Airtel vs Reliance Jio: Ookla stands by network speed test, admits some limitations

Ookla says it fully stands behind the accuracy of its methodology used to designate Airtel as India’s fastest 4G network , a move questioned by Reliance Jio


Airtel and Ookla issued a joint statement to make the announcement on 4G data speeds. Photo: Mint
Airtel and Ookla issued a joint statement to make the announcement on 4G data speeds. Photo: Mint

New Delhi: The catfight over data speeds drags on, with Ookla LLc. that certified Airtel as India’s fastest data network swearing by its methodology on Wednesday after rival Reliance Jio raised a stink.

Ookla, the Seattle-based company behind speed checking service Speedtest said it fully stands behind the accuracy and reliability of its methodology used to designate Bharti Airtel Ltd as India’s fastest mobile network. However, it admitted that due to limitations of the Android platform, the ‘active carrier value’ returned by the device does not always indicate the actual data provider in devices with multiple SIMs.

“In these situations, Ookla applies additional data sources and mechanisms during post processing to help determine the actual data carrier being tested,” it said. For example, Ookla matches the connection IP address recorded during the test to known carrier IP blocks, it added.

“This enables Ookla to determine the actual data carrier with a high degree of confidence. Airtel’s margin of victory increased when the complete analysis was performed,” Ookla said.

On Monday, Airtel and Ookla issued a joint statement to make the announcement on data speeds. Airtel followed it up with advertisements that said it was “officially” India’s fastest 4G network. Jio petitioned the advertising industry watchdog, Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) to take action against the advertisements, Jio also accused Ookla of taking money from telcos for the speed award. The Mukesh Ambani-promoted company says over 90% of 4G phones in India are dual-sim and that there is no guarantee that the speed which is attributed to Airtel is of the Airtel data network.

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Jio, however, said Ookla’s admission reinforces Jio’s claim that there is a clear contamination in primary data collected by Ookla in India.

“It is a travesty that such results are being passed off as ‘official’ results by a market-leading operator,” Jio said in a statement.

Ookla had given Airtel the fastest mobile carrier award in February based on consumer-initiated Speedtest results in Q3 and Q4 of 2016. Reliance Jio, in its complaint, questioned the Speedtest methodology. Ookla is not recognised by either the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) or the Department of Telecommunications (DoT). Therefore, Airtel cannot use the word ‘officially’ in its advertisements, said Jio.

An Airtel spokesperson on Monday clarified that Ookla’s findings are based on analysis of millions of internet speed tests logged on ‘modern devices’ by mobile customers across India using its popular Speedtest app.

“The results include all mobile tests, regardless of connection technology,” Airtel had said.

Data speeds have gained much attention after the entry of Jio that is seeking to ride the data demand from Indian consumers. Jio believes data will change the course of mobile telephony in India and its promoter Mukesh Ambani has said that “data is the new oil”. This belief, backed by its aggressive tariff offers, have rattled rivals who had since then focused on voice services. Reliance Jio predicts India’s telecom industry’s revenue will increase 50% from the current levels to Rs3 trillion by 2021, largely driven by data, while voice revenue will fall from Rs1.5 trillion to Rs0.5 trillion.

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