How fast is your home broadband? And how does it compare with other ISPs, or internet service providers in the locality and at large? Can you replace this with a 5G connection instead? Some cursory questions consumers often ask, with the importance of quality and speed greater than ever in the era of remote working.
Internet analytics company Opensignal, in its latest analysis of fixed broadband services in India, suggests Airtel’s Xstream broadband service delivers better download speeds than Reliance JioFiber. At the same time, there is parity in quality of service. Incidentally, regional ISPs continue to figure strongly.
Opensignal’s data says Airtel Xstream broadband is now outpacing Reliance JioFiber in the Broadband Download Speed metric at the national level, with a difference of 10.3Mbps (30.4%). That’s an average download speed of 44.1Mbps for Airtel, compared with 33.8Mbps for JioFiber.
This test is representative of the typical everyday speeds a user experiences across a provider’s network. In the previous edition of the report, from July last year, Airtel logged an average of 42.7Mbps, then faster than Jio by 8Mbps.
In the Broadband Peak Download Speed score as well, Airtel’s 213.6Mbps speed leaves behind Jio’s 155.3Mbps recorded speed. This metric represents what broadband users with the highest speeds (that is a factor of the quality of the network and the speeds they’ve signed up for) experience.
In last year’s report, Airtel registered 219.4Mbps in this metric, then also much faster than Jio’s 155.5Mbps.
The latest data by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) for October 2023 clocks India’s wired broadband subscriber base at 37.35 million – a number that would include fiber, cable, and DSL technologies, deployed by ISPs. That was a sluggish monthly growth rate of 1.32% or 36.87 million wired broadband users at the end of September.
In terms of the market share of this demographic, Reliance Jio (34.08%), Bharti Airtel (25.77%) and BSNL (19.82%) corner the most share.
Airtel’s Xstream broadband plans are priced at ₹499 onwards with 40Mbps speeds, while JioFiber’s plans find an entry point with a 30Mbps option that costs ₹399 per month. Also, Airtel Xstream wired broadband network gives users the choice of 40Mbps, 100Mbps, 200Mbps, 300Mbps, and 1Gbps for different plans. Reliance JioFiber has a more diverse choice of 30Mbps, 100Mbps, 150Mbps, 300Mbps, 500Mbps and 1Gbps. Both ISPs also offer a 10Mbps rated backup internet plan for homes.
The situation isn’t very different with the Broadband Upload Speed metric, with Airtel ahead by 6.5Mbps (33.3Mbps to Jio’s 26.8Mbps). These are average upload speeds, which will more than anything else, dictate a user’s experience using apps such as cloud storage services and file sharing across different services.
It must be noted that often ISPs configure (and are known to disclose this beforehand) upload speeds to be a fraction of the download speeds chosen by a consumer. Airtel and Reliance Jio’s fiber broadband networks claim to offer symmetric (that is, the same) download and upload speeds – if you’ve, for instance, chosen a 100Mbps plan, that’ll hold for peak download and upload speeds on your connection.
JioFiber does return a strong showing in the Broadband Consistent Quality for national-level results in India, with a score of 71.6% to Airtel’s score of 68.4%. This is an important metric that identifies the quality of service, consistency of speeds for downloads and uploads, factoring in variations, and any sequence of spikes or dips.
Opensignal defines this as a collective of six key performance indicators, including download and upload speed, latency, jitter, packet loss, and time to first byte. They say these “metrics are represented as a percentage of users’ tests that have met minimum recommended performance thresholds to watch HD video, complete group video conference calls and play games, across all times of the day”.
Need for regional ISPs, reaffirmed
While Airtel Xstream, Reliance JioFiber, and BSNL are the only pan-India ISPs, several broadband players are figuring favourably in competing with the big brands, in different regions of India.
Opensignal clarifies how ISPs have been chosen for assessment, which gains importance at the city or regional level.
“Nationally, we have included three providers for comparison — Airtel, BSNL, and Jio— that serve customers across all of India’s regions. Additionally, for cities, we’ve included providers that serve at least 5% of our user base in that particular city,” says the Opensignal report.
In Ahmedabad, for instance, GTPL returns a broadband download speed of 37.5Mbps, which is behind Airtel (46.7Mbps) but ahead of Jio (36.4Mbps). It is also in the same range for consistency quality and upload speed metrics.
In Bengaluru, Hathway (67.7Mbps) and ACT (60Mbps) pip Airtel (59.1Mbps) and Jio (48.3Mbps) in broadband download speed metrics. It is a similar ranking in the upload speed metric too. Chennai also sees Hathway and ACT lead Airtel and Jio in download as well as upload speed metrics.
Excitel, a player that is present in Delhi and parts of the National Capital Region, has a significant advantage in download (77.2Mbps) and upload (54.7Mbps) tests, compared with Airtel (51.3Mbps down and 38.8Mbps up) and Jio (43.3Mbps down and 33.5Mbps up).
Hyderabad sees strong showing by Excitel, Hathway, and ACT, whereas Alliance, Wish Net, and GTPL KCBPL are proving to be reliable ISPs in Kolkata. Incidentally, Hyderabad and Kolkata are two cities that have the maximum broadband ISP competition, with five major ISPs in the fray, to sign up users.