A report, published by Tutela, a mobile quality measurement company, has revealed that Vodafone and Idea Cellular data networks have several coverage gaps – reflecting the slow growth in their mobile data customer additions.
Vodafone is ranked third in terms of delivering consistent quality mobile data network in India, the report said.
Idea Cellular is placed fourth in terms of delivering consistent quality mobile data network across the country.
This means, Vodafone and Idea customers were experiencing relatively poor quality network when they made an attempt to make a VOIP call, check emails, or use most basic apps. Low investment in network means bad experience for customers when accessing stream HD video or making a video call over their mobile network connection.
Vodafone Idea’s network quality reflects its Capex related spending that reached Rs 1,170 crore in Q3 fiscal 2018-19. It has 387.2 million plus mobile phone subscribers on its 2G, 3G and 4G network in 2018.
The company has 198,000 plus 2G sites and 376,000 plus 3G and 4G sites. Vodafone Idea added 11,241 broadband sites, including 9,066 sites on TDD spectrum to enhance capacity, during the December quarter of 2018.
Vodafone Idea’s 4G subscriber base reached 75.3 million in Q3 fiscal 2018-19 from 65.8 million in Q2 fiscal 2018-19 and 57.4 million in Q1 fiscal 2018-19.
Vodafone Idea’s total mobile data subscriber base reached 146.3 million in Q3 fiscal 2018-19 from 140.1 million in Q2 fiscal 2018-19 and 141.7 million in Q1 fiscal 2018-19.
The report said the merger of Vodafone and Idea will help drive 4G adoption. Both Vodafone and Idea are significantly behind Jio and Airtel when it comes to 4G availability. Merging the networks should help reduce the difference. Vodafone Idea, the merged entity, will have more capital to spend on 4G upgrades.
At present, Vodafone relies much more heavily on 3G for its coverage, particularly in rural areas. Though Vodafone covers India’s largest urban areas with 4G, it falls back onto 3G for rural coverage. 3G accounts for 35 percent of all tests on Vodafone’s network. Vodafone has significant gaps in coverage where neither 3G nor 4G is available.
Idea’s 3G network plays a significant role outside of major population centers. Idea also has areas of the country in which it has no coverage at all.
Tutela’s data shows that the combined Vodafone Idea network will have much better 4G availability and fewer dark spots compared to the two operators working alone, which will help the combined network compete with Reliance and Jio.
Idea Cellular and Vodafone had the best 4G upload speeds, of 4.7 Mbps and 4.5 Mbps respectively.
Vodafone and Idea Cellular both have great 3G upload speeds, with an average of 1.9 Mbps. This means a significant number of 3G connections have upload speeds good enough to do things like conduct HD video calls. BSNL also had good 3G upload speeds — 1.7 Mbps — which is particularly important, since the majority of its network is built on 3G.
Airtel has 4G coverage in almost everywhere, meaning that customers are only rarely stuck with a 3G connection. Airtel’s 3G or 4G network coverage report shows it has only a handful of regions with significant dark spots.
Jio 4G coverage dark spots are mostly limited to the Chhattisgarh and Odisha regions. The report said coverage of Jio’s 4G network can partly be attributed to its use of low-band 850 MHz spectrum band.