The launch of 5G services will “radically transform network performance” in India, says Adriane Blum, vice president of marketing and communications at Ookla. Blum told TelecomTalk that 5G, the fifth generation mobile network standard is “extremely crucial” in the Indian telecom market. However, Blum said that the Indian telecom operators need to have “sufficient wireless spectrum” as it is “crucial for the development of 5G.” While Indian telecom operators have not yet rolled out 5G services commercially, the telcos along with equipment vendors and others in the ecosystem have been preparing for the launch of the next generation technology.
More Spectrum will Help Facilitate 5G Roll Out: Ookla VP
Bharti Airtel in late January, said that it has become the “first telco” in the country to “successfully demonstrate” and “orchestrate live 5G service over a commercial network.” The second largest wireless operator in India said that its 5G demonstration was done “over its existing liberalised spectrum in the 1800 MHz band” through Non Stand Alone (NSA) network technology. However, Airtel highlighted that its users will experience 5G only “when adequate spectrum is available and government approvals received.”
The second largest wireless operator in India has since announced a collaboration with Qualcomm for “accelerating 5G in India.” Airtel said that it will “roll-out virtualized and Open RAN-based 5G networks” in India by utilising Qualcomm 5G RAN platforms.
Meanwhile, Reliance Jio, the largest wireless operator in India has been consistently vocal about its 5G solutions. Mukesh Ambani, Reliance Industries chairman at the Annual General Meeting in July, 2020, said that the operator has “designed and developed a complete 5G solution from scratch.” However, Ambani highlighted that the “Made-in India 5G solution will be ready for trials as soon as 5G spectrum is available.”
In early March, 2021, the Indian government held the spectrum auction for the first time since 2016, with the three large operators acquiring 855.60 MHz spectrum worth Rs 77,814.80 crores. The government said that the operators bid for spectrum across the 800 MHz, 900 MHz, 1800 MHz, 2100 MHz and 2300 MHz bands. Notably, the Department of Telecom (DoT) did not hold the auction for the 3300 MHz to 4200 MHz bands which the analysts say is the “most popular band” for 5G. It is expected that the government will hold a second auction later this year for the spectrum in the 3300 MHz to 4200 MHz bands. Additionally, the pricing for the 700 MHz band is also expected to be revised for the upcoming auction.
Ookla, the company behind the Speedtest platform in early March in a report said that the operators need “sufficient amount of wireless spectrum” to “deliver the ultra-fast speeds” promised by 5G and LTE.
“Sufficient wireless spectrum is crucial for the development of 5G,” Blum told TelecomTalk. “More spectrum being available to operators will help facilitate 5G rollouts, but we won't know the full level of impact to consumers and the timeline to realize that impact until after spectrum is allocated in the auction.”
Countless Factors Contributed to Network Improvements in India: Ookla VP
The report released by Ookla highlighted that India recorded the “fastest mean download speed over fixed broadband” among the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) countries. The report said that Indian government has been “instrumental” with its Digital and the Smart Cities Mission for the “improvements” in the fixed broadband speed.
“While Digital India and Smart Cities Mission certainly support Indian broadband growth, there are undoubtedly countless other factors (including ISP investments) that have contributed,” Blum said.
Ookla’s report said that Reliance Jio recorded the fastest speed over fixed broadband while Vi clinched the top spot in the mobile segment. Further, the report had offered insights into user sentiment by providing customer rating and an Net Promoter Score (NPS).
“Net Promoter Score calculates the percentage of respondents who answer that they would be likely to recommend a provider, which is a question we ask users after they take a Speedtest,” Blum said. “A high NPS score means that Speedtest users are more likely to recommend an operator.”
In the fixed broadband space, the report said that Jio had the highest rating while also being the only operator to have a positive NPS. Atria Convergence Technologies (ACT), Airtel, Excitel, Hathway and BSNL registered negative NPS in the fixed broadband space.
Meanwhile, Vi India and Airtel recorded identical rating of 3.1 in the mobile space with Vi narrowly edging out Airtel in the NPS column.
“A lower NPS score means that Speedtest users are less likely to recommend an operator,” Blum said. “The report examines the relationship between performance and NPS scores, which does show some correlation between faster speed and a higher NPS score. This would suggest that improving network performance for customers could have a positive impact on NPS scores.”