Sylwia Kechiche, Principal Analyst, Enterprise, Ookla

Mobile speeds will improve further

Speedtest intelligence data showed that mobile speeds in India have increased over the past 12 months. Median mobile download speed was 18.26 Mbps in November 2022, up 14.39 Mbps in November 2021. At the same time, India has climbed seven spaces in the Speedtest Global Index ranking, from 112th place in November 2021 to 105th in November 2022. With 5G networks being rolled out, what is important is that Indian consumers are keen to upgrade. According to our Ookla Consumer Survey, 89 per cent of respondents intend to upgrade to 5G and only 2 per cent stated that they do not intend to upgrade to 5G. Early Speedtest Intelligence data revealed a wide range of 5G download speeds: from low double-digit (16.27 Mbps) to a 809.94 Mbps, which points to the fact that the operators are still recalibrating their networks. We expect these speeds to be more stable moving forward as these networks will enter the commercial stage.

Commercialising 5G and winning consumers over will be a priority in 2023

Following the 5G spectrum auction, operators are busy rolling out 5G services. Ookla’s 5G Map shows that Reliance Jio has extended the 5G network to 20 locations, while Bharti Airtel has extended to 15. In November 2022, Airtel announced that 1 million customers accessed its 5G network. This is because customers with 5G smartphones can use the Airtel 5G Plus service on their existing data plans until the rollout is more widespread. State operator Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) also plans to upgrade its 4G technology stack to 5G next year. Ookla’s consumer survey in the market shows that almost half of the respondents (48 per cent) plan to upgrade to 5G as soon as it is available in their area, and would consider switching providers if necessary. Twenty percent will do so as soon as their current provider offers 5G, 14 per cent when they have a 5G-capable phone, and 7 per cent plan to wait for their current contract to end. Those that are not sure about the new technology will likely wait to see how attractive it is once other people start using it.

Satcom disrupts the telecom landscape in India

Low earth orbit (LEO) services being developed by companies such as Starlink and OneWeb have broad applications within the Indian market. Low fixed broadband penetration – less than 10 per cent of households – presents a strong opportunity for growth. Satellite internet services will serve as a competitive play in areas where fibre hasn’t been deployed, offering competitive speeds (as we’ve seen from our recent analysis). There are broader roles for satellite internet, both in terms of providing backhaul services and offering coverage in more remote rural areas. India’s National Broadband Mission (NBM) highlights satellite as part of the technology mix to extend broadband connectivity across India. Satellite-based broadband connectivity should be commercially available to users by mid-2023.

5G FWA offers an opportunity in India

5G fixed wireless access (FWA) will use 5G as the last-mile technology to provide broadband connectivity. 5G FWA has already been very successful in the United States, South Africa, and the Philippines, and there is a growing interest in India too. For instance, Jio announced that it will launch Jio AirFibre, a plug-and-play device connected to Jio’s 5G network that will act as a hotspot. While the exact launch date is still unknown, the operator revealed that it is targeting 100 million households with its 5G FWA offer.