month on average, compared with about 2.5 gigabits per subscriber in developed western markets. Jio is charging Indian consumers around $2.5 a month for 10 GB worth of data and unlimited voice calls. In the U.S., Verizon Communications charges users $50 for average 3 GB data, Shah said. 

“Data consumption in India is growing at unprecedented levels. So it will require more bandwidth and more capital expenditure,” he said. 

Jio’s strategy of slashing prices to lure users has eroded the revenue and profit of established mobile phone operators.  The industry’s debt at the end of last fiscal year stood at 4.86 trillion rupees ($75 billion) as companies borrowed heavily to pay for expensive airwaves and fund the network roll out.

To be sure, India’s top mobile phone operators have committed capital investments worth billions of dollars to upgrade network infrastructure. Bharti Airtel, India’s largest mobile phone company, has pledged investments worth $9 billion to upgrade its network infrastructure. Jio is investing $30 billion to roll out and manage its 4G network.

 –Dhanya Ann Thoppil

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