The Current State of 3G in India

By | August 1, 2011

After repeated delays, 3G service finally got launched in India on December 11, 2008 by MTNL in Delhi. Later in February 2009, BSNL launched 3G services in Chennai. Presently 90 lakh customers have subscribed to 3G services and it is still increasing. Network operators are competing with each other to attract customers with different tariff plans and offers. But, as the technology is new to India and still in implementation stage, network operators are still facing few problems in providing efficient services.

Practical implications of 3G:
With the entry of 3G in to Indian markets, our Government has earned huge amounts from 3G auction. Operators in India are now offering 3G technology, which enables high speed wireless services to its customers. But, India still being a developed country, common man cannot afford for 3G data due to high data charges. Moreover, 3G network has spread only across few cities, rural areas have to still wait till the 3G signals are enabled in their areas.

To attract customers and set optimum price for 3G, Indian operators are analyzing mature 3G market globally. As of now, for 2GB of data over 3G network, customer is charged around Rs. 750. With 3G connection, customer can expect enhanced features over 2G like video calling, high speed internet access, live streaming, music, file sharing etc. But, one can expect the growth in 3G customers, only when 3G enabled mobile phones are available at lower price.

Do you need to change your SIM card?
To use 3G services, customer should have a 3G enabled mobile device. Customer doesn’t require to change his SIM card, he can use his old card to avail 3G services. He needs to subscribe to 3G services just by sending an SMS to the respective operator.

If a customer wishes to subscribe for 3G services and if his network operator is not providing 3G service, he can shift to other network operator that offers 3G service by retaining his old number. This process is called Mobile Number Portability (MNP). The overall process may take between 4 to 7 days. But, he has to accept the services of new operator for a minimum period of 3 months before shifting to some other operator and he cannot carry his balance to the new network.

Call charges: Video and regular voice calls:
Private network operators charge 5p/sec on video calls. BSNL charges Rs. 0.75/min to Rs. 1/min. MTNL charges Rs. 1.80/min., and upon special recharge of Rs. 85, they charge Rs. 1P/2sec. The charges vary while in roaming.

Airtel has started international video calling facility for its 3G customers. BSNL has launched video call service over broadband known as video and voice over internet protocol (VVoIP). With this service, BSNL provides video calling facility to its broadband customers, the cost of the device for calling on VVoIP starts from Rs. 15000.

Voice call charges remains same in 2G and 3G services.

Caller services (quality parameters)
After the launch of 3G in India, many customers have upgraded to 3G service, but the network operators failed to provide the quality of service parameters like voice and video quality, call drop, accessibility and coverage. Because of this, few customers have switched back to 2G.

The network operators claim it will take some time to become mature and consistent in 3G to resolve the issue. Mahesh Uppal, a telecom analyst says that as the customers are switching from 2G to 3G, networks are having the problem. As the networks are in transition stage, the problems are raising. Operators are still in the implementation stage as the technology is new to India. They say that it may take 6 to 9 months to resolve the issue.

Few operators blame the inefficiency on the scarcity of spectrum.

Low network signal: Effect on audio and video calls:
9 million Indians have subscribed to 3G, but many of them face problems of frequent call drop and inconsistent internet speeds. Because of weak 3G network coverage, it was observed that voice calls are also being affected along with video calls. Few mobiles without simultaneous option of 2G and 3G services add further issues to the user. 3G is in initial stages in India and video calls require sufficient network coverage, low network signals have negative impact on video calls.

3G networks are deployed mostly in business areas, so the network will be strong in these areas. But when customer moves to other areas where 3G network is low, he faces network issues. Operators say that, since they have invested huge amounts, they have to provide good service to regain their amounts back, but it takes time.

Live TV streaming:
Though mobile TV streaming is available in 2G, a 3G enabled mobile device can stream at faster rate. Charges vary between different operators. Customer can avail daily, weekly or monthly packs. He can subscribe to a single channel or multiple channels and based on the subscription plan, charges differ. While few operators provide TV streaming without additional data charges, others charge based on the data usage. To enjoy uninterrupted high quality live TV streaming, customers have to wait for some more time.

Range of 3G handsets:
To use 3G services, customers should have a 3G enabled mobile device. As 3G technology is in its initial stage, mobile makers use this opportunity to increase their revenues by providing 3G mobiles in different ranges so as to attract customers. 3G mobiles that enable video call option have two cameras. Primary camera to capture images and videos is in the back side, while, secondary camera is a low resolution camera basically used for video calling and self portraying is in the front side.

For the sake of your convenience, we classify 3G mobiles here into 3 categories: Basic models, standard models and premium models.

A basic model 3G mobile supports 3G and TV streaming, but not video calling option. Standard mobile brands like Nokia and Samsung are offering such mobiles at rates around Rs. 3800. But if the customer wishes to have a video call option, the price starts from Rs. 7600. The price of video call enabled touchscreen mobile starts from Rs. 8,800.

Standard models are the 3G enabled smart phones. Without video call option, its cost starts from around Rs. 8000; and with video call option its costs around Rs. 16,000.

The 3rd classification of mobiles are premium models. These mobiles are costlier than the basic and standard models. The price of these mobiles starts from around Rs. 20,000 and few high end mobiles costs around Rs. 40,000. These mobiles are high end smart phones with advanced features, used by high-end customers. These mobiles provide excellent HD screen display, high quality sound output and use high speed processors.

The above furnished details are about standard branded mobiles. If you opt for cheaper brands, it would cost around Rs. 3300 for a mobile without video call option; with video call it is available at around Rs. 3500. Basic model touchscreen mobiles without a video call feature are available at around Rs. 3700 and with video call option it costs around Rs. 5800.

However, low end mobiles are not capable of using full Internet speeds availed by the operators to the end user as they don’t have the ability to support such high speed. High end mobiles are enabled with wide range of applications where some applications, which exclusively require high speed internet connectivity.

The number of 3G subscribers are increasing rapidly and mobile makers are coming up with new 3G models to improve their sales. Though customers presently face issues regarding the 3G services, they can expect efficient 3G services in around 6 to 9 months.