As the lockdown following COVID-19 pandemic confined citizens to their homes, Indian users experienced a negative impact on download speeds during the initial phases of lockdown. This trend was more pronounced in Tier 2 cities compared to Tier 1. However, with the gradual easing of lockdown, the download speed experience improved significantly, especially for the users in Tier 1 cities. The findings are from Opensignal's latest report that analysed the download speed experience.
The strict countrywide lockdown of three weeks imposed after Janta Curfew (one-day lockdown) witnessed a sharp decline in the overall download speeds, suggesting congestion on mobile networks. Users in Tier 1 saw their download speed experience decline by 16 per cent, while their counterparts in Tier 3 and Tier 2 cities saw greater declines of 23 per cent and 25 per cent, respectively. The trend continued until the end of Phase 1 of lockdown - the second week of April (ending April 12) - as citizens have been staying at home. Work from home, virtual classes and entertainment have resulted in a great consumption of mobile data. Users in Tier 2 cities saw some of the major declines in Phase 1, especially in cities such as Solapur, Ludhiana, Nashik, Surat and Ahmedabad, where average download speeds dropped by 35 per cent or more compared to pre-lockdown levels.
Indian users continued to see significantly lower download speeds compared to pre-lockdown levels during the second phase of lockdown between April 13 and May 3. However, speeds gradually improved over time. Whereas the speeds returned to the pre-lockdown level in the majority of cities during the third phase of lockdown between May 4 and May 17.
Even in Tier 1 cities, the overall download speeds showed slightly different patterns. While Bangalore and Chennai did not see any significant decrease in download speeds, users in Pune saw a decline of 6.9 per cent to 12.5 per cent (limited to Phase 1 of lockdown). Also, even in the remaining Tier 1 cities, the speed started returning to normal in the second phase. Towards the end of the fourth phase of lockdown spanning between May 18 - 31, the overall download speeds for the users in a majority of cities had returned to normal. Instead, users in some of the cities witnessed significantly faster download speeds, and this trend expanded to more cities during the period when the lockdown was relaxed from July 1 onwards. This pattern appeared earlier in Tier 1 cities, where there was a more pronounced improvement in download speeds.
In the last week of analysis, the week ending July 12, users in Delhi saw the greatest improvement of 38.1 per cent in download speed, followed by users in Mumbai at 33.5 per cent, Hyderabad at 33.1 per cent, Ghaziabad at 32.4 per cent and Chennai at 30.4 per cent. Dhanbad, Kanpur, Solapur and Thiruvananthapuram were the exceptions where users continued to see significantly lower download speeds throughout the period when lockdown loosened.
For this insight, OpenSignal used the Indian government's three-tier classification system for cities, where Tier 1 cities have the largest populations and Tier 3 cities have the lowest.