The numbers seem to be in favour of mobile data connectivity as opposed to standard PC connectivity over broadband and such. Thanks to the reduction in tariff prices this year, we’re finally at a place where 3G is now so much more affordable than traipsing through the murky speeds of EDGE. Numbers in mobile connectivity have soared in the first half of 2012, and it’s highly likely they’ll continue to grow rapidly. But after the initial hoopla, 3G rates have settled to a large extent. We’re also on the cusp of the 4G, LTE generation that will bring blazing fast speeds to the mobile screen. Of course, it will be a while before 4G makes its way pan India, so for now 3G is the best we’ve got.
Naturally, life being as complicated as it is, looking for the best 3G plan is akin to finding a needle in the haystack. We know! It was a task all unto itself just researching for the data across five of the nation’s major hubs.
However, before simply jumping onto the 3G bandwagon, there are few pointers you should keep in mind. Read the fine print, so to speak. It’ll help curb the chances of having a heart attack when it’s the time of the month that gentleman “bill” pays you a visit. Even with a reduction in tariff rates, 3G still isn’t cheap, so choosing the best possible plan will ensure that you trim the edges off the bill a bit and keep it ‘contained’.
First and foremost, determine your usage pattern. Decide what you’ll be using this connection primarily for – watching videos on the fly through services like YouTube, tethering your handset to your PC, using it to post quirky pictures onto Facebook or some other social network or downloading emails with heavy attachments and accessing cloud services for work. Before zeroing in on a plan, check out the 3G trial offers. Almost all operators provide 3G trial packages that range from one day to a week and are priced from Rs 8 to Rs 50. You can opt for one of these plans and give 3G a shot before actually signing up for a plan. Naturally, you’ll want to test this in the places you frequent the most to make user you’re covered in those locations.
We’ve narrowed down the field into three types of plans – Economy, Mid-Range and Heavy Data Consumption. Here’s a quick brief – the Economy Plan ranges around Rs. 250 and provides about 1GB of data. That’ll cover basic usage like social networking, chats and emails without too many heavy attachments. Next up is the 2GB plan, which is for those who are into streaming videos from the net or cloud services. And lastly, we’ve got the big data plans. These are for the hardcore Internet user who’s constantly on his tablet/mobile uploading and downloading data in a frenzy. We’re talking abut users who stream videos, view image heavy sites, upload or download hi-resolution images and files and also use their handsets as ‘junctions’ to connect their PCs to Internet. These plans range from anywhere between Rs. 500 to Rs. 1000 (+) per month.
Of course, there are a few plans in between and those that offer up to 10GB of data per cycle, but that’s overkill unless you’re one of those users who are using their 3G mobile connection as primary connection for home and office use. If you want 3G for a limited period, then MTNL has a few decent plans you can opt for. The Rs. 175 plan with 1GB of data has validity for 3 days. There’s also a Rs. 449 plan that provides 5GB of data for 7 days and a Rs. 849 plan that provides 10GB for 15 days. On the other hand, Idea provides flexible validity plans, like prepaid plans with a 2GB download limit, but with a validity of 30 and 60 days. In this case, if you know your usage, and have figured out that 2GB will easily suffice for 2 months, go for the latter option. Reliance and Idea, amongst others, have pay-as-you use set up if you’re not sure what type of plan is best for you. You can go nuts or be conservative and figure out your usage based on your bill.
Also, keep in mind that ‘Unlimited’ plans aren’t as unlimited as you’d think. These plans have a cap off system where your speeds will drop to 2G or less should you spill over your restricted limit of usage. No matter what plan you choose, you will be charged for usage after you exceed your data download limit, and the rates vary drastically between operators. If data download is what you are looking for, then it makes sense to choose a plan that offers maximum data download over the unlimited ones.
So at the end of the day, we’re looking at a whole new era of mobile computing. This is the time where we no longer need to stare aimlessly into an empty screen with a status bar that fills up in slow motion. Use the graph as a guideline, but note that you’ll ultimately need to contact your service provider to check and see if these plans are still on the cards, or if the rates and services have been changed. Tariff rates tend to vary extensively across the country, so look up before you hook up.
Cover Image Illustration: Sachin Pandit