Growth of 4G Pushed the Adoption of Wi-Fi Behind in India: OpenSignal

With the great push of 4G penetration in India, a large number of smartphone users have left Wi-Fi adoption behind and gone straight to 4G, OpenSignal said in a report on Thursday. The wireless coverage mapping company highlights that the Indian government is becoming “increasingly turned on” to the potential of public Wi-Fi networks. It is reported that there are plans to provide coverage to some 250,000 panchayats and 5,000 railway stations within the next two years. The country, however, doesn’t have remarkable 4G speeds – in fact, it was found to have the slowest 4G speeds among the 77 countries as per a previous OpenSignal report. But nevertheless, it has now been found that instead of Wi-Fi, Indians are largely showing interest in 4G.

OpenSignal claims that Wi-Fi networks in India don’t get the same amount of interest as 4G because the evolution of telcos in the country “somewhat skipped the fixed-broadband stage of development and raced straight on to 4G”. Having said that, it is reported that there is a signal number of Wi-Fi users in the country, and the publicly-accessible Wi-Fi is becoming “more and more important” with the increase in data usage.

As per the data provided by OpenSignal, covering 90 days from March 1, 2018, users on Vodafone spend the most time connected to Wi-Fi networks – particularly, at 20 percent of the time. This was followed by Airtel with 17 percent. Idea and Jio users come at the bottom with 15 percent and seven percent, respectively. “While Wi-Fi connectivity in India is growing, it is still well below more developed markets such as the US where we have measured Wi-Fi connectivity around the 50 percent mark,” OpenSignal said in the report.

Among the prime reasons for the low Wi-Fi connectivity in India, OpenSignal highlights that limited penetration of home broadband comes on top. “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. This may also explain why our users on Jio’s mobile network spend significantly less time on Wifi compared to its rivals since the operator has only just launched its JioFiber home broadband service,” the report said.

Apart from the limited penetration of home broadband, OpenSignal says that it is the expansion of smartphone users on 4G networks that has restricted Wi-Fi connectivity in the country. But this scenario is about to change as telcos in the country are believed to launch Wi-Fi offload programmes and encourage users to use Wi-Fi hotspots with low-cost data offers with 4G networks in the country become more congested.

“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,” the OpenSignal report added.

It is considered that Wi-Fi connectivity is “vital to improve connectivity and fuel the growing digital economy” in the country. But so far, Indians feel nourished by using 4G on their mobile devices. There are also various developments taking place to bring 5G to the country just in line with its global rollout to improve network stability and enhance speeds.