A new report suggests that Reliance Jio customers are opting to use their 4G connection even when there is a WiFi hotspot available, showcasing the dominance, reliability, and speed of the 4G coverage from Jio.
The report from OpenSignal highlights how the Indian government is looking at ways of enhancing the public WiFi network within the country to provide coverage to 250,000 Panchayats (local administrative offices) and 5000 railway stations within the next two years. The reason for the investment in the WiFi coverage is a belief that a 10% increase in Internet penetration can generate a 1.4% increase in GDP.
However, with Reliance Jio transforming the telecoms market and making data more affordable, this has driven substantial improvement in coverage in 4G across the country. As competitors scramble to combat the progress Reliance Jio is making, efforts focusing on WiFi have somewhat depleted as the race for 4G hots up.
However, OpenSignal does note in the report that “Wifi networks don’t get the same amount of interest in the subcontinent, as the evolution of telecoms has somewhat skipped the fixed-broadband stage of development and raced straight onto 4G. Nonetheless, there are a significant number of Wifi users in India connecting at home or work, while publicly-accessible Wifi is becoming more and more important as data use increases.”
The data, which covers the 90 days from March 1, 2018, shows that of India’s four biggest mobile operators, users on Vodafone spend the most time connected to Wifi networks, at 20% of the time. This was followed by Airtel with 17%, Idea on 15%, and Jio at 7%. The low use of WiFi by Jio customers can be easily attributable to the fact that the network registers an impressive 96.4% 4G coverage. When 4G is available, it seems that Jio customers are simply choosing not to connect to WiFi. Conversely, because of the coverage of the other operators’ usage of WiFi sees an obvious increase as consumers battle with network blackspots and bottlenecks.
OpenSignal also states in its report the low usage of WiFi could be down to lower penetration of home broadband.
While Wifi connectivity in India is growing, it is still well below more developed markets such as the U.S. where we have measured Wifi connectivity around the 50% mark. One of the key reasons for the relatively low Wifi connectivity in India is the limited penetration of home broadband. In Europe in particular, large numbers of subscribers buy their mobile, broadband, and TV services from one operator. But this business model is simply not affordable for most Indians, so the operators have largely chosen to concentrate on mobile as opposed to fixed-line networks. This is reflected in the low penetration of home broadband connectivity in the country. This may also explain why our users on Jio’s mobile network spend significantly less time on Wifi compared to its rivals, since the operator has only just launched its JioFiber home broadband service.
Despite the use of WiFi currently lower than expected, the report continues to suggest that it may not always be the case, even for Jio consumers. It estimates that despite the excellent coverage, as data services become more popular, congestion will begin to play a factor as consumers battle for bandwidth. WiFi may be, therefore, the only option to access data services despite having good coverage.
This is backed up further by OpenSignal’s report as it highlights that despite India being one of the top 20 countries for 4G availability, it has one of the slowest LTE speeds. Consequently, WiFi could be the answer to relieve the stress on an LTE network that is clearly experiencing growth that it cannot sustain.