Incumbents like Bharti Airtel, Vodafone and Idea Cellular are far behind newcomer Reliance Jio in terms of both data coverage and 4G coverage, a report by financial services company Credit Suisse said.
“Among the cities we surveyed, Airtel/Vodafone/Idea had good coverage in 10–30% of the cities, while Jio fared well in 80% of cities,” Credit Suisse said.
Data coverage includes 2G, 3G and 4G, while 4G coverage refers to LTE only.
According to the report, compiled on the basis of multiple secondary sources in India and abroad, studied 3G and 4G network speeds and signal coverage in 30 cities in the country — including the capitals of all states and union territories.
“We studied network coverage and speeds characteristics across capitals of the larger states and major union territories (30 in total). In our view, we have therefore surveyed a major part of urban India (we believe a significant portion of industry revenues, and an even higher portion of data revenues come from these locations),” the broker said.
“We extracted data for 2G+3G / 4G speeds and the extent of coverage in each city – for each operator. We used image processing tools to map out areas with high-signal-strength in each of these 30 regions, and used this as a basis to extract telecom operator coverage relative to that of the total industry.”
JIO LEADS IN SHARE
The study, conducted in mid-January, found that Jio is carrying nearly 94% of the total wireless data in the country, with Bharti Airtel, Vodafone and Idea Cellular carrying just 2% each. This was despite Jio lagging others in 4G speed.
“We believe one of the reasons behind Jio’s 4G network speeds being below peers could be the current overloading of their network under the free offer period. Going by the latest available numbers, Jio probably accounts for 90%+ of all mobile data traffic in India. In our earlier reports (link) we have shown that Jio probably accounts for 35%+ of network capacity in the country. Thus, clearly the network utilisation levels on Jio must be far higher than other networks – which could impact performance. It would be interesting to see how these numbers move once Jio starts charging,” the brokerage said.
In these 30 areas, it was found that Reliance Jio is far ahead of the others in terms of coverage.
In 28 of the 30 areas, Reliance Jio has its 4G signals present in over 70% of the entire area covered by cellphone signals, and in two cities, it was less than 70% coverage. In no city did coverage fall below 30%.
In comparison, Airtel has 70%+ coverage in only 22% of the areas surveyed. In 27% of the areas, it was between 30-70% coverage and in 51% of the area, Airtel’s LTE coverage was below 30%.
Vodafone 4G did even worse, but whereever it was present, Vodafone 4G had good coverage. However, the bad news is that it was present in only 10% of the areas, or 3 out of the 30 areas. In the remaining places, signal was below 30%, Credit Suisse said.
Idea Cellular did better with signals present in about a quarter (26%) of the total places studied, compared to 10% in case of Vodafone. However, signal coverage ranged mostly in the 30-70%.
In terms of 4G speeds, Airtel led with over 12 Mbps, followed by Idea at over 8 Mbps and Jio just below 8 Mbps. Airtel was judged the best network from a speed perspective.