India ranks 128 in global mobile internet speeds: Here’s why unlimited mobile data is of little help

Mobile users in India have mostly forgotten to keep a check as to how much data they are spending, thanks to cheap unlimited data plans. In fact, India has the cheapest mobile internet plans in the world. Getting 2GB of 4G data per day by spending less than $5 a month is a new standard in this country. You can even get 3G per day if you decide to spend just $1 more monthly.
Super affordable mobile internet plans is one of the key highlights in the digital journey of India. While you may struggle to finish 2GB or 3GB mobile internet data on a daily basis there is no denying that you still need to connect to a reliable Wi-Fi connection while playing games or watching high resolution videos. This is because there may be ample mobile data but the speed is limited.
If you use any tool to check the speed of your mobile internet data plan then you will be surprised to see the high ‘claimed’ speed. But just play one video on YouTube in 720p or 1080p then the reality of this ‘claimed’ high speed mobile internet becomes clear. This is the common story for all telcos in India in general. In some locations, you may get good speeds while in others you may struggle to even refresh your Facebook page. And users have mostly given up on complaining to customer support as the standard bot reply does very little to help.
India’s ranks 128 in mobile data speeds; Lags behind Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka
The fact that more data is not equivalent to a better speed is even highlighted by Ookla’s Speedtest Global Index. As per August 2020, India ranks 128 out of 139 in the global mobile internet speed rankings. While the global average download speed is 34.82 Mbps (megabit per second), India lags at just 12.10 Mbps. The global average upload speed and latency is 10.99 Mbps and 42 ms, India lags at 4.21 Mbps and a higher latency of 53 ms.
South Korea topped the list with an average mobile internet speed of 113.01 Mbps. This is double the average broadband speed in India, which lags at 43.04 Mbps, as per Speedtest Global Index.
Neighbouring countries like Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Nepal ranked higher than India in the global mobile internet speed test index. While Sri Lanka ranked 100th with a speed of 19.86Mbps, Pakistan grabbed the 116th spot with 16.58Mbps. Even Nepal scored more than India and occupied the 110th spot with a speed of 17.70Mbps in August 2020.
How much mobile internet data do you actually need daily?
While unlimited data is highly welcome in the country, you may not need so much on a daily basis especially if you are relying on your home Wi-Fi for online classes, gaming and watching videos. Here is how much mobile internet data is consumed on average on an hourly basis:

Activity Data consumption
Playing Call of Duty Mobile for 1 hour 35MB
Watching YouTube videos at 360p resolution for 1 hour 280MB
Watching YouTube videos at 720p resolution for 1 hour 600MB
Watching Facebook videos for an hour 300MB
Watching a movie on low resolution on Netflix (1.35 hours) 650MB
Google Chrome (2 hours) up to 150MB

So, if you do the maths, and calculate how much data you would actually need on a daily basis. Of course, having a 2GB per day data plan is beneficial but the problem is the overall experience. If you are stuck watching YouTube at 360p or playing games which gets laggy mid-way then the entire unlimited data plan experience goes for a toss.
Why are better speeds more important than unlimited data?
Content creators are already posting 8K videos on YouTube but you will dare not hit the play button as it will take forever to load. Also, for telcos to lure users to spend more on data, they will have to improve speeds. The maths is simple. If you are able to smoothly play a 4K video on your phone using mobile internet then your 2GB data will be exhausted in an hour. This will in turn force you to buy more data, thus helping telcos boost average revenue or commonly called ARPU. Also, people will truly get the option to choose between watching 360p and 4K videos if they know their mobile internet speeds will be able to support it.
While there are countless challenges for telcos in India, subscribers are mostly forced to rely on broadband when they need high internet speeds despite having unused mobile data. Slow mobile internet speeds will not help boost user experience and may soon be a challenge for India’s digital journey, especially when the focus is now online classes and mobile learning.

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