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Reliance Jio vs Vodafone Idea vs Airtel: Two TRAI 4G speed tests, two different winners

Kiran Rathee

Which is the fastest 4G telecom operator in the country? According to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai), it is Reliance Jio by one methodology and Bharti Airtel by another.

Even the average download speed is very divergent in the two sets of methods adopted by the regulator.

If data from Trai s MySpeed portal are taken, Reliance Jio has been the fastest 4G operator for the past over one year with an average download speed of around 20.8 mega bit per second (Mbps). Bharti Airtel comes a distant second with an average speed of about 9.5 Mbps followed by Vodafone with 6.7 Mbps and Idea at 6.3 Mbps.

However, the situation totally reverses if data from Trai s drive tests are taken into account. For over a year, the regulator has commissioned drive tests in around 69 cities covering a population of around 150 million. In most of the cities, Airtel emerges the fastest operator.

Kotak Institutional Equities has analysed the data from all the drive tests and on a population-weighted basis, Airtel emerges the fastest operator with a weighted-average download speed of 8.3 Mbps. Reliance Jio comes second with a weighted-average download speed of 6.2 Mbps followed by Vodafone and Idea with speed of 6 Mbps and 5.3 Mbps, respectively.

If the two sets of data are compared, huge variation in speed of Reliance Jio stands out. In most of the drive tests, Jio did not achieve speed of over 20 Mbps. The speed of other operators though remains more or less similar in both the methods, with minor variations.

When FE reached out to Trai to understand the reason for difference in speed as calculated by Myspeed and drive tests, an official said the two methods are totally different. While the drive tests are done in a constraint environment, Myspeed data is the actual data from customers who have downloaded the app. The Authority has not shared the number of people using the Myspeed app but as per Google s app store, there are around 1 million downloads of the app.

Elaborating about the data sourced from Myspeed, an official said the app takes the speed of a handset once in 24 hours from a person who has given the permission to share data. As it happens in the background, the person need not do the speed test check on the handset.

In case of drive tests, the Authority selects those areas in a city where network congestion can be anticipated. In order to check the quality of service, personnel from Trai use their own devices to check the various parameters, including the 4G speed.