4G Network, General Availability And Speed Tests, Reliance And Airtel Close Enough

Reliance Jio, giving a special edge to itself over other telecom companies is the only one to provide consistent 4G network across the country. The network is available in 98.9 per cent of locations across India. The test was carried out for a latest study by the internet analysis website Speedtest. The study was conducted between July and December 2018. It had used data from approximately 250 milion samples on almost 6,00,000 devices. 

Jio, which launched 4G services in September 2016, well after Bharti Airtel (2012) and Vodafone (2015), has been posing a stiff challenge for incumbents. Some experts predict that Jio will have the largest subscriber base out of all mobile operators in India by the end of the 2019-2020 financial year.

Operator 4G availability (%)
Jio 98.8
Airtel 90.0
Vodafone 84.6
Idea 82.8

While 4G availability is limited, the general availability of cellular service in India is much better. Here, too, Jio is the winner.

“Except for a few red spots at the edges of Uttarakhand, Rajasthan, Sikkim, and the Andaman Islands, Jio’s 4G availability map is nearly identical to their general availability map,” Speedtest said.

Operator General availability (%)
Jio 99.3
Airtel 99.1
Vodafone 99.0
Idea 98.9

Sabse tez

But coverage does not equal speed. The study showed that while Jio may rule the roost in terms of cellular and 4G availability, Airtel was the fastest, both in cellular service as well as 4G.

Speedtest measured these metrics using speed score, a “combined measure of download and upload speed that incorporates several tiers of performance.”

Operator Speed score (cellular) Speed score (4G)
Airtel 10.34 11.23
Vodafone 8.19 9.13
Jio 7.11 7.11
Idea 6.2 7.02

Speedtest also studied differences in general and 4G availability across India’s 15 largest cities, as “country-wide averages can hide a lot of information.” When it came to general cellular availability, Airtel showed availability at or over 99% in all of the cities, while Jio had less than 99% coverage in just one city: Jaipur.

Vodafone and Idea performed well, too, but both had distinct weaker spots. Vodafone showed 97.9% in Kolkata, and Idea had 96.6% coverage in Indore. The two service providers merged last august, but retain separate brands.

“While these scores are all good, consistent mobile service is important to quality of life,” Speedtest said. “If a consumer is living in one of the small sections of these cities that are not well served by their mobile operator it could mean they don’t have access to internet at home, school or where they do business.”

When it came to 4G availability, scores were much more varied—except for Jio, which showed near-total coverage in almost all cities. Airtel’s coverage was in the low 90s in several cities.

Vodafone and Idea performed much worse in select cities. The former’s coverage was 75.9% in Hyderabad and 77.5% in Visakhapatnam, and the latter’s was 68.4% in Kolkata and an abysmal 38.8% in Delhi.