Staying Connected in India
Staying Connected in India - Choosing the right Mobile Network Operator & Internet Service Provider.
PART I : CHOOSING THE RIGHT MOBILE OPERATOR
Disclaimer :- All the details mentioned in this article are my personal views & does not in any way related to any of the companies mentioned in this article. I am not advertising any of the service providers mentioned below.
Tarrifs & plans are subject to change.
So you've landed in India & haven't switched on you mobile phone yet because of high international tarrifs levied by your operator. Why don't you just buy an Indian operator SIM card then ? Both the prices of SIM cards and phone tarrifs are damn cheap in India with SIM cards even being distributed for free at some places & different service providers competing neck-to-neck to lure more and more customers. The whole profit of this price war is for the customers.
However, a warning for visitors from USA - India uses GSM 900/1800 network standard which may be incompatiable with the handsets used in the US (GSM 850/1900 based handsets). In such case, you may need to buy a new handset too.
CDMA handsets are locked to the service provider, so obviously you'll need a new handset anyway if you plan to use a CDMA network in India (not recommended).
Getting a SIM card
This is probably the hardest part of the whole deal. Because of the recent terrorist attacks, allegedly using Indian SIM cards, getting a SIM card activated can be a hassle for a foreigner.
The best deal will be to ask an Indian friend or relative to buy one for you.
If that's not possible & you're on a buisness trip, you can get an authority letter from you company to get the job done.
If none of these case is yours, then the best deal will bee to use a photocopy of your passport & your hotel address as residencial address. You will also need a pair of passport sized (preferably colour) photos. But beware, sometimes your card may get deactivated if you use your hotel's address. "Airtel" is mostly known to do this.
Choosing the right operator
This pretty much depends on which places you'll be visiting as well as where & how much phone calls you're going to make. A brief description of all the mobile networks available in India are as under :-
GSM NETWORKS :-
1. Airtel (Bharti Teleservices) : Currently the largest network in the country with more than one hundred million subscribers. Great network coverage. Also offers Broadband, fixed line & DTH TV services.
Website : http://www.airtel.in
2. Reliance Mobile (Smart GSM Service) : Owned by Reliance Industries ADAG, this is the second largest network after Airtel with one hundred million + subscribers. Also offers CDMA services in the same name (see below) & DTH TV services.
Website : http://www.rcom.co.in/Rcom/personal/home/index.html
3. Vodafone India (Vodafone Essar Co.) : Vodafone India is a very reliable network service with good network coverage throughout India.
Website : http://www.vodafone.in
4. TATA Docomo (TATA Teleservices, India & NTT Docomo, Japan) : A fairly new service which has gained immense popularity in a short span of time, mostly because of its pay-per-second plan unlike pay-per-minute plans of other networks. Coverage all across India.
Website : http://www.tatadocomo.com/connect.aspx
5. Idea (Aditya Birla group) : This service is available across India but is not very popular.
Website : http://www.ideacellular.com/
6. Aircel : Available across the country but notorious for poor customer service.
Website : http://www.aircel.com
7. BSNL : The only public sector (government run) service provider which is available across the country. Customer service, netwotk strength & everything else is poorest of all. This provider is strongly not recommended.
Website : http://bsnl.co.in/service/mobile.htm
CDMA NETWORKS :-
1. Reliance (CDMA Service)
Website : http://www.rcom.co.in/Rcom/personal/home/index.html
2. TATA Indicom
Website : http://www.tataindicom.com/
There are other mobile networks which are in the process of being installed & may not be available at all places and therefore they are not recommended until they are available throughout the country. These include but not limited to :-
S Tel, Uninor, Loop telecom\BPL Mobile, MTNL & MTS (CDMA).
SO WHICH NETWORK SHOULD I GET ?
This depends on several factors. In order to make this article short, I'll be listing the networks according to the needs in
"Order of Preference" system.
1. Best Network Coverage, Wherever I may be, Whatever be the cost : Airtel > BSNL > Reliance > Vodafone IN
While BSNL covers almost every part of the country, their service is too poor, so I wouldn't recommend it unless you go trekking to such a place where Airtel is not available.
2. Cheapest Tariffs when calling across India : Vodafone IN > TATA DOCOMO > Reliance (Both GSM & CDMA have same call tariff) > Airtel
All operators charge per-second now (thanks to DOCOMO) with rates varying from 1p/sec all over India in Vodafone , 1p/sec in same state & 2p/sec to another state in DOCOMO & 1.2p/sec in Airtel. Reliance has several plans so you can choose which suites you best.
Airtel Tariffs : http://www.airtel.in/wps/wcm/connect...epaid/tariffs/
Vodafone Tariffs : http://www.vodafone.in/existingusers...h.aspx?cid=bih
Reliance Tariffs : http://www.rcom.co.in/Rcom/personal/...onnection.html
TAT Docomo Tariffs : http://www.tatadocomo.com/prepaid-plan-details.aspx
4. Cheapest Tariffs when calling abroad : Note : This comparision is based on call rates to United States. If you want to call to another country, call rates will vary. All the call rate comparision is by using "Global calling cards" available for the respective networks. These cards are available at all major cities, so there is no reason why you shouldn't use them to call abroad while staying in India.Vodafone IN, Docomo & Airtel have similar rates but Vodafone & Docomo goes ahead due to its pay-per-second billing for International calls as compared to Airtel's pay-per-minute.
Vodafone IN > TATA Docomo > Airtel > Reliance
Airtel International Calling Card Tariff : http://www.airtel.in/wps/wcm/connect...cc_icc_newuser
Vodafone International Calling Card Tariff : http://www.vodafone.in/existingusers....aspx?cid=bih#
Reliance International Calling Card Tariff : http://www.rcom.co.in/Rcom/personal/...s_prepaid.html
Docomo International Calling Card Tariff : http://www.tatadocomo.com/special-tariff-vouchers.aspx
3. Best Customer Service & call service (fewer call drops, network busy, etc.) : Airtel > Vodafone > Reliance >>>>> BSNL
Network congestion is common during evening, especially in Vodafone. In Reliance, I've found network to be congested even during daytime. Leave alone BSNL - this network sometimes goes kaput for 2-3 days because of equipment failiure.
My Recommendations :
Airtel or Vodafone IN is your best bet while in India. If you can survive "no network coverage" during some road/rail trips, then choose Vodafone - It has the cheapest National & International rates. If you require network coverage wherever you go, then Airtel is the best.
PART II : CHOOSING THE RIGHT INTERNET SERVICE PROVIDER
While fixed broadband is offered in national level by BSNL & Airtel alongwith numerous other ISP's at regional level, this is of no concern for a traveller who has to keep on moving. While 3G services still not available in India (only BSNL & MTNL has
3G with high tariff), there are other ways too including GPRS/EDGE & CDMA 1x Mobile broadband services available in the
GPRS is available from all major mobile networks but is pretty slow at about 144 Kbps. On the other hand, CDMA 1x offers 3.1 Mbps (speed may vary according to location & whether the person is in a vehicle) & is available from Reliance as Reliance Netconnect, TATA as TATA Photon + & BSNL as EVDO Card. All of these are USB based internet dongles. "Reliance Netconnect" & "TATA Photon +" are available for purchase while BSNL EVDO card can be purchased or rented.
The choice depends on price, coverage & speed :-
1. BSNL EVDO has poor network coverage because BSNL mobile uses GSM whereas EVDO uses CDMA. Currently, only few large cities have BSNL CDMA towers, so unless you're going to spend all your holiday at major cities, BSNL EVDO may not be for you.
However, it is the cheapest solution, with device on rent basis at Rs. 200 per month (or purchase at Rs. 3500) & Unlimited usage at Rs. 750 per month.
Details at : http://bsnl.co.in/service/internet_on_cdma.htm
2. Reliance Netconnect & TATA Photon plus both have almost same network coverage across the country & same speed of 3.1 Mbps.
Both services cost almost the same. See the websites below & choose the best for youself according to your needs.
Reliance netconnect : http://www.reliancenetconnect.co.in/...nd_tariff.html
TATA Photon + : http://www.tataphoton.com/tata-photon-usb.aspx
3. Mobile GPRS rates vary from cheapest yet best Airtel at Rs. 98 for 2 GB usage per month & 100 MB & 200 MB usage per day at Rs. 10 & Rs. 26 respectively to Vodafone's very high 10p\10 KB charge. It is recommended to use either Airtel or TATA Docomo for GPRS as they are the cheapest.
Airtel GPRS : http://www.airtel.in/wps/wcm/connect...epaid/tariffs/
TATA Docomo GPRS : http://www.tatadocomo.com/gprs.aspx#tab1
Note: If I am missing something and/or any information is incorrect, please let me know so that I can correct it.
End of Article
Both Airtel and Reliance have over a billion customers each?
Doesn't add up!
I think the OP got confused between 100 million and 1 billion :)
In India, we use this Thousand -> ten thousand -> one crore -> ten crore system. So I was a bit mistaken while converting ten crores to millions.
Anyway, the article is now corrected.
Very good article. Outside city limits, BSNL has better coverage. Also, many a time at the airport arrival lounges, you have SIMs available for purchase.
And in higher reaches of Garhwal/Kumaon, this is the only connection that works.
And this happens for me with BSNL when I go to Mussoorie, Landour - I am standing across the valley facing the BSNL tower and you would think the signal would be stable, but oh, no. Airtel is the most consistent there for me - so I have two phones with two SIM cards, one for BSNL and one for Airtel - that seems to cover all eventualities.
Here in Jaisalmer both are equally good.
So this thread has been made sticky. Wow !
You may appreciate the mods will be quite busy doing a whole lot of this that and the other on a daily basis in the meantime; and all of it voluntarily. Beyond that, there's a lot of traffic here, and IndiaMike isn't about getting the highest "scores" or anything.
Anyway, I think I should stop pushing this matter further. Let the users & administrators decide what they should do.
Paul - my thought is that it is actually more useful here as a thread in this forum. I think less people are inclined to go and read articles whereas mobile phone connections is one question that is very popular here in the forum, and your post provides latest information. As a thread members can contribute as information changes, their experiences highlight something useful etc. The benefit of a forum is that it is never static.
However will refer your request to the 'boss' and see what he has to say.
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