Recent report released by mobile application acceleration solutions provider, Twin Prime, analyses the current mobile trends in the US, Europe and India. For the purpose of the analysis, the report makes use of 6 billion application data points collected from 600 applications and the performance outcomes of more than 1,500 network operators across 2G, 3G, high speed packet access (HSPA), HSPA+, long term evolution (LTE) and Wi-Fi networks, tracked from January 2016 to July 2016. Through a close analysis of this data, the report seeks to identify key differences in the performance of operators and the reasons for slow service uptake.

The following are the key highlights of the mobile trends in the Indian market….

Mobile performance in India

  • LTE witnesses extraordinary growth in 2016: The traffic over LTE in India was minimal in 2015 and barely accounted for 5 per cent of the total mobile traffic. 3G and HSPA were the dominant technologies, accounting for almost 85 per cent of the overall mobile traffic. 2G tra­ffic, on the other hand, was found to be shrinking steadily.

While 3G and HSPA continue to remain the dominant technologies with 75 per cent of the total market share, LTE has seen extraordinary growth in 2016. The traffic over LTE is now five times greater than in 2015 and accounts for 23 per cent of the total traffic.

The share of LTE in the total traffic is expected to increase substantially in the coming months, given the fact that Bharti Airtel has already deployed LTE Advanced services in some areas.

  • Developers in India are content size conscious: By analysing the sizes that developers are using for application performance interfaces (APIs) and images, the report observes that developers in India are content size conscious. Deve­lo­­pers tend to keep the payloads small as they expect less than optimal network speeds.
  • Operator performance – Airtel is the fastest, RJIL is the most consistent: Data speeds in the country are in the range of 1-2 Mbps across the board. Airtel tops the performance rankings across 2G, 3G, HSPA and LTE networks. Further, Airtel also has the most superior network in terms of network quality.

Reliance Jio Infocomm Limited (RJIL), which launched commercial services in 2016, has slightly slower speeds than Airtel but tops the charts in consistency, which suggests that it provides a more uniform experience to its users compared to other operators. RJIL also ranks first in terms of the coverage metric, which is only to be expected given that it is a 4G/LTE-only network.

Airtel is also the fastest carrier across the board in LTE networks. It takes 222 ms on an average to download a 40 Kb image on Airtel’s LTE network. Airtel is followed by Tata DOCOMO, Aircel, Reliance Communications, Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) and RJIL.

In terms of HSPA networks, Airtel is 24 per cent faster than Vodafone and 40 per cent faster than third-ranked Tata DOCOMO. Given that HSPA is the most dominant network technology in the Indian market, Airtel and Vodafone are currently the best carriers in India.

Meanwhile, in 3G networks, Airtel and Tata DOCOMO stand out as the definitive performance leaders, offering 300-400 ms faster speeds while downloading a 40 Kb image. Aircel, Vodafone and BSNL occupy the third, fourth and fifth positions respectively.

Overall, the report sees a 20 per cent jump in speed from 3G to HSPA and a 100 per cent increase from HSPA to LTE. Besi­des, while comparing the performance of HSPA+ and HSPA networks, the report finds the numbers to be identical. Hence, HSPA+ deployments have not led to im­­p­ro­­­vements in the speed experienced by users.

  • LTE is faster than Wi-Fi in most cities: In 2015, Wi-Fi outperformed LTE in most major cities, with a considerable difference in many places. For instance, in Mumbai, Wi-Fi was three times faster than LTE. However, in 2016, this scenario changed dramatically. Observing the performance of LTE and Wi-Fi networks in the top 10 Indian cities, the report finds that LTE is faster than Wi-Fi in all cities except Mumbai. Hence, along with an increase in traffic share, LTE is improving in terms of performance as well. Even in Mumbai, the difference between the speeds of LTE and Wi-Fi is not significant.
  • High variability in Wi-Fi networks: The report notes that Wi-Fi is the most variable amongst all networks while 3G is the least variable. The high variability of Wi-Fi networks can be attributed to the high variability in network speeds offered by internet service providers. Meanwhile, the variability in cellular networks has dec­­reased compared to that in 2015. LTE, despite being the best performing technology, is also highly variable.