India may be mobile-first, but mobile internet is 16 times faster in Singapore
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Photo Credit: Victorgrigas / Creative Commons

Though Singapore is 16 times faster than the “mobile-first” nation, India’s government is shelling out big bucks to move the country’s digital infrastructure ahead.

Tech in Asia

Talk about technology startups in India and the de facto prefix you’ll hear is “mobile-first.” From e-commerce to data analytics, every company is raving about going mobile, being mobile only, and so on. Yet the truth is mobile internet in India is far, far slower than in developed countries. Mobile internet in Singapore, for example, is nearly 16 times faster than in India.

The average achieved download speed of a mobile internet connection in India is 1.1 Mbit/s while it is 16.7 Mbit/s in Singapore. In the U.S., the average mobile internet speed is 6.7 Mbit/s, in the UK 5.6 Mbit/s, and in Germany 5.9 Mbit/s. The fastest average mobile networks in the world are in Denmark 21.6 Mbit/s, Singapore 16.7 Mbit/s, and Switzerland 16.5 Mbit/s.

These findings are from the Netradar mobile network maps created by the Internet Society and Aalto University in Finland. Their report is based on data from ordinary Indian mobile phone users using Netradar, a free mobile application to measure mobile connections and devices. Aalto University developed the app and runs it globally. When using the application, users are presented with data about the quality of their connectivity.

Here are the other highlights from their “Mobile Internet in India 2014” report released on Monday:

  • There are only minor differences in mobile internet speed when people use different Indian operators. While average downlink speed in the Vodafone network was 1.5 Mbit/s, BSNL’s was 1.3 Mbit/s, and Airtel’s 1.2 Mbit/s. Idea network had a speed of 1.1 Mbit/s and Reliance 1.0 Mbit/s.
  • Out of all the mobile carriers with market shares of over five percent in India, the mobile internet networks of Tata (0.8 Mbit/s) and Aircel (0.5 Mbit/s) were the slowest when the users were making measurements.
  • There are not very big differences with mobile internet speeds between different Indian states.
  • The average mobile internet speeds in Pakistan at 1.0 Mbit/s and Bangladesh at 0.8 Mbit/s are slower than in India, while operators provide faster mobile internet connections in Sri Lanka at 2.1 Mbit/s.

First-of-its-kind mobile governance platform

A couple of weeks ago, Indian president Pranab Mukherjee launched the country’s first and arguably world’s largest multi-mode mobile governance platform in Karnataka state. The citizens of Karnataka can use this platform called Karnataka MobileOne to pay utility bills and property tax, book railway and bus tickets, file income tax, avail of mobile passport and driving license services, and access other government and private sector schemes. “These anytime, anywhere, anyhow services will be available 24x7x365 days at any location in the state on any mobile device,” the government claims, adding that it is “future-proof.”

But in reality, even in Bangalore, the capital city of Karnataka, internet on mobile is sluggish. 3G connectivity is a rarity.

The central government in India, meanwhile, has kicked off an ambitious project called “Digital India” with a whopping budget of INR1,000 billion (USD $15.7 billion). High-speed internet at affordable rates in all nooks and corners of India is the big promise.

Many internet startups have just started in India and a lot is riding on the hope that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and IT Minister Ravishankar Prasad keep the daily promises they’ve been dishing out. “India has 900 million mobile phones and 3 billion internet connections. We have to make them more effective and accessible to promote entrepreneurship,” said Prasad during a visit to Kerala’s Startup Village in Kochi on Sunday.

The Indian startup scene brightened up this year, with the top 30 startups raising over $4 billion from investors. It’s easy to imagine how much better 2015 will be if basic infrastructure issues are sorted out.

Editing by Paul Bischoff

This post was originally published on Tech in Asia

Featured Image Credit: Victorgrigas / Creative Commons

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