Great mobile video experience needs more than availability in India, says Open Signal

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Sanjay Singh
Sanjay Singh
Sanjay Singh covers startups, consumer electronics and telecom for TechObserver.in

A high availability of 4G networks does not automatically translate to a great mobile network experience for smartphone users in India, said a report. A UK-based firm investigated the experience across India and discovered there is no link, or correlation, between the time smartphone users spend on 4G — 4G availability — and the quality of the experience they enjoy. “The linear correlation between 4G availability and video experience is just 0.11 on a scale where a score near 1, or -1, would indicate a strong positive or negative correlation between the two measures,” said the company.

OpenSingnal said that this was because mobile video experience depends on many other factors, beyond just the radio access network, which is what 4G availability measures. To deliver a great mobile video experience requires a fantastic end-to-end effort which includes: the cell towers’ mobile radio; the backhaul links from the towers which transport the video traffic; each operator’s core network; and the peering to the content delivery network (CDN) or streaming server where the original video is hosted.

“Even more importantly, for a high video experience score, this end-to-end effort must be consistently good. For example, if the network suffers interruptions or congestions, then the video stream will stall and damage the mobile video experience for consumers,” said OpenSignal.

Smartphone users enjoy the best mobile video experience in Mumbai, Tamil Nadu, Delhi Telecom Circle, Kolkata, and Jammu and Kashmir. The differences between the regions are greater than those for 4G availability. Additionally, it’s noticeable that both Kerala, and Jammu and Kashmir, rate much more highly for mobile video experience than they do compared with other regions for 4G availability.

Across India’s four most populated cities there is little difference in the overall mobile video experience. However, with scores over 41, these cities all offer smartphone users a better mobile video experience than seventeen of the regions OpenSignal has assessed.

India’s mobile operators have been successful in making 4G widely available across India. 4G availability experienced by smartphone users ranges from 82.6% in the Kerala region to an impressive 90.9% in Kolkata, demonstrating that most of the time smartphone users are connected to 4G networks.

Mobile video streaming suffers from any weak links in delivery. To score highly on mobile video experience, operators must be able to support a consistent end-to-end performance across their infrastructure. Simply having a good LTE radio signal is not enough. It’s critical there are no weak links anywhere or the consumer mobile video experience will suffer.

According to the report, smartphone users enjoy the best mobile video experience in Mumbai, Tamil Nadu, Delhi, Kolkata and, Jammu and Kashmir, with scores over 41 on OpenSignal’s new mobile video experience measure. Additionally, it’s noticeable that both Kerala, and Jammu and Kashmir, rate much more highly for mobile video experience than they do compared with other regions for 4G availability, demonstrating that good 4G availability is not a guide to a reliable mobile video experience.

India’s four most populated cities offer smartphone users a better mobile video experience than seventeen of the twenty-two regions OpenSignal assessed. But there is little difference in the mobile video experience of Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, and Hyderabad’s smartphone users.

Mobile operators across India have been successful in making 4G LTE widely available. In all regions of India, smartphone users spend the vast majority of their time connected to 4G networks. When 3G mobile broadband is included too, only in Kerala, the North-East, Maharashtra, and Jammu and Kashmir do smartphone users spend less than 90% of their time not connected to a mobile broadband-capable network or with no signal at all. The arrival of Reliance Jio has boosted 4G LTE adoption across India and spurred other operators to respond to Jio’s innovation and disruptive strategy.

Given the size of India, it’s impressive to achieve such high 4G availability of over 80% in every region. India will soon have the largest population, overtaking China — in 2017, India’s population was 1.34 billion, compared with China’s 1.39 billion. But population is not the only difficult factor affecting Indian operators in expanding their networks.

India is also a large country with the seventh largest surface area in the world —a staggering 3.29 million square kilometers. Only Russia, Canada, China, USA, Brazil and Australia have a larger area for mobile networks to reach. But unlike many of those countries, there are few true wilderness areas within India. As a result, to reach the whole population, India’s operators must deploy their networks even more widely than in larger countries.

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