Even as India gears up to roll out fifth-generation (5G) mobile networks, as many as 90% of Indian consumers surveyed face frequent disruptions or speed issues with their 3G or 4G mobile data connection. Also, due to poor 3G or 4G network quality, every month, two in three consumers surveyed, who use digital payments, have one or more of their transactions disrupted, shows a survey. It also highlights how telcos are still providing 3G networks to customers while charging them for 4G networks. None of the telcos offers any tariff plan for 3G and has plans only for 4G.
LocalCircles, which conducted the survey, says, "...a major concern arises as 92% of consumers of 3G and 4G mobile data services surveyed face either frequent disruptions or speed issues on a regular basis when conducting their transactions or browsing. Almost 66% of the consumers surveyed who use digital payments confirmed that they faced disruption with one or more of their digital payment transactions each month due to poor quality of 3G and 4G networks leading them to use alternate means for such payments."
The survey findings indicate that 46% of 3G and 4G customers are using mobile data services to access the internet for four hours or more each day and 62% are using them to conduct one or more banking or payment transactions every month. The survey received over 38,000 responses from more than 352 districts of the country.
92% of consumers of 3G/4G mobile data services face either frequent disruptions or speed issues on a regular basis
The survey sought mobile data customers' feedback about their top issues when browsing the internet or making a financial transaction using 3Gor 4G or data dongle connections. In response, 48% said they face 'frequent disruptions due to poor network', and another 44% said 'low speed' is their top issue. Furthermore, 4% of mobile customers cited 'other reasons', and another 4% could not say anything.
On an aggregate basis, 92% of consumers of 3G/4G mobile data services face frequent disruption or speed issues regularly when browsing the internet or making a financial transaction, LocalCircles says.
66% of consumers surveyed who use digital payments say that 1 or more of their transactions get disrupted each month due to poor 3G/4G network quality
The next question in the survey sought feedback from consumers who use mobile data to make digital payments about the percentage of their digital payment transactions each month that get disrupted due to poor 3G or 4G network quality. These are digital payments which consumers do not end up making digitally but have to resort to an alternate payment mechanism (cash, cheque, and card).
In response, 5% said that over 50% of their digital payment transactions get disrupted each month due to poor network; 9% said 20%-50% of their digital payment transactions were getting disrupted each month due to it. Around 18% of the respondents said that somewhere between 10%-20% of their digital payment transactions were getting disrupted due to poor network, while for 34% of respondents up to 10% of their digital payment transactions were disrupted due to bad 3G or 4G network.
"On an aggregate basis, 66% or two in three consumers surveyed who use digital payments have confirmed facing disruption at least once or more each month with a digital payment transaction due to poor 3G or 4G network quality," LocalCircles says.
62% of 3G/4G mobile data customers are using their connections to conduct 1 or more banking or payment transactions every month
The next question in the survey asked mobile data customers about the number of times in a month they use their 3G, 4G or data dongle connection to conduct financial transactions like payments or banking.
In response, 9% said they do 'more than 30' financial transactions in a month using their 3G, 4G or data dongle connection. About 12% said '16-30', 24% said '5-15', and 17% said '1-4' times in a month and 34% said 'none', or do their transaction using broadband or DSL or fibre connection, while 4% could not say anything.
LocalCircles says, on an aggregate basis, the poll findings indicate that 62% of 3G or 4G mobile data customers use their connections to conduct one or more banking or payment transactions monthly.
46% of 3G/4G mobile data customers are using them to access internet for 4 hours or more each day
The next question in the survey asked mobile data customers about the time they generally spend each day on their mobile/tablet/computer accessing or browsing the internet via 3G, 4G or data dongle connection.
In response, 15% said they spend 'more than 8 hours' each day browsing the internet via 3G, 4G or data dongle connection. About 31% said they spend '4-8 hours', 25% spend '2-4 hours', and 28% spend 'up to 2 hours' each day. On an aggregate basis, 46% of 3G or 4G mobile data customers are using them to access the internet for four hours or more each day.
Fuelled by an increase in the usage of technology in people's day-to-day life, such as smartphones, tablets and laptops, India's internet user base crossed the 830 million-mark in 2021 while the volume of wireless internet data usage in India has surged seven times, as per Economic Survey of India 2021-22. The report further states that India's average internet data usage has increased to 14.1GB in 2021 from 1.24GB per month in 2018.
As per data from the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), Jio recorded a 10% rise in average 4G data download speed while Vodafone and Airtel's speed increased by 8.9% and 5.3%, respectively. Another recent report by Nokia stated that 4G data traffic in India grew 6.5 times in the past five years, with the highest-ever shipment of more than 160 million smartphones.
This has prompted the telecom operators of India like Airtel and Vodafone to increase the tariff for pre-paid and post-paid subscribers. The last tariff hike was made in November 2021 after a gap of two years. Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea and Reliance Jio had increased their tariffs in November 2021 by 20%-25%.
Analysts opine that Indian telcos could further increase tariffs in the range of 20-25% this year. Airtel and Vodafone Idea have already said in their post-earnings call that they are looking at tariff hikes during 2022 to boost their average revenues per user.
Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman has announced in her Budget 2022 that the spectrum auction for the next-generation telecom network will be completed in 2022 so that the telecom operators are in a position to roll out services by 2022-23.
Last month, Union minister for communications Ashwini Vaishnaw tested a 5G call at IIT Madras. While the government is getting ready to launch 5G, telcos in India are still providing 3G services while charging customers for 4G network.