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India’s 5G speeds reach 500 Mbps

Ookla® recently commented on the outcome of the 5G spectrum auction and how Indian consumers are ready to upgrade to 5G networks. We now have data from Speedtest Intelligence® to show early 5G performance across select cities as well as an indication of the growth of the number of 5G-capable devices.

Key messages:

  • 5G download speeds reach 500 Mbps on 5G test networks
  • Almost 600 Mbps median download speed on Jio’s 5G network in Delhi
  • Consumers are 5G ready
  • iPhone users have most 5G-capable phones

Airtel and Jio turned 5G on
Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched 5G services in select Indian cities on Saturday, October 1 during India Mobile Congress 2022 in New Delhi. Operators took the opportunity to discuss their 5G plans at the event as well. Bharti Airtel’s chairman Sunil Bharti Mittal said 5G services would be available in eight cities: Delhi, Mumbai, Varanasi, Hyderabad, Siliguri, Chennai, Nagpur, and Bengaluru from the launch and will expand across India by March 2024.

Reliance Jio, which shook up the Indian telecom industry when it launched 4G, also has ambitious 5G plans. Jio’s 5G beta trial “Jio True 5G for All” launched during Dussehra on October 5 in four Indian cities, including Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, and Varanasi. Jio has rolled out a 5G Standalone (5G SA) network, which doesn’t rely on its existing LTE network and which Jio justifies for using the “true 5G” name. Jio’s “welcome offer” is available to those that receive an invitation. Users can get unlimited 5G data with up to 1 Gbps speeds. Jio plans to gradually expand its 5G footprint to deliver the Jio 5G service across the entire country by December 2023. Jio also is looking to make the services “very affordable,” according to Reliance Jio chairman Akash Ambani during the IMC event. “it should be affordable for every Indian – right from devices to service.”

Despite financial woes, Vodafone India has also reiterated its commitment to the 5G roll-out but it has not yet provided specific timelines.

5G download speeds reach 500 Mbps on 5G test networks
Speedtest Intelligence shows that operators have been testing their networks before the October 1 launch. We’ve already seen a wide range of 5G download speeds: from low double-digit (16.27 Mbps) to a mindblowing 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.

Jio’s 5G network showed almost 600 Mbps median download speed in Delhi
We used Speedtest® data to compare median 5G download speeds across four cities both Jio and Airtel built their networks. In the capital city, Delhi, Airtel reached nearly 200 Mbps median download speed at 197.98 Mbps while Jio almost broke 600 Mbps (598.58 Mbps) since June 2022.

In Kolkata, operators’ median download speeds varied the most since June 2022: Airtel’s median download speed was 33.83 Mbps while Jio had a much faster median download speed at 482.02 Mbps.

In Mumbai, one of the most densely populated cities in India, Airtel fell behind Jio once again, reaching 271.07 Mbps median download speed compared to Jio’s 515.38 Mbps median download since June 2022.

In Varanasi, which is considered the Hindu spiritual capital of India, Jio and Airtel achieved closer parity, with Airtel achieving a 5G median download speed at 516.57 Mbps to Jio’s 485.22 Mbps median download speed since June 2022.

The future of mobile internet in India will be much faster than what 4G LTE is achieving
According to the Speedtest Global Index™, India ranked 117th in the world for mobile download speed at 13.52 Mbps in August 2022. These new 5G results show that 5G speeds are far superior than India’s existing network.

While we need to approach these early results with caution, 5G devices are already showing they can achieve much faster speeds, at least under artificial controlled testing circumstances e.g., no network congestion and ideal network coverage.

When we cross reference operators’ 5G speeds versus the frequency band they are using, we see a cautionary tale. During the recent spectrum auction, Jio acquired the most spectrum, especially in the highly sought-after C-band spectrum, and Jio was the only operator that acquired the 700 MHz band. This gives Reliance Jio an advantage compared to providers who have acquired only C-band, especially since the low-band spectrum allows for better indoor signal penetration in urban areas and also better coverage in rural areas.

Using Speedtest Intelligence data we can see that Jio’s 5G performance differs depending on the spectrum band it uses. Jio’s 5G network using the C-band (n=78) results in performance ranging between 606.53 Mbps and 875.26 Mbps median download speed. While 5G networks using the lower – 700 MHz frequency band (n=28) so-called coverage band, gives speeds lower than100 Mbps median download speed, ranging between 78.69 Mbps and 95.13 Mbps. Airtel, on the other hand, achieved speeds from 365.48 Mbps to 716.85 Mbps deploying 5G utilizing only its C-band spectrum holding.

Consumers are 5G ready
Earlier this year, we surveyed Indian consumers and found 89% of Indian smartphone users are ready to upgrade to 5G. Operators have an existing addressable base of devices that they can target from the start, and over the past year the number of 5G-capable devices has been on the rise. Among Speedtest users, Jio saw the largest increase in 5G-capable devices (67.4%), followed by Airtel (61.6%), and Vi India (56%).

Using Speedtest Intelligence data we compared 5G-capable devices across different cities. Hyderabad was the one city where all operators have seen significant growth in terms of 5G-capable devices, with Jio even tripling its install base.

iPhone users have most 5G-capable phones
In our survey, 51% of survey respondents already had smartphones supporting 5G. The top smartphone vendors in the market are Samsung (31%), followed by Xiaomi (23%), Realme, and Vivo. While only one in ten survey respondents had an iPhone, Apple smartphones tend to be more 5G capable. In fact, according to Speedtest Intelligence data, the iPhone 12 5G is the most popular 5G-capable device in the Indian market. Jio will launch an Android-based 5G phone in partnership with Google in 2023, repeating the go-to-market strategy it used when entering the 4G market. In the meantime, Jio is working with smartphone vendors to ensure that consumers can access its 5G SA network.

These are still early days for 5G in India, with most of Jio’s and Airtel’s respective networks still in beta testing. We will continue to monitor 5G performance in India, see how operators scale networks, and assess the real-world performance as more consumers will get online with 5G devices. If you want to learn more, subscribe to Ookla Insights™ to be the first to read our analyses.

CT Bureau

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