It’s a multibillion dollar industry, and it rests heavily on one question – internet speeds.
Several independent organizations and consultancies have ranked Indian telecom operators on their speeds, but now TRAI, the government’s telecom regulatory body, has come out with its own report. It uses crowdsourced data from consumers of telecom service providers during speed tests, and aggregates it by technology and region. The data sets seems to be impressively large – for instance, the set looks at 3 million speed tests done on the Jio network to arrive at its results.
And the results are quite telling. In January 2017, it wasn’t Jio with its claims of revolutionary speeds that was the fastest telecom operator – it was Airtel, closely followed by Idea and Vodafone. Jio languished at fourth place.
Jio had performed exceptionally well in December, when its speeds had touched 18 Mbps, putting it head and shoulders above the competition. But January saw it return to the levels it had maintained over the last few months; Airtel and the others meanwhile surged, and dislodged it from the top spot.
In the 3G space, Vodafone emerged as the fastest provider with speeds of 4.8 Mbps. Airtel, which had led for most of 2016, slipped to fourth position.
Certain patterns emerge from the data – there isn’t much to choose between the top operators. The fastest 4G speeds n January were on Airtel at 11.86 Mbps; the other 3 players clustered around the same area, and Jio brought up the rear at 8.3 Mbps. In the 3G space, the top operators were even closer together – Vodafone was the fastest with average download speeds of 4.8 Mbps, while Airtel was third with 4.4 Mbps. BSNL and Reliance (not Jio) were the laggards in the 3G and 4G space respectively, with speeds significantly lower than those of the top operators.
This is exactly why the telecom industry is such a price sensitive market, and players are slashing costs and providing free offers to win marketshare – apart from some regional variations, the top operators provide roughly similar services. This puts players with deep pockets at an immediate advantage – Jio has managed to make inroads into the industry based on free data, not necessarily because of faster speeds.