Airtel leads in 4G speed whereas Jio leads in 4G availability: Open Signal

Airtel leads on speed with 6 Mbps whereas Reliance Jio leads on 4G availability beating all the three operators by at least 27 percentage points

Indian operators are focused on growing 4G LTE’s reach rather than injecting more speed into their 4G services. All of India’s major 4G providers have now crossed the 65% LTE availability threshold, and three of them are now nearing the 70% mark.

Jio is still far ahead of its key rivals in 4G availability, beating all three by at least 27 percentage points in our measurements. The company’s testers were able to find an LTE signal on Jio’s network 96.4% of the time in our latest test period, up from 95.6% in Open Signals’s October report.

Airtel held onto 3G and 4G speed from Jio. Jio, however, remained the closest contender in overall speed due to its high level of 4G access. Jio was able to deliver typical everyday download speeds of 5.1 Mbps compared to Airtel’s 6 Mbps. Airtel dominated in 4G speed nationally whereas Idea bettered Vodafone in both Uttar Pradesh (W) and Uttar Pradesh (E) whereas Vodafone won regional 4G speed awards in Gujarat and Tamil Nadu.

Jio continued to dominate 4G availability metric as Open Signal testers were able to access an LTE signal 96.4% of the time. Such a score is exceptional, reflecting Jio’s commitment to build out a 4G-only network without 3G mobile data services to fall back on. What’s more, Jio’s impressive LTE reach is only improving, though incrementally. In India report in October, Jio’s 4G availability was at 95.6%.

Open Signal saw huge jumps in this metric from Airtel, Idea and Vodafone. In our last report none of these three operators had an LTE availability score higher than 65%. Now all three have surpassed that bar, and two of them — Idea and Vodafone — are closing in on the 70% mark. Airtel demonstrated by far the biggest improvement in 4G reach, boosting its 4G availability by more than 9 percentage points to 66.8%. All the three still have a considerable way to go before they catch up to Jio, which was 27 percentage points clear of its nearest competitor in this metric.

The results show Airtel’s 4G speeds ticked up incrementally, while the other three operators saw their speeds fall off slightly since the last report. Our LTE speed rankings, though, remained the same. Airtel won the 4G speed crown with an average download of 9.3 Mbps, but even the best LTE speed score in India was well below the global 4G download average of 16.9 Mbps recorded in our State of LTE report.

Airtel held onto OpenSignal’s 3G speed award, although since our last report we did see its average HSPA download test decline from 3.6 Mbps to 2.7 Mbps. It wasn’t the only one. Vodafone’s 3G speeds also dropped by nearly a megabit between reports, while Idea experienced a smaller decline in our 3G measurements. Of the four national 3G operators, BSNL was the only one to produce any gains in our measured 3G speeds.

Airtel completed the treble of speed awards by winning our overall speed category, which factors in 4G speed, 3G speed and the availability of each type of network. Airtel’s overall average download of 6 Mbps beat out Jio’s average of 5.1 Mbps in the current report, but we find an interesting contest brewing between the top two operators in this category.

In final set of metrics, Vodafone was staking its flag in a key aspect of network performance: latency. Vodafone won 3G and 4G latency awards outright, as the company found the fastest response times on both its HSPA and LTE connections. Latency is key to real-time communications apps and faster load times in web browsing and media streaming. It’s also becoming increasingly important as Indian operators launch voice-over-LTE services, which depend on low lag times to make conversations comprehensible. Vodafone’s tested 4G latency was 66.4 milliseconds, just beating out Airtel’s score of 70.3 ms. Over 3G connections, we measured Vodafone’s response time at 116.9 ms, which was 10ms faster than its nearest competitor’s result.

In our 18-telecom circle 4G analysis, the company found several operators making their mark in particular states and regions. Keeping with its national form, Airtel won our 4G speed award in 10 of the 18 circles but the speed prizes in the other eight regions were up for grabs. Idea won 4G speed outright in both Uttar Pradesh telecom circles — making a clean sweep of India’s most populous state. Meanwhile Vodafone took the awards in Gujarat and Tamil Nadu. Idea and Vodafone also closely contested several other regions, producing draws for our 4G awards in Bihar, Kerala, Kolkata and West Bengal.

In Kerala, Kolkata, Madhya Pradesh and Orissa, all of the 4G operators analyzed exceeded their national averages, producing speeds notably faster than in the rest of the country. In Madhya Pradesh, Open Signal recorded the fastest average speed of all of the 18 regions: 14.4 Mbps on Airtel’s network. In Bihar and east Uttar Pradesh there was opposite trend in our data as all operators’ 4G speed averages fell short of their national averages. The slowest average speed we recorded across the 18 circles was 3.2 Mbps on Vodafone’s network in west Uttar Pradesh.

Airtel’s best 4G availability scores were in Kolkata and Mumbai, where it rated just below 75%. As one would expect, though, 4G services were more readily accessible in the metro circles than they were in the larger regions. Nearly all of the operators offering services in Delhi, Kolkata and Mumbai racked up higher availability scores in those cities than their national averages — often by 6 percentage points or more. On the flip side, India had several underperforming regions in LTE availability. In Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Orissa, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal, the majority of operators scored below their national availability averages.

OpenSignal measures the real-world experience of consumers on mobile networks as they go about their daily lives. The measurements are collected at all hours of the day, every day of the year, under conditions of normal usage, including inside buildings and outdoors, in cities and the countryside, and everywhere in between. For India specific report, 8,412,910,035 data points were collected from 736,571 users during Dec 1, 2017 – Feb 28, 2018.