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Poor network, low speed plagues 92% of India mobile phone users

More than nine out of 10 mobile phone users in India complained of poor wireless connectivity, while two-thirds struggle with disrupted digital payments on older 3G and 4G networks, according to a local survey.

About 48% of 8,210 consumers surveyed by LocalCircles mentioned frequent disruptions to their mobile services due to poor network availability and 44% were disgruntled with low data speeds.

In another survey question that drew in 11,865 consumer responses, 66% said they experienced snags in at least one online transaction, forcing them to rely on alternate payment mechanisms such as cash, check or credit cards, according to a statement from LocalCircles.

The findings spotlight the yawning gap in services currently delivered by Indian telecom carriers despite tariff hikes in recent months. It also points to the need to step up quickly as companies prepare to bid for airwaves in a government-led auction that will pave the way for launch of ultra-speedy 5G services in India.

Disrupted wireless services also threaten to hamper India’s drive to spur its digital economy — a key policy initiative of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government that got a major boost amid the Covid-19 pandemic when data consumption surged.

Competition in telecom sector has whittled down from a dozen players a few years back to just three private sector operators after billionaire Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Jio Infocomm disrupted the market in 2016 with free calls and cheap data, forcing rivals to quit or merge.

While Reliance Jio blew other competitors out of the water, Vodafone Idea and Bharti Airtel managed to survive but were battered financially, leaving lesser headroom to spend on upgrade of telecom infrastructure.

The survey’s findings also highlight the need to invest more in infrastructure to not just boost telecom services but also digital payments.

India did 35 billion digital transactions in 2021, according to LocalCircles, which said that this number could go up significantly if wireless network issues are fixed. Bloomberg

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