Tracking the Jio effect

Today OpenSignal released its latest State of LTE report, comparing 4G speeds and 4G availability in 75 countries around the globe. While we see some interesting overall LTE trends, there is one country that stood out in our data. India shot up our 4G availability charts since we published our November State of LTE report, claiming a spot among the top 20 countries in the world.

Something happened in India that made LTE signals much more widely available to the mobile-data consuming populace, and we have a good idea of what that something was: Reliance Jio’s commercial debut. The operator launched its nationwide LTE network in September 2016, and in the ensuing months Jio has been on a rampage, signing up 100 million subscribers drawn in by its inexpensive and virtually unlimited 4G data plans. Jio’s launch did more than just create more 4G subscribers, it boosted India’s overall 4G availability from 72% to 82% in the six months between our State of LTE reports.

Jio isn’t the only 4G operator in India, of course, but OpenSignal’s recently published India report clearly shows a big gap between it and India’s other national 4G providers when it comes to providing a consistent LTE signal. OpenSignal’s crowdsourced users were able to find an LTE signal on Airtel, Idea and Vodafone 60% of the time or less. Meanwhile our testers were able to connect to Jio’s 4G network more than 90% of the time. That number may seem quite high, but it relates to Jio’s unique situation as a 4G-only operator in India. It’s deployed its LTE infrastructure as an umbrella network, not as an overlay, as it has no 2G or 3G services to fall back on.

But it’s not just Jio’s new network that’s boosting India’s overall 4G availability score. Jio’s enormous subscriber growth — much of it at the expense of its competitors — is amplifying Jio’s impact. Not only does Jio have exceptionally accessible 4G networks, according to our measurements, but Jio’s fast growing share of the Indian 4G market means its customers are having an increasingly bigger say in determining India’s overall results. In India we have one of those rare instances where a single operator is having a dramatic effect on the mobile market in a short space of time.

There is a downside to Jio’s enormously fast ramp up, however. Jio’s emergence has not only caused overall LTE availability in India to rise, but overall 4G speeds to fall. India now sits one above last place in our 75-nation 4G speed analysis, averaging LTE download speeds of 5.2 Mbps, which is well short of the global average of 16.4 Mbps and only marginally better than the global average 3G connection of 4.4 Mbps. In our India report we measured the slowest LTE speeds on Jio’s LTE network, which is likely due to the enormous strain its success is placing on its network. Anytime you add 100 million users to a network and grant them unfettered access to data, speeds are bound to suffer.

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