When you have to review a product or service that has been introduced in the market for the first time, you are a bit lost initially and then you set your own parameters and benchmarks. But when a second player comes up with a similar product or service, it becomes very easy to review the second entrant as you already have something to compare it with.
Airtel was the first telecom operator to introduce 4G services in Kerala in September, 2015. Vodafone rolled out its 4G services from Kochi on December 08, 2015. I got the invite for the national launch at Kochi but as I couldn’t make it, I had to wait for the launch in Thiruvananthapuram on Dec 21 to get a SIM.
Now here is where the comparison starts. Airtel had interacted with us and taken the required documents well in advance and kept the SIM ready when we reached for their 4G launch. (In fact they also gave us a 4G handset for two weeks.) But at the Vodafone 4G launch, it was just like a fish market – imagine about 50 odd journalists trying to get a free SIM with 8 GB data for month. I wasted an hour in the process but I finally got one.
My first big test was to see if Vodafone 4G works at my residence. Those of you who would have read my Airtel 4G experience would recall that I could not use it at home. Btw, if you haven’t yet read it, please check out A week of riding the Airtel 4G highway in Trivandrum.
Well, I wasn’t disappointed when it showed me a 2G connection. I moved to the first floor and got 3G signal but not very strong though. Finally on the terrace and also, on the verandha, I got a 4G connection. Not very steady but a speed test showed about 6 Mbps download speed.
Over the next couple of weeks, I checked the connection speed at various locations in the capital city, just like I did with Airtel 4G. I have tried to do the speed test at the same location and around the same time, wherever possible.
|Date||Place||Time||Download Speed||Upload Speed|
|24-12-2015||Statue||18.44||10.41 Mbps||8.41 Mbps|
|30-12-2015||Press Club||09:54||15.30 Mbps||9.57 Mbps|
|30-12-2015||Sreekariyam||12:34||24.75 Mbps||9.38 Mbps|
|30-12-2015||Press Club||18:56||11.42 Mbps||9.21 Mbps|
|05-01-2016||Pattom||12:05||12.65 Mbps||9.77 Mbps|
|07-01-2016||Thampanoor||22.35||8.85 Mbps||9.44 Mbps|
|16-01-2016||PMG||13:14||6.58 Mbps||8.02 Mbps|
The speeds are comparable with Airtel 4G but the biggest difference while using Vodafone 4G was that the fall back to 3G was smooth and most of the time, you won’t even know the difference. On Airtel, the fall back was on 2G and you would get stuck. The maximum speed that I got on Vodafone 4G was 24.75 Mbps as against an impressive 37.96 Mbps on Airtel 4G.
Watching live TV streaming, movie streaming and of course, Youtube was a smooth affair but a few times, I did observe some buffering even on 4G. However, a big disappointment was that despite numerous attempts, I could not upload a video on Youtube using the Vodafone connection.
The 4G coverage area of Vodafone is definitely better than Airtel. The connectivity was good in the city and also while travelling between Trivandrum and Kochi on the National Highway and also on the MC Road with the network on 4G, wherever available or else on 3G, even in smaller towns.
So what’s the final verdict? Between the two, Vodafone 4G offers a much superior experience. The tariffs are pretty much the same. Both service providers have priced 4G same as that of 3G. Both are offering free SIMs and SIM swap facility. So it’s the coverage and connectivity that is the differentiator.
Meanwhile, Idea has rolled out their 4G LTE service across Kerala starting December 23, 2015. I attended their formal launch in Trivandrum on January 19, 2016 and I am still waiting for their free SIM to review their 4G service. But I doubt if I would get it as one of their top officials remarked that they are the number one mobile operator in the State and they need not give out free SIMs. Well, no comments !!
The 4G scene will really hot up when Reliance Jio will make their services available for the public from next month.