4G in India slowest among 88 countries; call drop rate nothing to cheer about either

With the slowest 4G speed in the world and alarmingly high call drop rates, the Indian telecom sector has a long way to go to meet consumer satisfaction levels.

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A report released by mobile analytics company OpenSignal revealed that the average 4G connection speed in India was the lowest among 88 countries. At 6 Mbps, India ranked lower than countries like Kazakhstan, Cambodia and Pakistan.

In comparison, Singapore - at the top of the stack - registers 44 Mbps; South Korea and Netherlands with 42 Mbps registers a close second.

OpenSignal’s report is based on analysis of more than 50 billion speed measurements from 3.8 million smartphone and tablet users across the globe.

The analytics firm highlighted that from a global perspective, both 3G and 4G speeds in India are fairly slow. No operator tested in India exceeded either the global 3G download average of 4.4 Mbps or the global 4G download average of 16.2 Mbps.

Lugging along an enormous burden of Rs 3,59,940 crore, Indian telcos are also at loggerheads with the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) regarding predatory pricing.

Rajan S Mathews, Director General of the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) revealed that infrastructure challenges are stemming from local bodies not adhering to government directives.

“Without any prior notice, state bodies initiate actions against the towers, like disconnecting electricity supplies, sealing the premise and even dismantling of tower sites, resulting in the coverage disruptions and network congestion,” says Mathews.

Call drops continue to plague telecom space

Last year, TRAI disclosed that Indian telecom operators failed to meet consumer satisfaction levels. In 2017, the Department of Telecom revealed that 62.5 percent of users in India reported call drops.

Explaining the reason behind call drops, Mathews says that in a mobile network, the capacity of each site, and consequently the network, is limited by the availability of spectrum that can be used to carry traffic.

“Moreover, the customer usage pattern in terms of their location and time is not static and is dependent on the time of day, handovers and thresholds, signalling load due to different technologies as well as different implementation in devices or network equipment,” he says.

As a result, the gap between available spectrum and the spectrum required leads to the possibility of few overloaded cells, and this in turn leads to call drops.

So what are telcos doing to fix call drops?

“For the areas experiencing regular call drops, constant monitoring and identification is being carried out by the telecom service providers along with regular optimization of network capacity and coverage,” says Mathews.

He adds that subsequent corrective actions like installation of towers, creation of additional capacity, repeaters, in-building solutions, and network optimization are also being undertaken as per the feasibility.

In addition to this, Mathews shares that telcos are carrying out regular drive test to identify network quality issues. Using geo-spatial analysis tools for effective planning and management of networks also helps in dealing with call drops.