Airtel rising in India as Jio growth continues: OpenSignal, Tutela

OpenSignal still scores Jio as the best in 4G availability and Airtel in download speeds, while Tutela found Airtel to be the provider with the highest excellent consistent quality across six of India’s 10 largest cities.

While Reliance Jio is continuing to "astound", rival carrier Airtel is starting to grow across all segments, according to two independent analyses on India's mobile telecommunications markets.

An OpenSignal report -- India Mobile Network Experience Report: April 2019 -- ranked Jio as the winner across both 4G availability and lowest latency, while Airtel won on video experience and download speed experience, and Idea on upload speed experience.

Jio's 97.5% 4G availability score was trailed by more than 10 percentage points, with Airtel following at 85.6%, and Idea and Vodafone sitting at around 77%. Its win in latency was also by a high margin; its score of 62.5 was followed by around 70 for Airtel and Vodafone, and 84 for Idea.

"Jio continues to astound, growing its 4G Availability to 97.5% -- the highest national score we have ever recorded. But Airtel showed the greatest growth in this category, as its average score jumped by over 10 percentage points," OpenSignal said in its report.

"Jio's rivals haven't been complacent; we've seen some impressive growth across all of our metrics, with Airtel's download speed increases worthy of particular mention. And we expect to see this growth continue as the Indian mobile market matures."

OpenSignal also noted that the merger of Vodafone and Idea will additionally bring more competition to Jio.

Airtel increased its lead in download speeds, OpenSignal added, with a score of almost 9, while Jio, Vodafone, and Idea scored between 5.4 and 6.3.

However, Airtel's victory in video experience was less decisive; Airtel scored 44% for video, while Jio sat just behind it on 42% and Vodafone and Idea on 41%.

Airtel and Vodafone-Idea are now focused on improving their 4G networks while Jio works towards 5G.

"A recent report from Deloitte has estimated that the total investment required to cover India with 5G would be a staggering $70 billion, partly because the country lacks widespread fibre backhaul infrastructure necessary for high-capacity networks," OpenSignal explained.

"It's possible that India will see consumer 5G next year, but initial launches are likely to be limited to key urban areas, while the high cost of 5G devices is likely to make them prohibitive for the majority of Indians."

For its report, OpenSignal took more than 20 billion data measurements from almost 5.5 million devices between December 1, 2018, and February 28, 2019.

A report from Tutela, meanwhile -- India network experience across the largest 10 cities: April 2019 -- showed that Hyderabad has the most consistent excellent quality mobile networks, while India's largest city of Mumbai has the highest download speeds, at 7.6Mbps on average.

According to Tutela, New Delhi came second on average speeds at 7.2Mbps, followed by Chennai and Bengaluru on 7Mbps; Hyderabad on 6.8Mbps; Kolkata on 6.5Mbps; and Jaipur, Pune, Surat, and Ahmedabad all sitting around 6Mbps.

The best network providers differed across cities, with Tutela saying Airtel was best in the highest number -- Hyderabad, Mumbai, New Delhi, Ahmedabad, Surat, and Pune -- while Jio was best in Kolkata and Jaipur; Vodafone in Bengaluru; and Idea in Chennai.

"While Vodafone and Idea's networks have continued to operate independently since the finalisation of a merger last year, these results provide a small indication as to how complementary the two brands may prove to be to each other," Tutela said in its report.

In terms of the rivalry between Airtel and Jio, the former pulled ahead of Jio in New Dehli, Hyderbad, Mumbai, and Ahmedabad on both average download speeds and consistent quality, and only lost to Jio in Bengaluru on both metrics.

"By operator, Airtel was the clear winner with the highest excellent consistent quality in six of the 10 cities tested including Mumbai and New Delhi," Tutela said in its report.

Tutela's report collected over 34 billion network quality measurements including speed and latency tests between February 1, 2019, and March 31, 2019.

The previous OpenSignal report on Indian mobile telecommunications in November had called Jio "remarkable" and "hugely impressive" with its rapid rate of customer growth.

Earlier this week, Jio announced surpassing 300 million customers, clocking in at 306.7 million digital services subscribers by the end of the fourth quarter of FY19. During the quarter, it added 26.6 million net customers and during the year, it added 120 million.

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