India’s good LTE availability does not guarantee a great mobile video experience

Key takeaways:

India’s mobile operators have been successful in making 4G LTE widely available across India. 4G availability experienced by smartphone users ranges from 82.6% in the Kerala region to an impressive 90.9% in Kolkata, demonstrating that most of the time smartphone users are connected to 4G networks.

But a great mobile video experience does not correlate with the high 4G availability. The linear correlation between 4G availability and mobile video experience is just 0.11 on a scale where a score near 1, or -1, would indicate a strong positive or negative correlation between the two measures.

Mobile video streaming suffers from any weak links in delivery. To score highly on mobile video experience, operators must be able to support a consistent end-to-end performance across their infrastructure. Simply having a good LTE radio signal is not enough. It’s critical there are no weak links anywhere or the consumer mobile video experience will suffer.  

Smartphone users enjoy the best mobile video experience in Mumbai, Tamil Nadu, Delhi, Kolkata and, Jammu and Kashmir, with scores over 41 on OpenSignal’s new mobile video experience measure. Additionally, it’s noticeable that both Kerala, and Jammu and Kashmir, rate much more highly for mobile video experience than they do compared with other regions for 4G availability, demonstrating that good 4G availability is not a guide to a reliable mobile video experience.

India’s four most populated cities offer smartphone users a better mobile video experience than seventeen of the twenty-two regions OpenSignal assessed. But there is little difference in the mobile video experience of Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, and Hyderabad’s smartphone users.

India’s regions have achieved extremely high 4G availability

Mobile operators across India have been successful in making 4G LTE widely available. In all regions of India, smartphone users spend the vast majority of their time connected to 4G networks. When 3G mobile broadband is included too, only in Kerala, the North-East, Maharashtra, and Jammu and Kashmir do smartphone users spend less than 90% of their time not connected to a mobile broadband-capable network or with no signal at all. The arrival of Reliance Jio has boosted 4G LTE adoption across India and spurred other operators to respond to Jio’s innovation and disruptive strategy.

Given the size of India, it’s impressive to achieve such high 4G availability of over 80% in every region. India will soon have the largest population, overtaking China — in 2017, India’s  population was 1.34 billion, compared with China’s 1.39 billion. But population is not the only difficult factor affecting Indian operators in expanding their networks.

India is also a large country with the seventh largest surface area in the world —a staggering 3.29 million square kilometers. Only Russia, Canada, China, USA, Brazil and Australia have a larger area for mobile networks to reach. But unlike many of those countries, there are few true wilderness areas within India. As a result, to reach the whole population, India’s operators must deploy their networks even more widely than in larger countries.

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But a great mobile video experience needs more than LTE availability

Unfortunately, a high availability of 4G networks does not automatically translate to a great mobile network experience for smartphone users. OpenSignal investigated the mobile video experience across India and discovered there is no link, or correlation, between the time smartphone users spend on 4G — 4G availability — and the quality of the mobile video experience they enjoy. The linear correlation between 4G availability and video experience is just 0.11 on a scale where a score near 1, or -1, would indicate a strong positive or negative correlation between the two measures.

This is because mobile video experience depends on many other factors, beyond just the radio access network, which is what 4G availability measures. To deliver a great mobile video experience requires a fantastic end-to-end effort which includes: the cell towers’ mobile radio; the backhaul links from the towers which transport the video traffic; each operator’s core network; and the peering to the content delivery network (CDN) or streaming server where the original video is hosted.

Even more importantly, for a high video experience score this end-to-end effort must be consistently good. For example, if the network suffers interruptions, or congestions, then the video stream will stall and damage the mobile video experience for consumers.

OpenSignal’s innovative mobile video experience measure enables consumers and operators to assess the real-world experience of watching mobile video. To succeed with a high score, operators must ensure there are no weak links anywhere in their infrastructure which could affect mobile video delivery to smartphone users.

Video experience differs greatly across regions

Smartphone users enjoy the best mobile video experience in Mumbai, Tamil Nadu, Delhi Telecom Circle, Kolkata, and Jammu and Kashmir. The differences between the regions are greater than those for 4G availability. Additionally, it’s noticeable that both Kerala, and Jammu and Kashmir, rate much more highly for mobile video experience than they do compared with other regions for 4G availability.

A first-of-its-kind measurement in the mobile industry, OpenSignal’s video experience metric is derived from an International Telecommunication Union (ITU)-based approach for measuring video quality. Our tests sample video at multiple resolutions accessed from multiple content providers, and they weigh three main criteria: the load time before the video begins playing, the stalling rate characterized by stops and stutters in the video playback, and the level of picture resolution.

We measure video experience on a scale from 0 to 100 — the higher the score, the better the video experience. Furthermore, we divide those scores into ranges to determine their rating. A score that falls within 75-100 is Excellent, 65-75 is Very Good, 55-65 is Good, 40-55 is Fair and 0-40 is poor. An Excellent score is a big achievement indeed, meaning fast load times and practically non-existent stalling at all resolutions.

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Smartphone users in India’s largest cities have a similar video experience

Across India’s four most populated cities there is little difference in the overall mobile video experience. However, with scores over 41, these cities all offer smartphone users a better mobile video experience than seventeen of the regions OpenSignal has assessed.

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If you’re a smartphone user in India, we’d love to hear about your mobile video experience. Have you noticed any trends in your everyday video viewing over the last year? Let us know in the comments below.

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