India experienced faster internet last week but it was still below its peak speeds last seen in March.
The fixed download speed in India was 35.84 megabits per second (Mbps) for the week ending April 27, shows data from global internet tracker Ookla. The mobile download speed was 10.35 Mbps in the same period (see chart 1).
“Mobile download speed in India increased when comparing the week of April 20 to the week prior, while download speed over fixed broadband remained relatively flat during the same period,” said a note from the company. The week of April 20 refers to the week beginning April 20 and ending on April 27.
Fixed internet speed numbers are down 9.8 per cent from their March peak. Fixed internet speeds had touched 39.75 Mbps for the week ending March 16. Mobile download speeds had touched 11.78 Mbps in the same week. It fell after the lockdown took effect. Mobile speeds are down 12.1 per cent to 10.35 Mbps.
This is an effect similar to what was seen in other parts of the world as countries entered lockdown to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic. An increasing number of people are said to have been using the internet as they worked from home; others use it for schooling, video conferences, and entertainment through various platforms.
Internet speeds are important because they have been used as a pointer to the level of economic activity in a country. Most economic indicators are available monthly or quarterly. Internet speeds serve as an indicator available with greater frequency to understand the extent of a lockdown and whether it is being eased or tightened. Analysts and commentators widely used it for China which enforced a large-scale lockdown to prevent the spread of the pandemic.
India’s own internet speeds touched a low for the week ending March 30. This was shortly after the government announced its first lockdown. Fixed internet speeds had touched a low of 32.88 Mbps. Mobile internet speeds had fallen to 8.57 Mbps.
Global internet speeds also show slight improvement. Some parts of the world have begun to open up the lockdown and thereby reducing internet traffic.
“Mobile download speed in the world increased when comparing the week of April 20 to the week prior, while download speed over fixed broadband remained relatively flat during the same period,” according to the Ookla statement.
China has seen a rebound in internet speeds. It is up 19-21 per cent compared to its January numbers (see chart 2). Numbers are compared to January for China because Covid-19 hit the country before the others.
A number of video platforms such as Netflix, YouTube, and Amazon Prime have reduced the amount of data they consume in a bid to lower internet congestion in various countries. Internet speeds would otherwise have been worse-affected.