India smartphone users are unhappy due to low 5G speed

The latest Opensignal report indicated that Indian smartphone users could feel the pressure due to low 5G download speeds though there’s an increase in the 5G availability.

India 5G download Q1 2024 Opensignal report

The report says 5G download speed decreased significantly from 304Mbps in Q1 2023 to 280.7Mbps in Q4 2023 — resulting into more unhappiness — as 5G data consumption increased. India has around 250 million 5G customers on the network of Reliance Jio and Bharti Airtel.

Both Reliance Jio and Bharti Airtel are generating data revenue from 5G smartphone customers though they do not offer adequate speed on their 5G networks in several locations including rural areas in India, according to customers.

Opensignal says there is a significant drop in 5G download speeds across all hours of the day, with a greater decline during peak hours (9 pm-12 am) in Q1 2024 compared to Q1 2023. Indian 5G users are receiving 5G speed at the cost of 4G since Airtel and Reliance Jio are yet to increase their tariff on 5G data plans.

Despite rolling out a 5G standalone access network, Jio’s 5G performance has been negatively impacted as its 5G network traffic, number of 5G users and 5G Availability have been growing at a faster rate than Airtel’s.

The latest TRAI report said data consumption using 5G surged to 12.6 percent in Q4 2023, corresponding to 6239 petabytes.

Reliance Jio, the #1 telecom operator in India, has reported that its 5G traffic is now approaching 30 percent of the mobility data traffic.

The number of 5G customers at Reliance Jio increased to 180 million, with the majority being Jio True5G at 108 million. Airtel’s 5G Plus subscriber base reached 72 million.

GSMA Intelligence predicts that the number of 5G connections in India will grow further, exceeding 260 million in Q4 2025 and accounting for 22 percent of all connections.

Given the additional load on the 5G network both in terms of the number of subscribers and data traffic, not surprisingly, India’s national 5G Download Speed score decreased from 304Mbps in Q1 2023 to 280.7Mbps in Q4 2023, Opensignal said.

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Airtel is focusing its capacity investments on 5G, and stopped investing in capacity investments in 4G. Airtel has rolled out about 43,100 network sites and 55,982 kilometers of fiber, as backbone network infrastructure is critical for ensuring good quality services for end users. Airtel does not reveal its Capex for 5G network building.

Airtel has managed to offload its 4G traffic onto its 5G network. Airtel chose to focus on 5G non-standalone access (NSA) technology, which relies on a 4G core network, while Jio has opted for 5G standalone access. Reliance Jio does not reveal its capex for 5G infrastructure.

The data available from the Department of Telecom (DoT) indicates that the total number of 5G base transceiver stations (BTS) in India increased to 446,000 in May 2024, translating into 31 5G BTS per 100,000 inhabitants.

As a comparison, in South Korea, this proportion is 593, and across the EU, 103, pointing to the fact that these are still areas where the 5G network has to be built up in India. Indian 5G smartphone customers are waiting for better 5G speed to enhance their experience.

Baburajan Kizhakedath

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