Even with 49Mbps, India to remain way behind in internet race
NEW DELHI: India is eagerly awaiting the launch of Reliance Jio's 4G connection, which promises to offer average internet speed of 49Mbps on the go. This is over 12 times faster than the current average of 4Mbps on the country's 3G networks. In theory, Reliance Jio's 4G network will offer maximum speed of 112Mbps.
Download speed of 49Mbps may seem astounding for those in India, but the country will still lag far behind the leaders in the global internet race.
South Korea, widely acknowledged as the most 'connected' nation in the world, already has the highest broadband internet speed of 53.3Mbps and average speed of 13.3Mbps, according to Akamai.
On mobile networks, South Korea's telecom operator SK Telecom claimed in November that it has achieved maximum internet download speed of 225Mbps on its LTE-Advanced (LTE-A) network. LTE-A is a new technology that allows 50% faster data download over mobile networks.
The speed of up to 225Mbps has been achieved for a demo, though the actual download speed of the network has not yet been announced. The commercial rollout of its service will happen in the second half of 2014, around the same time when Reliance rolls out its 4G network. Even if 225Mbps is taken as the promised maximum speed and not actual speed, it will be twice as fast as Reliance's peak of 112Mbps.
SK Telecom has said that it is waiting for smartphone chips that can support such high download speeds to arrive in the market. Qualcomm's Snapdragon 800 chipset, the most powerful in the world, support maximum actual download speed of 150Mbps.
The South Korean telecom operator also plans to offer download speed of 300Mbps on mobile connections, though it has not given a time frame for this. UK's EE has also reportedly achieved 300Mbps download speed, but has not announced plans for the commercial rollout yet.
When Reliance finally rolls out its 4G network expected by around mid-2014, its highest speed of 112Mbps will also be nearly one-third slower than that of UK-based service provider EE's highest download speed of 300Mbps, the maximum internet speed on a mobile network in the world right now. EE promises average speed of 25-30Mbps across the UK, with speeds as high as 60Mbps in certain cities.
According to latest data compiled by analytics website Speedtest.net, the US town of Ephrata, Washington DC, enjoys average internet speed of 85.54Mbps. However, the national average internet speed of the US is 18.5Mbps only. On mobile networks, the maximum speed in
the country is 58.25Mbps (AT&T 4G), according to data by PCMag.
Google Fiber, the internet titan's pilot broadband internet project, promises maximum speed of 1Gbps (gigabits per second; 1gigabit = 1024 megabits) in the US. However, actual speed delivered in Kansas City under this project is 49.86Mbps, the second highest in US, according to Speedtest.net data.
In Hong Kong too, the peak speed is 65.1Mbps (the highest in the world) and average speed users get is 10.8Mbps. The average 4G mobile download speed, however, in the country is 20Mbps.
Akamai's data dates back to the July-September quarter, and it is likely that the internet speeds would increase by the time Reliance's network rolls out.
Another operator offering 4G broadband in India is Bharti Airtel. The company's network is currently available in cities like Pune, Kolkata
and Bangalore, but it is not available on mobile phones. Airtel 4G offers average download speed of 40Mbps via USB dongles, with the theoretical highest speed claimed to be 100Mbps.
It is, therefore, obvious that India's fastest consumer internet networks will not stand anywhere close to those in the developed markets and will even remain far behind upcoming networks in terms of pure download speeds.
Also, the 3G flop show in India, where only 107 million users (out of an estimated 919 million) use 3G internet on mobile devices, does not bode too well for Reliance's soon-to-be-rolled-out 4G internet. High pricing and poor connectivity due to patchy networks has been one of the biggest stumbling blocks for 3G adoption in India. Thus, Reliance would not only have to maintain a reliable network for its 4G users, but will have to also keep the prices low to promote mass adoption.
With India's burgeoning smartphone market, a number of consumers are likely to spend on high-speed internet on mobile devices for a better user experience, especially since video viewing is expected to be the next big data consumption medium in the country.
However, India can still catch up with the leaders in the internet speed race. The government is working with Israel to develop 5G internet networks, which offer speed of 10Gbps. This technology is still in development across the world, with several companies claiming that it will be ready by 2020.