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4G is more widely available in India, but not better

A new report shows that 4G is now available to more people in the country, but it comes at the expense of download speeds.

India is doing more to bring 4G to more people, but it comes at the price of download speeds, according to a new report.

Dibyangshu Sarkar/ AFP/Getty Images

Despite Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's push for Digital India, connectivity remains slower and almost nonexistent when compared to other countries around the world.

New York-based wireless coverage mapping company OpenSignal in a new report released in June showed that while India makes it among the top 20 in terms of 4G availability, it continues to sit near the bottom when it comes to download speeds. South Korea and Norway are the countries to beat, sitting among the top five on both charts.

India is the world's second largest market for mobile services, with only one-third of its people (or more than 400 million) connected online today. But connection remains so bad that an Indian politician had to climb a tree to make a call.

The report does show that India is working to improve availability. OpenSignal noted that India "shot up" in the LTE availability rankings, climbing from almost 60 percent last year to 81.6 percent this year, putting the country at 15th on the charts. The reason for this could be attributed to a nationwide rollout of 4G networks by local telco Reliance Jio last September, which saw 100 million new subscribers. OpenSignal called it "a rare instance in which a single operator can have an outsized impact on a mobile market in just a short time."

Although 4G is now available to more people in the country, it came at the cost of average speeds -- the country ranked second from the bottom with download speeds averaging at 5.14 Mbps. This is half of the US' download speeds, which averaged at 14.99 Mbps. It's far slower than Singapore, which dominated the 4G speed charts at an average of 45.62 Mbps, as well as the chart's median at almost 23 Mbps and the global average speed at 16.2 Mbps.

In an email to CNET, Kevin Fitchard, OpenSignal analyst and author of the report, said he expects improvements in 4G speeds and availability across the globe.

"We're still a long way off from seeing 1 Gbps [download speeds]. The improvements [expected in the coming years] will be upgrades to the current 4G infrastructure though many operators may call them 5G deployments," said Fitchard. "Speeds will exceed 50 Mbps as LTE-advanced technologies are improved and new smartphones that are [capable] of tapping [these] technologies are released."

First published June 8 at 12:35 a.m. PT.
Update at 11:11 p.m. PT: Added global average speed and a comment from OpenSignal.

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