India’s Slow Internet Speed Threatens 4G Adoption

by CXOtoday News Desk    Oct 27, 2014



The numbers projected by various research groups offer a positive Internet future for India and put the country on par with many global players. For example, researchers suggest: LTE revenues in India to reach $11.88 billion in 2017; the Internet to contribute $100 billion to India’s GDP by 2015; 4G expected to herald a new age of productivity for remote business users.

But there are other numbers which mar that optimism at the same speed. The recent “State of the Internet” quarterly report by internet content delivery network Akamai  has shown that at 1.7 Mbps connection speed, India ranks lowest in the Asia Pacific region while South Korea leads with above 20 Mbps while Japan and Hong Kong were the only two with average speeds above 10 Mbps.

An additional four surveyed countries/regions had high broadband adoption rates above 10%, while the lowest was seen in India, at 0.7%. 

Currently, just about 10 per cent of the population in India uses the Internet, which is estimated as 120 million people. A McKinsey report projects India will overtake the U.S. by 2015 and become the country with second highest number of internet users after China.

What actually can facilitate that growth is the speed of the internet which India lacks. “The lowest readiness rates in the first quarter were found in India and China, which had just 0.3% and 0.2% respectively) of their connections to Akamai at speeds above 15 Mbps,” the Akamai report said.

Currently, an average user consumes 155MB of data, which could increase to 390MB by 2017 and 620MB by 2020.

“Telecom operators are now spending on increasing their 3G network coverage. We expect that 90 percent of all A-category circles will have 3G coverage by end of 2015,” Ericsson India’s Vice President and Head of Engagement Practices Nishant Batra told PTI.

Batra says  the demand for high speed mobile internet is triggered primarily by social networking, video content and web browsing and instant messaging via popular apps like WhatsApp and WeChat. At the same time, the back-end infrastructure of most of Indian telecom operators needs to be upgraded from old technology to next generation technology based networks.

Telecom operators need more carriers (spectrum slot) to deliver high speed. Ericsson with Turkcell and Qualcomm recently successfully demonstrated world’s first live 3-carrier high-speed downlink (3C-HSDPA) on a commercial network which recorded speed of 63 megabit per second, Batra said in his statement. In India, telecom operators holding 3G spectrum have only one slot of 5 MHz 3G spectrum. Ericsson estimates that using single spectrum slot, which is condition at present, telecom operators can deliver peak download speed of 21 Mbps. He believes at this speed, a user can download a video equivalent to Bollywood movie in about 4 minutes.

India is already surging in adoption of 4G technologies, despite dismal adoption of 3G, which is only 5 percent of total mobile subscribers accessing this technology.

Telecom analyst Gaurav Kumar says: “It will take at least another couple of years before we see 4G picking up at a faster rate in India. Enhanced coverage, vast portfolio of affordable devices and right pricing will be key for growth.”

According to a report published by HSBC Global Research this year, 4G rollout in India faces significant technical challenges, which also includes the internet speed. According to the report, Reliance’s 4G network, which is predominantly in 2300 MHz high frequency band, suffers from poor coverage which has been the key issue for the delay in launch. Researchers say there is a need to offer higher bandwidth and increase the internet speed, if new technologies like 4G have to be a success.