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For Rishab Sharma, a Punjab University student, life literally revolves around the speed of internet access on his mobile phone. After limping along on 3G, he has now got the latest ‘4G’ or fourth generation cellular service on his phone, and now he has got wings!
As Delhi gears up for its 4G service from Airtel, to commence within two months, this correspondent lived Sharma’s 4G life for a day in his city, Chandigarh, which offers both 3G and 4G, as well as the suburbs of Panchkula and Mohali, exploring internet speeds.
So what can Sharma do with 4G, that he could not accomplish with 3G? HT tested the 4G speed claims of telecom operators; the results are revealing. A 250-page Harry Potter PDF book was downloaded in just 0.1 seconds. The 2-hour-26-minute movie Barfi was ready for viewing in 9 minutes and 30 seconds, and the audio format of the popular Punjabi song Sadi gali ajaa (4 minutes and 27 seconds) was downloaded in 2.5 seconds.
A video Skype chat with a friend in Spain, and live streaming video of the soap Beintehaa (Colors TV) did not have any buffer or time lag on 4G. It was comparable to broadband wi-fi.
Little wonder that Sharma is flying!
With the advent of 4G, Chandigarh’s speed-hungry customers are happy. “It is lightening fast,” grinned Sharma. But there is a hidden downside: its speed is addictive, and you can run up a huge bill.
Rajan Mathews, director general, Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) cautioned, “Watch out for the price points… Globally, you pay for the speed, quality assured.”
This means data tariff will go up. Currently Airtel is offering its 4G at the same tariff as 3G, and RJio insiders told HT that their 4G service will be ‘affordable but competitive’. Mathews says, “Operators are offering broadband speeds, which is much more than the Government’s definition of broadband…so there has to be a differential cost.”
If you want both speed and capacity, you’ve got to pay for it. For instance, a 10-GB package costs about Rs 999. But with moderate-to-heavy use, you would consume the 10GB in a few days. Then the choice is to stop using 4G, or to pay for additional usage. And additional data consumption could inflate your bill manifold.
There is no doubting the capability of the service, though. During our testing, we found the average upload speed for 4G was 8.02 Mbps, compared to 3.26 Mbps for 3G. For downloads, 4G speeds were 45.95-47 Mbps versus a miniscule 1.24 Mbps for 3G.
Download speed is the speed at which your mobile device can pull data from the internet, while upload speed refers to how fast it can push out data such as pictures or video.
“The new era of ultimate ‘mobile broadband’ speed with 4G experience is moving to unequalled levels,” said NK Goyal, president CMAI (Communications, Multimedia and Infrastructure), an apex telecom industry body.
Broadband speeds refer to the amount of data that a consumer can either download or upload per second.
But there are many external factors at play—actual file sizes, the number of subscribers accessing a network at any given time, proximity to cellular towers, number of applications being used on a phone simultaneously, and so on.
The globally accepted internet broadband speed range on mobile devices for 4G is 50-100 Mbps. In HT’s testing, speeds of 40-47 Mbps were obtained, though operators claimed to have touched 60 Mbps. Reliance Jio has demonstrated 49Mbps at Mumbai IIT. Airtel has achieved it in Chandigarh, Kolkatta, Bangalore and Pune.
RJio plans to launch its 4G service by mid-2015. Aircel launched its service in four states last week last week.