4G To Remain Dominant Mobile Network Technology In India: Ookla CEO


Even though telecom operators have started focussing on the 5G network, Speedtest firm Ookla believes that telcos are investing heavily in improving 4G networks in India. The firm also shared with Gizbot that 4G will remain in the country for years to come, even after the 5G network begins to scale. Meanwhile, we spoke to the company's co-founder and CEO, Doug Suttles, about the 5G networks and trends in the telecom industry.

4G To Remain Dominant Mobile Network Technology In India: Ookla CEO

What is the scope of 4G services in India? Which telecom operator is offering better speed with a 4G network?

4G is very pervasive in India today. The 4G service metric in India increased from 93.5 percent in Q4 2020 to 96 percent in Q2 2021. If we look at the latest data, then Jio is the leader of the pack when it comes to median download speeds in the country. Vodafone-Idea has the fastest median upload speeds and the lowest latencies.

Do you think that the telcos stop investing in 4G networks?

While all eyes are on the impending arrival of 5G, there's still a lot of mobile operator investment targeted at improving existing 4G services. This is critical as 4G will remain the dominant mobile network technology in the country for years to come, even as 5G begins to scale.

It is also worth noting that a lot of the investment taking place today will support both network technologies, including the acquisition of new cell sites, improvements to backhaul, transport, and core networks. This investment can be linked to an improving performance trend in the market.

Please tell us about some steps Indian telcos are taking for improving congestion in the network?

This is a complex issue and telcos are attacking it on several fronts. While continued investment in physical networks is critical to increasing capacity, the most important step they've taken over of acquiring more spectrum.

Looking ahead the planned 5G auction will release a wide band of new spectrum, offering much greater capacity than existing 4G networks. It will also potentially help reduce congestion on 4G networks as users migrate to new technology.


Brief us about the opportunities and challenges for the satellite internet players in India? Do you think that satellite services will be adopted by Indians?

LEO (Low Earth Orbit) satellite broadband, championed by the likes of OneWeb, SpaceX, and others, has changed the economic model for satellite broadband. LEO has reduced costs and improved performance at the same time. I see three distinct opportunities for satellite broadband in India.

In my opinion, the wholesale and enterprise routes to market remain the most viable for satellite providers. However, the cost of satellite broadband remains at a premium to other fixed internet technologies. As a result, retail satellite broadband services direct to consumers will remain a niche play in India.

India is behind several countries when it comes to 5G services or networks. So, please tell us when will Indians start getting services?

All signs point to 5G launching in India around this time next year. While it is lagging behind markets with robust 5G deployments like the UK and US, it's clear there's a lot of work going on behind the scenes by Indian telcos to help drive 5G adoption once the spectrum becomes available. Reliance Jio, Airtel, and Vi are busy conducting 5G trials and received impressive 5G speeds.

Additionally, there are some key benefits to the delay in India's 5G launch. Indian telcos move to embrace Open RAN will drive network costs even lower, while dynamic spectrum sharing allows for broader 5G coverage leveraging the existing 4G spectrum.

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