If you must use Netflix in India, Airtel is the least terrible option

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Connection error.
Image: AP Photo/Tsering Topgyal
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It’s official: India is one of the worst countries to Netflix and chill. And to Netflix and not chill.

As of last month, the average speed for Netflix streaming across 13 different internet service providers (ISPs) in India was 1.92 megabits per second (mbps), making it the fifth-worst country out of the 48 indexed by Netflix. (The data excluded streaming on cellular networks.) By comparison, the average connection speed in the US was 3.53 mbps. Other less developed countries like Thailand, Indonesia, Argentina, and Chile had speeds of over 3.5 mbps while Switzerland triumphed over everyone with an average speed of 4.23 mbps.

Out of the all the Indian ISPs assessed by Netflix, Airtel topped the charts with a speed of 2.25 mbps. Service provider 7 Star Digital boasted speeds of 2.06 mbps (an improvement over 1.77 mbps a month earlier), while state-owned Maharashtra Telephone Nigam Limited (MTNL) and Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) both came in last with speeds of 1.29 mbps and 1.09 mbps, respectively.

Netflix began tracking speed data in April 2016, and Airtel has been the reigning champ for much of that time, despite a brief upset by Gurgaon-based Spectranet. But Airtel’s average speed in January was still down from a month earlier.

Netflix’s India woes aren’t limited to slow internet. The US-based subscription streaming service has failed to strike a chord where India’s internet users are proliferating the fastest—in tier 1 and tier 2 cities with populations under 50,000. Netflix is likewise less appealing to India’s many mobile-first users, who don’t have TVs or laptops on which to enjoy the latest episodes of Narcos and House of Cards.

The company also faces stiff competition: Amazon India, which launched Prime in the country last year, has forged partnerships with major Bollywood production houses and signed on almost every big-name Indian comedian. Netflix too is now creating original content in India; it recently struck a deal with the country’s biggest movie star, Shah Rukh Khan, that will make movies from his Red Chillies Entertainment production house available on Netflix for at least the next three years.

But cost remains a deterrent. At Rs800 (around $12) per month, Netflix’s pricing is much steeper than Amazon Prime—Rs499 ($7.45) annually—and the latter includes perks like free two-day shipping. Film studio Eros also provides its content for as little as under a dollar per month, and local rival Hotstar has a Rs.199 ($2.97) monthly fee and a catalogue of content from TV broadcaster Star that includes everything from cricket matches to soap operas.