Need help to understand USB internet in India

selectivesloth

Newbie
[OP]
May 11, 2012
5
0
Hello all,Having used a fixed line Broadband all my life I am new to mobile internet. I am about to purchase a laptop and will also need a mobile USB connection. I am quite confused with what is available today because I am quite out of touch with the technological changes.I don't know what is 2G,3G,GPRS,EVDO, etc. The whole thing is made further complicated by the number of providers and by the tariff structures.Can someone please point me to some link where I can begin to understand what all this means and so I may be able to make an informed decision on what USB connection to go for?If not, I will give my details here so that the person might be able to suggest the best possible option for me today.I will be living in Calcutta. Since USB internet is not so cheap, I wonder if it might be a good idea to have a nice and cheap fixed line Broadband as my primary connection and to use the USB option only when I am mobile.I would ideally like something that is preferably unlimited, fairly cheap and offers the best speed and connectivity across India.If someone can throw some light on these issues, I will much appreciate.Thanks.
 

mgcarley

Founder, Hayai Broadband
Regulars
Jun 22, 2009
6,298
113
I wonder if it might be a good idea to have a nice and cheap fixed line Broadband as my primary connection and to use the USB option only when I am mobile.


Frankly, that would be your best option - and IMO it's how it should work.

Alliance Broadband seems to be a popular choice for fixed-line users in Kolkata, offering better speeds than most of it's competitors. It is available through the local cable operator where you will be living. Price depends on what package you want, obviously, but you should be able to get by on about Rs1,300 a month depending on what speed you want Untitled Document

I would ideally like something that is preferably unlimited, fairly cheap and offers the best speed and connectivity across India.

Unfortunately, there are two things here:
1. Unlimited is often abused as a marketing term. The typical Fair Usage Policy before your speed is reduced on these USB connections is around 10-15GB.

Fortunately for you, Airtel has recently introduced it's LTE service in Kolkata which leaves that as a potential option for you - they have packs ranging up to 30GB. Unfortunately, the service is brand-new and not widely available across the rest of the country (yet) - the only other city that currently has Airtel's LTE service in Bangalore. Otherwise, Reliance will be launching it's LTE services later this year (but this may also be a staggered roll-out, so it depends where you're going).

2. Because of the way licenses are granted in India, it's pretty difficult to get unanimous coverage on any network. Reliance Netconnect+ and Tata Photon+ are your best bets, but speed/coverage can vary widely. BSNL is there, but... yeah. 3G coverage from any provider depends on which state you are in as to whether you'll get 3G speeds or just 2G speeds, so it will depend how frequently you'll be travelling to other parts of the country (and where) as to what might be recommended to you.

Also, cheap is relative - do you have an approximate budget in mind?

Reliance Netconnect::Tariff Plans (Not for the faint of heart - this page is just a tiny bit bewildering: try to figure out what's best for you, I dare you!) But seriously, probably your easiest option here would be either the "15GB Unltd" plan @ Rs1300 - seems to be the same price on 3G or CDMA (the difference is in the equipment they supply you. Personally, I'd get the 3G version) - or if your usage is light, 5 or 10GB options are there. Your speed will be reduced to 144kbps once those limits are hit.

Tata Photon Plus Prepaid (A little easier to understand than Reliance's page, but Tata seems to be a little more expensive).

http://bsnl.co.in/service/3G/3G_files/3g.htm or http://bsnl.co.in/service/internet_on_cdma.htm may be of help as well - their EV-DO service has an "unlimited" option at Rs750/month, their 3G service *probably* the 1099 plan is enough.
 

rameshanna

Newbie
May 3, 2012
13
0
I would ideally like something that is preferably unlimited, fairly cheap and offers the best speed and connectivity across India.

If someone can throw some light on these issues, I will much appreciate.

Thanks.

I would like to tell you only about your options and NOT TECHNICAL JAGRON without a reason.
you have lot of choices in USB internet all over india.
th thing is you just get a locked ( from proivder) or unlocked usb stick. If unlocked then geta ism card of your choice, if you are roaming around india get MTNL or BSNL.
you can recharge the sim with either 2g ( more data less prices)or 3g recharger ( less data more price) and then use it any where in India.

for checking the coverage before getting the service well at home you can do one thing get 4/5 sims ( with like 10 INR a piece or so) and check their range at your home.


THIS IS PRACTICAL ADVICE. unlike strategy discussion above...
 


kickass

Super Adm1n
Regulars
Oct 3, 2011
1,470
231
Mumbai
neither did u provide any plan nor did u elaborate on his question regarding complicated tariff structure. all u said was there are locked and unlocked usb sticks available. how the hell is that practical ??? seriously ?? !!!WTFdidn't they teach u in school to read questions properly before answering ??
 

ulysses

Regular
Regulars
Feb 25, 2011
432
2
@rameshanna did gave commense sense advice. he did not spell out very clearly.1. CDMA "propreitory data card" internet and that too post paid is for suckers. Coverage wise CDMA is indeed all india. GSM 3G has changed the picture.I have used both reliance netconnect (post paid) and Tata photon (prepaid) for more than a year.2.Now GSM 3G gives 2 to 3 times speed at the same price. (say rs 1200-10 gb)3.BSNL/MTNL is the most comprehensive 3G coverage in India. almost every District hQ has 3g coverage.But you can expect 1 to 2 mbps speed only on average.4. Speed wise Airtel 3G -3to 7 mbps , Voda 3g -2 to 5 mbps ,Aircel 3G -1.5 to 5 mbps are more popular in south India .Reliance GSM 3G has on paper better speeds but coverage only North India. Idea 3G is also ok with 2-5 mbps.If the post opener is smart ,he can walk in to aircel,airtel,voda show room & buy a locked data card (pre paid sim) with some free data (3 Gb worth rs 400) for Rs 1700 and then figure out how to unlock it.Or buy from ebay unlocked GSM 7.2 mbps data card for Rs 1350 max and get 5 to 6 sims like the above poster said and check for signal strength with the samllest 3 g pack. (Rs 7 in the case of aircel ) then he can decide the best two providers ( one as stand by) speed and data price wise.:Boy Thumb Down:
 

selectivesloth

Newbie
[OP]
May 11, 2012
5
0
Thanks for the reply. I am surprised at the plans of Alliance. Here in Bombay I used to pay 500 Rs for 1 mbps unlimited. Even 2 mbps unlimited was pretty cheap. 2mbps limited with 8 GB cap is Rs 500. In comparison the plans you listed are quite atrocious. Is this the norm in Calcutta?

If this is what I will get in Kolkata, I wonder if it might be time to say good bye to true unlimited connections and just stick to some decent USB option. I do some video streaming on the web and so would need a decent limit at least.

I am used to fixed line broadband 1-2 Mbps and I absolutely will need that in my mobile internet connection as well.

I gather that 2G is essentially the mobile counterpart of fixed line Broadband. No way!

I don't see myself traveling too much now because I just came out of a long backpacking tour, but it would be nice to have a reliable internet connection when I go out vacationing again or when I travel on business.

As for budget, I am not sure if it makes sense to fix that because I will have to choose from what's available. Ideally I would like something that suits my requirements and is cheaper than the others.

I actually asked someone I know and this is the advice he gave me :

1) If you want true 3G speeds, Idea is the only provider who is actually giving a true 3G connection. Everyone else is marketing 2G as 3G. The problem he says is that if you are in an area where there is no 3G, you will have no internet at all, not even slow dial-up.

2) Tata Photon is the best in terms of overall connectivity. You may not get the best speeds but you will get something almost everywhere at reduced speeds. Their plans are expensive, you pay almost twice as compared to Idea 3G if you want similar speeds.

3) Reliance is good but connectivity is still an issue.

My guess is that mobile internet is classified as GSM and CDMA and each one is further classified as 2G and 3G. Is that correct? Or is there something else?

What is better? GSM or CDMA?

Somewhere I was told that GSM gives better peak speeds at lower average speeds and with CDMA it's the exact opposite. So, maybe CDMA will be better.

But what are the different technological terms for GSM 3G and CDMA 3G if I am on the right track.





Frankly, that would be your best option - and IMO it's how it should work.

Alliance Broadband seems to be a popular choice for fixed-line users in Kolkata, offering better speeds than most of it's competitors. It is available through the local cable operator where you will be living. Price depends on what package you want, obviously, but you should be able to get by on about Rs1,300 a month depending on what speed you want Untitled Document



Unfortunately, there are two things here:
1. Unlimited is often abused as a marketing term. The typical Fair Usage Policy before your speed is reduced on these USB connections is around 10-15GB.

Fortunately for you, Airtel has recently introduced it's LTE service in Kolkata which leaves that as a potential option for you - they have packs ranging up to 30GB. Unfortunately, the service is brand-new and not widely available across the rest of the country (yet) - the only other city that currently has Airtel's LTE service in Bangalore. Otherwise, Reliance will be launching it's LTE services later this year (but this may also be a staggered roll-out, so it depends where you're going).

2. Because of the way licenses are granted in India, it's pretty difficult to get unanimous coverage on any network. Reliance Netconnect+ and Tata Photon+ are your best bets, but speed/coverage can vary widely. BSNL is there, but... yeah. 3G coverage from any provider depends on which state you are in as to whether you'll get 3G speeds or just 2G speeds, so it will depend how frequently you'll be travelling to other parts of the country (and where) as to what might be recommended to you.

Also, cheap is relative - do you have an approximate budget in mind?

Reliance Netconnect::Tariff Plans (Not for the faint of heart - this page is just a tiny bit bewildering: try to figure out what's best for you, I dare you!) But seriously, probably your easiest option here would be either the "15GB Unltd" plan @ Rs1300 - seems to be the same price on 3G or CDMA (the difference is in the equipment they supply you. Personally, I'd get the 3G version) - or if your usage is light, 5 or 10GB options are there. Your speed will be reduced to 144kbps once those limits are hit.

Tata Photon Plus Prepaid (A little easier to understand than Reliance's page, but Tata seems to be a little more expensive).

:: BSNL 3G :: or Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd. may be of help as well - their EV-DO service has an "unlimited" option at Rs750/month, their 3G service *probably* the 1099 plan is enough.
 


selectivesloth

Newbie
[OP]
May 11, 2012
5
0
Thanks for the reply.

How is GSM 3G coverage all India? Is it comparable to CDMA 3G?

From your post this is what I have understood for myself.

1) CDMA 3G (again who offers this?, one I see is BSNL EVDO but who are the others?) used to be very good and extensive but now GSM 3G is equally good.

2) For extensive coverage but lower speeds one can go for BSNL 3G.

3) For better speeds and decently reliable connection, one can go for Idea.

Am I correct? But if you can kindly throw some more light on this GSM vs CDMA with providers, then I will really appreciate.


"Choosing Broadband plans in India is like voting during Lok Sabha elections. We have to choose the best among the worst!" lol




@rameshanna did gave commense sense advice. he did not spell out very clearly.

1. CDMA "propreitory data card" internet and that too post paid is for suckers.

Coverage wise CDMA is indeed all india. GSM 3G has changed the picture.

I have used both reliance netconnect (post paid) and Tata photon (prepaid) for more than a year.

2.Now GSM 3G gives 2 to 3 times speed at the same price. (say rs 1200-10 gb)

3.BSNL/MTNL is the most comprehensive 3G coverage in India. almost every District hQ has 3g coverage.
But you can expect 1 to 2 mbps speed only on average.

4. Speed wise

Airtel 3G -3to 7 mbps , Voda 3g -2 to 5 mbps ,Aircel 3G -1.5 to 5 mbps are more popular in south India .

Reliance GSM 3G has on paper better speeds but coverage only North India.

Idea 3G is also ok with 2-5 mbps.

If the post opener is smart ,he can walk in to aircel,airtel,voda show room & buy a locked data card (pre paid sim) with some free data (3 Gb worth rs 400) for Rs 1700 and then figure out how to unlock it.

Or buy from ebay unlocked GSM 7.2 mbps data card for Rs 1350 max and get 5 to 6 sims like the above poster said and check for signal strength with the samllest 3 g pack. (Rs 7 in the case of aircel ) then he can decide the best two providers ( one as stand by) speed and data price wise.:Boy Thumb Down:


----------

Okay, I did some study of the plans on offer.

I find that Reliance Netconnect 3G is better (at least on paper) than Idea 3G. They offer 10 and 15 GB Unlimited whereas Idea only offers 6GB unlimited at similar price. Secondly reliance also has a "best plan" which is almost like pro rate which can be useful.

Tata Photon offers half speed at similar prices.

BSNL number one in tariff.

Now, is there a coverage versus speed trade-off?

I don't see the point of taking a fast connection only to discover that there is no connectivity.

So, ideally I would like to get a balance. Decent enough broadband speeds and reliable connectivity. Who can offer me that given that I would be in Calcutta? It seems BSNL, but can anyone throw more light on this?

The speeds offered by various private players, especially Reliance with their larger unlimited plans look very tempting but how is the connectivity?

Tata Photon is slower at the same speed but offers more extensive coverage, it seems.

Also, is it true that a 3G connection goes dead in areas where is no 3G network? Or does it revert back to a slower 2G like Tata photon reverts back to its slower networks?
 

mgcarley

Founder, Hayai Broadband
Regulars
Jun 22, 2009
6,298
113
Thanks for the reply. I am surprised at the plans of Alliance. Here in Bombay I used to pay 500 Rs for 1 mbps unlimited. Even 2 mbps unlimited was pretty cheap. 2mbps limited with 8 GB cap is Rs 500. In comparison the plans you listed are quite atrocious. Is this the norm in Calcutta?
I'm not 100% certain, being an honourary Mumbaikar myself. The main reason people seem to go with Alliance is because of the P2P caching (what they call "peering") which is being used extensively in their network, allowing certain content to be downloaded at many megabits. Your other main option is of course, BSNL.


If this is what I will get in Kolkata, I wonder if it might be time to say good bye to true unlimited connections and just stick to some decent USB option. I do some video streaming on the web and so would need a decent limit at least.
I personally would still strongly recommend getting both.


I am used to fixed line broadband 1-2 Mbps and I absolutely will need that in my mobile internet connection as well.
So you will need 3G.


I gather that 2G is essentially the mobile counterpart of fixed line Broadband. No way!
Err... not really. 2G is basically the marketing term for traditional GSM service and offers you a grand total (in most cases) of 144kbps if you're lucky.


I don't see myself traveling too much now because I just came out of a long backpacking tour, but it would be nice to have a reliable internet connection when I go out vacationing again or when I travel on business.
So depending on where you go will probably dictate the best choice - certain providers are stronger in certain states or regions. BSNL is strong (more or less) everywhere, but your experience on their service may be either good or bad according to where you are - as is the case with any provider, actually - as per the various discussions in the BSNL section of this very forum.


As for budget, I am not sure if it makes sense to fix that because I will have to choose from what's available. Ideally I would like something that suits my requirements and is cheaper than the others.
For a monthly budget of about Rs2k you should be able to get pretty much what you want or at least near enough to reasonable, that is, both a wired connection and a wireless connection for use at the appropriate times.


I actually asked someone I know and this is the advice he gave me :


1) If you want true 3G speeds, Idea is the only provider who is actually giving a true 3G connection. Everyone else is marketing 2G as 3G. The problem he says is that if you are in an area where there is no 3G, you will have no internet at all, not even slow dial-up.
Your friend is wrong. 3G is 3G is 3G, and it depends simply on which state you're in and which provider you're on as to whether you'll get 3G or 2G. For example, in Mumbai I'm on Vodafone with 3G service. If I go to, say, Madhya Pradesh, in theory I will only get 2G speeds because Vodafone is not licensed to operate 3G services in MP, likewise, even in a 3G covered area, if you go in to an area where the signal is weak, it will drop to 2G automatically.

Of course, some operators (Airtel, Vodafone and Idea) have got roaming agreements with each other in certain circles so that 3G services are still available when roaming, but that's a different matter altogether). Idea is not licensed to operate 3G services in Kolkata, so probably offers it's 3G services on top of Vodafone's network, as Vodafone does have such a license for Kolkata.


2) Tata Photon is the best in terms of overall connectivity. You may not get the best speeds but you will get something almost everywhere at reduced speeds. Their plans are expensive, you pay almost twice as compared to Idea 3G if you want similar speeds.
Tata Photon+ uses CDMA, which kind of is but kind of isn't 3G... to be nitpicky, I'll say that technically it isn't because Photon+ services were available well before India's 3G spectrum auctions.


3) Reliance is good but connectivity is still an issue.
Your mileage may vary. Reliance 3G (GSM) in Kolkata should be halfway decent since they have 3G spectrum there.


My guess is that mobile internet is classified as GSM and CDMA and each one is further classified as 2G and 3G. Is that correct? Or is there something else?
Not exactly. They're competing technologies. GSM usually takes the lions share of the references to 3G, though - in the CDMA world you might see something like CDMA 1x or EV-DO or something, which is pretty much jargon for "the speed is up to xyz" - that being either 153kbps or 3.1mbps or whatever.


What is better? GSM or CDMA?
It depends who you ask. I personally consider CDMA to be a little bit like Betamax/8track/Minidisc... Although in some countries it's still widely used, it's beginning to fall out of favour and is not really being developed or rolled out too much anymore (Qualcomm, the inventor/promotor of CDMA, is concentrating it's efforts on LTE rather than a successor to CDMA).


Somewhere I was told that GSM gives better peak speeds at lower average speeds and with CDMA it's the exact opposite. So, maybe CDMA will be better.
This is a tough one... I don't think there's really any data to support that, realistically. Most of the CDMA dongles being sold offer a maximum of 3.1mbit/s, whereas 3G dongles are available up to 21mbit/s. Whether the network delivers that kind of performance depends on where you are & which network you're on.

Furthermore, GSM-based options might be a better bet in case you decide to travel internationally, as you can replace the SIM card in the dongle (assuming it's unlocked) and connect to a network in another country rather than suffering stupid roaming charges.


But what are the different technological terms for GSM 3G and CDMA 3G if I am on the right track.
They're competing technologies. GSM 3G is the one more commonly referred to when someone says "3G".

As you can probably tell based on the above, I'm pretty firmly in the GSM camp - mainly because of how much I travel and how much of a pain in the bum it is to deal with getting things activated abroad and stuff, whereas with GSM based equipment I just buy a SIM for some unit of currency, add money to the account, activate the data service and I'm done. As a result, I have a pretty impressive collection of (what are by now surely dead) SIM cards from all sorts of weird and wonderful countries.

That too, but also Tata and Reliance have, within the last 3 years or so, switched on (and started switching over) to GSM based networks from CDMA networks (although they both continue to operate both types of network) - Reliance with "Reliance GSM" and Tata with "DoCoMo".

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selectivesloth said:
Thanks for the reply.

How is GSM 3G coverage all India? Is it comparable to CDMA 3G?
Not really, no. It depends on which "circle" (state/metro) you're in as to who has licenses to operate 3G services, who doesn't, who might be sharing spectrum etc.

selectivesloth said:
From your post this is what I have understood for myself.

1) CDMA 3G (again who offers this?, one I see is BSNL EVDO but who are the others?) used to be very good and extensive but now GSM 3G is equally good.
Reliance & Tata both continue to offer CDMA.

selectivesloth said:
2) For extensive coverage but lower speeds one can go for BSNL 3G.
Correct.

selectivesloth said:
3) For better speeds and decently reliable connection, one can go for Idea.
In Kolkata, the theory is that Idea/Vodafone should offer similar results, as I would expect based on what they're doing elsewhere, Idea's 3G service in Kolkata is on Vodafone's network. Reliance & Aircel are the other operators licensed with 3G in Kolkata.

selectivesloth said:
Okay, I did some study of the plans on offer.

I find that Reliance Netconnect 3G is better (at least on paper) than Idea 3G. They offer 10 and 15 GB Unlimited whereas Idea only offers 6GB unlimited at similar price. Secondly reliance also has a "best plan" which is almost like pro rate which can be useful.

Tata Photon offers half speed at similar prices.

BSNL number one in tariff.

Now, is there a coverage versus speed trade-off?
1. Find out from someone in your area what the coverage/quality is like.
2. OK.
3. Photon+ and Netconnect 3G are different technologies and shouldn't really be compared - Photon+ operates on CDMA at up to 3.1mbit/s, Netconnect 3G will be on a GSM network which in some cities Reliance claims up to 28mbit/s can be had - whether the equipment provides that or whether the network will deliver those sorts of speeds in any case is just a matter of luck. To compare speeds more accurately, you need to look at either Photon+ and Netconnect+ or DoCoMo and Reliance 3G.
4. BSNL generally is #1 in tariff, yes. There may or may not be a reason for this, but not having significant amounts of experience with BSNL customer service, I'll leave that up to others to answer.
5. Probably, yes.

selectivesloth said:
I don't see the point of taking a fast connection only to discover that there is no connectivity.
You may have to ask for a demo or find a neighbour who has a USB connection and see what he gets.

selectivesloth said:
So, ideally I would like to get a balance. Decent enough broadband speeds and reliable connectivity. Who can offer me that given that I would be in Calcutta? It seems BSNL, but can anyone throw more light on this?

selectivesloth said:
The speeds offered by various private players, especially Reliance with their larger unlimited plans look very tempting but how is the connectivity?
Someone else will have to shed light on this. I've got limited experience with Photon+ in Mumbai but that's about it - I use a wired connection at home exclusively, and either Vodafone or Airtel 3G when I'm out. But that's just me.

selectivesloth said:
Tata Photon is slower at the same speed but offers more extensive coverage, it seems.
As above, you need to compare the right products side by side: Photon+ and Netconnect+. Both offer up to 3.1mbit/s. DoCoMo and Reliance 3G both offer up to 7.2 or more - this is on the GSM side. Different technology, different network, just same company.

selectivesloth said:
Also, is it true that a 3G connection goes dead in areas where is no 3G network? Or does it revert back to a slower 2G like Tata photon reverts back to its slower networks?
3G doesn't go dead, it will revert to 2G where the signal is weak or 3G doesn't exist.
 

selectivesloth

Newbie
[OP]
May 11, 2012
5
0
Hello mgcarley,Firstly thanks for taking out the time to help me at such great length. Before I leave Bombay for Calcutta, may I offer you a beer?!Having said that, here's what I have understood so far:1) BSNL EVDO, Reliance Netconnect+ and Tata Photon + are CDMA which don't come with a sim card. This would mean that they are operator specific. Correct me if I am wrong but I don't think it would be possible to use any one of the dongles offered by these companies, and then do something to it to use the other. For instance, Tata Photon + dongle can't be used for Netconnect +. Is that correct?You don't consider these as 3G, but if you look at the speeds, they are not so far behind the so called 3G services! My point is that even GSM 3G doesn't actually give the mentioned speed (all UP TO). So, if a 3.1 mbps Photon gives 2 Mbps that's still as good or better than BSNL 3G!To me, anything that gives mobile broadband speeds is 3G.2) To me, BSNL 3G looks like the best option. Why? Firstly BSNL actually has 3G network all over India. This means that I will get close to 3G speeds almost everywhere.Now, if I take Docomo, Reliance 3G or Idea 3G or any other private 3G, firstly they don't have licenses everywhere. Even the tie-ups I am guessing are not consistent. This I guess is a GOI strategy to ensure that govt run BSNL has a monopoly on coverage.So, basically if I take Idea 3G, I will get mostly 2G speeds in other areas. I may get higher speeds in Calcutta but I can never be sure what I will get whenever I travel. Now, I don't know what's the scene with private CDMA players as to how they compare with BSNL EVDO in terms of fast connectivity everywhere. What I do know is that with both Reliance Netconnect+ and Tata Photon+, the speed drops down considerably whenever you are not in Netconnect+ and Photon+regions. And correct me if I am wrong, I seriously doubt if the actual 3.1 Mbps speed as promised by both is available outside a few areas in India. I am curious to know what is the reach of BSNL EVDO like. Is it as extensive as BSNL 3G? Do you actually get close to the 2.4 Mbps promised or do they also drop like Netconnect+ and Photon+?Finally, this is my plan. Go GSM. Buy an open-market dongle and start off with the 3G guy who is number 1 in Calcutta. Then if I am travelling I could just get a BSNL sim and use that! Essentially this change the sim on the go feature that you talk about seems really interesting and seems to separate the GSM variety from the CDMA variety. I will always have an option and won't be locked into any one particular provider.What about roaming charges? Do these companies levy them?Now, someone told me that often there are compatibility issues between open market dongles and the sims that the different companies provide. I have been told that one needs to verify with the company if the particular dongle is compatible with their sim. Is there any one dongle that takes every 3G sim out there? If so, where can I get it? Any store in Bombay since I am a little short on time or will I have to go the e-bay way?Thanks for all the help!
 

mgcarley

Founder, Hayai Broadband
Regulars
Jun 22, 2009
6,298
113
Hello mgcarley,

Firstly thanks for taking out the time to help me at such great length. Before I leave Bombay for Calcutta, may I offer you a beer?!

Appreciate the offer, but I don't drink.

Having said that, here's what I have understood so far:

1) BSNL EVDO, Reliance Netconnect+ and Tata Photon + are CDMA which don't come with a sim card. This would mean that they are operator specific. Correct me if I am wrong but I don't think it would be possible to use any one of the dongles offered by these companies, and then do something to it to use the other. For instance, Tata Photon + dongle can't be used for Netconnect +. Is that correct?


I'm personally not sure - I'm it *can* be done but it probably involves "hacking" the device, which, frankly, is a pain in the bum because a GSM-based device wouldn't need that and probably costs about the same.

You don't consider these as 3G, but if you look at the speeds, they are not so far behind the so called 3G services! My point is that even GSM 3G doesn't actually give the mentioned speed (all UP TO). So, if a 3.1 mbps Photon gives 2 Mbps that's still as good or better than BSNL 3G!

To me, anything that gives mobile broadband speeds is 3G.


Only as a technicality I'm not calling it "3G" in an attempt to differentiate the products.

If you were to purchase a dongle that's capable of 7.2mbit/s, you would likely receive better throughput (3-4mbit/s on one of the private operators if the coverage is good) than if you purchased the CDMA version of the dongle, and as mentioned, if you do go abroad, you have that extra possibility (if the device is unlocked) to use it there using a local SIM card in that country. In short, I just think GSM-based services will just be easier to deal with in the long run.

2) To me, BSNL 3G looks like the best option. Why? Firstly BSNL actually has 3G network all over India. This means that I will get close to 3G speeds almost everywhere.

Probably, yes - at least in any city of significant size. Maybe not in "the middle of nowhere" and very small towns, but I may be wrong.

Now, if I take Docomo, Reliance 3G or Idea 3G or any other private 3G, firstly they don't have licenses everywhere. Even the tie-ups I am guessing are not consistent. This I guess is a GOI strategy to ensure that govt run BSNL has a monopoly on coverage.

Probably only they can answer that :)

It's my understanding that Airtel, Vodafone and Idea are the ones who have tied up in various circles - I can't say for anyone else because I've not seen mention of it anywhere that other operators are sharing spectrum. I have a feeling these particular operators combined *probably* service all 22 telecom circles, thus solving the coverage problem.

So, basically if I take Idea 3G, I will get mostly 2G speeds in other areas. I may get higher speeds in Calcutta but I can never be sure what I will get whenever I travel.

I think Wikipedia (and likely many other sources) has a list or table detailing who got what and where - it may aid your decision to look and decide accordingly who might be best.

Now, I don't know what's the scene with private CDMA players as to how they compare with BSNL EVDO in terms of fast connectivity everywhere. What I do know is that with both Reliance Netconnect+ and Tata Photon+, the speed drops down considerably whenever you are not in Netconnect+ and Photon+regions. And correct me if I am wrong, I seriously doubt if the actual 3.1 Mbps speed as promised by both is available outside a few areas in India. I am curious to know what is the reach of BSNL EVDO like. Is it as extensive as BSNL 3G? Do you actually get close to the 2.4 Mbps promised or do they also drop like Netconnect+ and Photon+?

I would say the situation is probably similar: if you're not in an area with newer base stations, you won't get good speeds. Nobody really publishes this information, BUT Reliance has got a fairly comprehensive coverage map (including the locations of it's towers) at Untitled Page - I've not seen any other operators give out this information so freely.

(I just checked, and it does seem to be malfunctioning at the moment - it's not showing me what I was expecting)

Finally, this is my plan. Go GSM. Buy an open-market dongle and start off with the 3G guy who is number 1 in Calcutta. Then if I am travelling I could just get a BSNL sim and use that! Essentially this change the sim on the go feature that you talk about seems really interesting and seems to separate the GSM variety from the CDMA variety. I will always have an option and won't be locked into any one particular provider.

Good plan.

What about roaming charges? Do these companies levy them?

Different operators have different policies. Some allow 3G usage all over the country, others not. I don't seem to recall being charged extra on either Airtel or Vodafone the last few times I've been out of state, but maybe I just didn't notice.

Now, someone told me that often there are compatibility issues between open market dongles and the sims that the different companies provide. I have been told that one needs to verify with the company if the particular dongle is compatible with their sim. Is there any one dongle that takes every 3G sim out there? If so, where can I get it? Any store in Bombay since I am a little short on time or will I have to go the e-bay way?


I can't say I've heard of this - a SIM is a SIM - it should work in any GSM phone, so in theory it should also work in any dongle. Just remember, it's almost always the case that there is a separate charge to activate 3G on the SIM (otherwise you'll be stuck with slow speeds) and some operators may require you to send an SMS to activate (or renew) data packs should you run out. Others may have the same features in the software (if you buy one from an operator).

I personally have opted for simply connecting my trusty old Nokia N8 to my laptop for up to 10.2mbit/s of 3G goodness, then I can autoconfigure my connection within the Nokia Suite according to what country/operator I'm in/using (admittedly, Nokia suite software could use some work and could be a bit faster, but that's not the point), but any other smartphone should be equally good, especially since you're probably carrying one already anyway - and many of them charge via USB now too, so win-win.
 

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