Vodafone has launched what has to be the cheapest 3G plan in India, for its USB-dongle users in Delhi, disturbing the stability in 3G data tariffs seen in the last three months or so.
The plan offers 2 GB per month for Rs 98 in the National Capital Region, including Delhi and its suburbs. The price, 1 GB for Rs 49, is the cheapest 3G offer in India for those who wish to use less than 15 GB per month. Above the 15 GB mark, MTNL will be cheaper, thanks to its 200-GB-for-Rs-4,500 offer in Delhi.
Vodafone, however, has not introduced the Rs 49/GB scheme in other circles such as Mumbai, where too it has its own 3G spectrum.
The move comes about 3 months after several players, including MTNL, Airtel, Idea Cellular and Aircel have launched new and cheaper 3G data plans aiming for the heavy users.
Besides Vodafone, the cheapest 3G plans are from MTNL, followed by the private players such as Aircel and Airtel.
MTNL Mumbai offers unlimited 3G for just Rs 1,250 per month. MTNL Delhi offers 1 GB for Rs 22.50 if you are willing to pay for 200 GB at one go. In other words, if you make a payment of Rs 4,500, you get 200 GB of data, which you can use at any time over the next six months.
According to the plan, 5 GB will cost only Rs 112.5 and 10 GB will come for Rs 225.
However, if your usage is less, you may opt for the Rs 5000 yearly plan that gives 100 GB of data. In effect, you will be paying about Rs 420 per month.
What is more, MTNL's SIM cards can be used anywhere in India as it has a free data roaming agreement with BSNL. MTNL also offers 1 GB for Rs 76. The data, however, has to be used within a week.
The next cheapest plans are from Aircel. Aircel is offering 5 GB for Rs 697 and 10 GB for Rs 997. In addition, these two plans are unlimited -- you can continue to browse at 128 kbps (2G speed) even after you have crossed the data limit, during the validity period of one month.
The third cheapest 3G plans are from BSNL. It is offering 5 GB for Rs 750 per month and 10 GB for Rs 1,100 per month.
The fourth cheapest plans are from Reliance Communications. However, these bulk plans can only be availed of on the company's USB stick, not on 3G-enabled mobile phones. Reliance is offering 5 GB at Rs 800 and 10 GB at Rs 1,100. However, like Aircel's, these plans are also 'unlimited', though the speed will reduce drastically after you cross the limit. Reliance also offers 15 GB for Rs 1,300 per month. The cheapest plan is Rs 3,000 for 30 GB for 6 months, available only on the USB dongle.
The fifth cheapest plans are from Vodafone, Airtel and Idea Cellular.
Between the the three operators, Vodafone has a slight edge at the 5 GB level (Rs 850 vs about Rs 940 for the other two). Vodafone is also cheaper than the other two at usages exceeding 10 GB per month due to the fact that it offers a 15 GB pack, but the other two max out at 10 GB for Rs 1,500.
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Idea is cheaper that the other two at the 6 GB level as it has a Rs 950 plan under which you can get 6 GB of 3G data and unlimited 2G data.
The most expensive 3G data plans continue to be offered by Tata DoCoMo, despite the fact that the operator too cut its prices in July 2012. However, Tata DoCoMo's rates are high as it does not cater to high volume users.
On the other hand, if your usage is only 1 GB or less per month, Tata DoCoMo may actually turn out to be the cheapest option in comparison. It offers 1 GB of 3G data for one month for just Rs 4 (technically, about Rs 31.) However, its plans tend to max out at 1.5 GB at Rs 351 or about Rs 233 per GB. As a result, it is still the most expensive 3G data service for high usage. It, however, offers slightly cheaper rates on its USB dongle service.
MTNL has NOT put an '*' on the scheme details, which seems to indicate that the plans are actually unlimited, unlike the 'fast-till-you-hit-10-GB' plans launched by private operators. It has not specified any 'fair usage limits' either.
In addition, MTNL's 16.66 GB for Rs 850 plan is actually a 100 GB for 6 months plan. In other words, depending on the fine-print, it will almost certainly be possible to carry over unused 3G data in a month to the next one. In other words, you may be able to use as much as 75 GB in one month and compensate for it by using only 5 GB for the next five months.
However, there are two down-sides to MTNL's offers:
1) MTNL's 3G network supports only a maximum speed of 3.6 Mbps (and the speed cap may be carried over to BSNL roaming as well.) On-the-ground rates are 1-2 Mbps in Delhi. Besides, BSNL's 3G network is not the best in many places.
2) To avail of the Delhi plan of 100 GB for 6 months, customers will have to pay for six months in advance. In other words, they have to do an easy recharge of Rs 4,999 to get 100 GB of 3G data for the next 6 months. To avail of the Rs 1,250 per month unlimited-3G-data plan on Mumbai SIMs, users will have to pay for two months at once. In other words, they have to make an easy recharge of Rs 2,500 to get unlimited data for the next 2 months.
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