India now stands at an impressive global ranking of 15 when it comes to LTE availability. And thanks to Reliance Jio, this is now accessible at an affordable cost. However, the enviable growth has come at the cost of reduced internet speeds. According to the latest OpenSignal report, the entry of Reliance Jio has pushed the entire country into greater LTE availability, but average 4G speeds have lowered.
The Indian government has been focussing on the ‘Digital India‘ initiative, which not only focusses on delivering maximum coverage, but also bringing the nation at par with global standards when it comes to speed. However, despite a strong digital push and Jio’s affordable internet thrown into the mix, there still lies a gap when it comes to international standards. Based on the report, Singapore has the highest measured 4G speed at 46 Mbps, and India stands embarrassingly low at just 5.14 Mbps. Meanwhile, the average 4G speeds in Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Iran stand at 11.71 Mbps, 10.42 Mbps, and 10.24 Mbps, respectively.
The gap is huge and in order to stop playing the catching up game and truly leveraging the potential of available resources, what India needs at the moment is an improvement in infrastructure, getting the fundamentals of tower installations right, and culturing users about appropriate use of Internet infrastructure. ALSO READ: Reliance Jio helps India rank 15th in LTE availability; but average 4G speeds are terrible
India currently serves as the hot testing bed for global companies such as Facebook and Google who want to tap on the country’s 4G frenzy ignited by the launch of Jio services. In doing so, there have been special initiatives which have been adopted by these global brands and the Indian government. For example, Google has partnered with RailTel to provide free hotspots across railway stations in India and is gradually on its way to achieve its target of fully covering all major stations. On the other hand, there are companies like Facebook that are putting in conscious efforts to provide connectivity irrespective of the available speed by thinning down their apps and making them compatible with slower networks.
In addition to that, state governments are also working towards setting up high-speed public Wi-Fi hotspots while network operators such as Jio are set to introduce optical fibre-based internet connectivity to users. However, in bringing such facilities to the public, the government is faced with difficult, often embarrassing, situations. One such instance was reported late last year when Google-RailTel’s free Wi-Fi service was allegedly being misused by passengers to watch porn. In a related instance, it was reported last month that an average of 30,000 people of the three lakh daily commuters in Mumbai local use public WiFi services to surf pornographic websites. ALSO READ: Mumbai’s porn problem: Free public Wi-Fi services reportedly being used to browse pornographic websites
Now one might question – what difference does it make if one accesses objectionable content or educative through free internet. Internet Service Providers (ISPs) say that blocking pornographic websites also impacts the internet speed as the request put forth by the user travels through various verification patches which then reduces the browsing experience. The idea behind free public Wi-Fi hotspots is not to provide high-speed connection to pornographic content, but to further the government’s initiative of providing uniform coverage of internet. On the other hand, using public Wi-Fi for accessing pornographic content has implications on the device health and user privacy as well. It is here that the aspect of culturing the users can be worked upon. This would not only help keeping the aim of free public Wi-Fi in order, but also ascertain internet speeds are not impacted over this.
Youth forms a significant chunk of high-speed internet users. To facilitate education, the Indian government also put plans of enabling colleges and universities with Wi-Fi. Similar to the norms for public Wi-Fi, the state-sponsored Wi-Fi installations at educational places, universities etc. also need to be brought under standard usage guidelines. ALSO READ: Reliance Jio tops chart in 4G download speed in April: TRAI
While for those who are familiar with the technology and its usage, it is easier to bring further improvements. However, it is the section of the society which is still wary of allowing mobile towers in their vicinity over unreasonable fears surrounding health implications. COAI director Rajan Mathews says, if people do not allow authorities to set up mobile towers, how can we offer them seamless, high-speed connectivity. To sum up, not only does India need to do a lot in terms of providing the right infrastructure in order to exploit the available resources to their maximum capacity but also needs to put in place the right norms to thwart misuse of the technology. In order to reach from 5.14 Mbps to even twice includes improved infrastructure, maximum coverage, affordable plans, and culturing the userbase.