As the world – and indeed India as well – get onto the 4G connectivity bandwagon, more and more people are gaining access to high-speed mobile internet connectivity. However, India still boasts of 4G penetration of just 21 percent, which is far below the average for Asia. This is to say that while India does have 4G connectivity, only 21 percent of the population actually have access to the high-speed network, while the vast majority still rely on older networks such as 2G and 3G.
4G penetration has nonetheless grown rapidly, thanks to the rapid expansion of Reliance Jio. The new mobile services operator now has over 200 million subscribers in India, and functions entirely on the 4G network, unlike older operators such as Airtel, Vodafone and Idea Cellular which also control older 3G and 2G spectrum. And while Jio and other operators continue to expand their 4G footprints to new areas, the currently covered population is still far below the average for Asia, which stands at 44 percent.
India’s average speeds on 4G are also notably below average as compared to the speeds offered in other countries. This means that while you might often get very high speeds on 4G, most users aren’t able to get those high speeds due to heavy user density and poor network where they are. This also has a lot to do with the competitive nature of India’s telecom space right now.
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With data charges dropping due to the heavy competition triggered by Jio’s entry, mobile network operators are offering 4G connectivity but aren’t necessarily able to upgrade infrastructure fast enough to keep up with the growing demand. The current focus of operators such as Airtel and Jio is on bringing more areas under 4G coverage, rather than boosting the connectivity in areas already covered. State-owned operator BSNL notably does not offer 4G services in India, which is also a key reason for poor 4G penetration.