In India, there are less than 20 million home broadband connections and the number when compared to over a billion telecom subscribers sounds minimal. But in recent times, the government in India is becoming increasingly turned on to the potential of public Wi-Fi networks, planning to provide coverage to some 250,000 Panchayats (local administrative offices) and 5000 railway stations within the next two years. This interest is justified as smartphone penetration grows, according to OpenSignal. In India, the 4G network availability is impressive, which of course is because of Reliance Jio. In the recent State of Mobile Networks: India report, OpenSignal revealed that Jio's 4G availability is 96.4%, which is the reason behind the less Wi-Fi penetration in the country.
OpenSignal states that there’s been a huge amount of excitement around 4G networks in India, as competition rises and more and more Indians are coming online. In the last State of Mobile Networks: India report, the firm noted substantial improvements in 4G availability in India, as operators have made access to LTE signals a new priority. But Wi-Fi connectivity among mobile users is still relatively low in India, even though the focus on Wi-Fi has been renewed, according to OpenSignal.
"Wi-Fi networks don’t get the same amount of interest in the subcontinent, as the evolution of telcos has somewhat skipped the fixed-broadband stage of development and raced straight onto 4G. Nonetheless, there are a significant number of Wi-Fi users in India connecting at home or at work, while publicly-accessible Wi-Fi is becoming more and more important as data use increases," said OpenSignal in a blog post.
OpenSignal also released some data released to Wi-Fi usage by the consumers in India. As per the data measured for 90 days from March 1, 2018, users on Vodafone spend the most time connected to Wi-Fi networks at 20% of the time. This was followed by Airtel with 17%, Idea on 15%, and Jio at 7%. This isn't surprising because the Jio's 4G availability at a hugely impressive 96.4% – which may explain why the users on its network are connecting to Wi-Fi less than those using its rivals. With that level of 4G connectivity, a lot of Jio customers may not be seeking out Wi-Fi connections even when they’re available.
While Wi-Fi connectivity in India is growing, it is still well below more developed markets such as the United States, where OpenSignal measured Wi-Fi connectivity around the 50% mark. One of the key reasons for the relatively low Wi-Fi connectivity in India is the limited penetration of home broadband. In Europe in particular, large numbers of subscribers buy their mobile, broadband, and TV services from one operator. But this business model is simply not affordable for most Indians, so the operators have largely chosen to concentrate on mobile as opposed to fixed-line networks. This is reflected in the low penetration of home broadband connectivity in the country, states OpenSignal.
"This may also explain why our users on Jio’s mobile network spend significantly less time on Wi-Fi compared to its rivals since the operator has only just launched its JioFiber home broadband service," the network measuring firm added further.
Another reason for limited Wi-Fi connectivity in India is a lot of new smartphone users have gone straight to 4G, so have simply never used Wi-Fi for high-speed connectivity. This is beginning to change though, particularly as India’s 4G networks become more congested and the operators launch Wi-Fi offload programmes, encouraging users to switch to using Wi-Fi hotspots with low-cost data offers. But these offers are quite new, and hotspots are scarce, meaning it is unlikely they have yet made much of an impact on OpenSignal's Wi-Fi connectivity measurements.
Wi-Fi has arguably never been more relevant to India. Home broadband connections are becoming more affordable as the price war in the mobile sector spills over into fixed-line. And as cheap introductory 4G offers such as Jio’s launch tariffs come to an end and India’s thirst for mobile reaches new heights, more and more Internet users will be looking for cost-effective ways of consuming large amounts of data.
India has seen massive growth in its mobile networks in the past few years, catapulting it into the top 20 of the countries we measured for 4G availability. But 4G speeds in the country are still among the slowest as OpenSignal recorded a while back, as LTE networks’ capacity has yet to catch up with reach. Wi-Fi is not just a great option to take the strain off these mobile networks – it’s vital to improve connectivity and fuel the growing digital economy.
The Government of India is also pushing fixed-line broadband and it aims to provide a 50 Mbps broadband connection to every individual by 2022.