While Indonesia may not have the best internet connectivity in Southeast Asia, one thing it is certainly doing well compared to some other ASEAN member states is providing 4G availability to its estimated population of over 260 million.
A 2019 report by London-based Opensignal titled, “The State of Mobile Network Experience” revealed that after Singapore and Thailand, Indonesia performs the best in ASEAN in terms of providing 4G availability. The report stated that 4G availability shows the proportion of time Opensignal users with a 4G device have a 4G connection. It is not a measure of coverage or the geographic extent of a network.
The fact that Indonesia does well in providing 4G availability is especially pertinent considering the fact that (perhaps by sheer numbers alone) more Indonesians are on smartphones compared to any other Southeast Asian country.
Unfortunately, the report also noted that while Indonesia does well in terms of 4G availability, unsurprisingly, the country’s scores pale when it comes to categories such as download and upload speeds, and online video experience.
Opensignal isn’t the only one to note that Indonesia has a problem with internet speeds. An analysis by discount code portal CupoNation Indonesia found that Indonesia ranks low among Southeast Asian countries in terms of fibre optic internet connection speeds, which heavily depends on a country’s infrastructure, geography, and many other factors. Being able to only provide a mere 200 megabytes per second (Mbps) to its internet users, Indonesia is placed fifth out of six countries, only managing to outperform Cambodia.
Just last year, Opensignal found that in terms of the best 4G speeds offered in each country, Indonesia ranked 68 out of 77 countries with an average of 18.5 Mbps during off peak hours.
According to the Speedtest Global Index, as of July 2020, Indonesia is placed 114 out of 138 countries with a mobile internet speed of 16.94 Mbps.
But 4G availability may be a saving grace for Indonesia as far as internet speed goes.
The ASEAN member state has improved in recent months as it was ranked 118 with a mobile internet speed of 10.51 Mbps back in March last year. Other than that, it is also placed 111 out of 174 countries for its fixed broadband speed of 23.06 Mbps as of July.
Compared to other ASEAN member states such as the Philippines and Vietnam, Indonesia is rather behind in terms implementing 5G. Archipelagic nation Philippines is said to get underway in the third quarter of this year while telcos in Vietnam have struck a network-sharing partnership.
“Spectrum management in Indonesia is a mess. It always has been,” said Ross O'Brien, ICT practice leader at Hong Kong-based Intercedent Asia. “The communications minister has said there isn't enough available spectrum for 5G, and various bands need to be cleaned up before that happens.”
“We need at least 2042MHz of spectrum frequency by 2024. That means we're still short by around 1310MHz to future proof it,” said Communication and Information Technology Minister Johnny G. Plate. He noted to local media that the country has just 737MHz of spectrum available for mobile – only about a third of what is required.
There is no doubt that Indonesia still has a long way to go in terms of providing strong internet connections parallel to that of its neighbours. However, as the future of 5G is quickly becoming the present, hopes are high that Indonesia and the rest of the region will not be lagging behind for long.