The number of people accessing the web through mobiles is growing exponentially, and this means that operators’ data plans are in the limelight. One of the reasons for the growth of this segment is the availability of unlimited-data plans for 2G customers. However, such plans are not available in 3G from all the operators.
But are the unlimited plans really needed? If yes, how important are they? If not, what alternatives are there? Let’s start with the 3G plans.
3G data pack options
Tata Docomo and RCom used to offer unlimited 3G data packs earlier but have now discontinued those plans for mobile consumers (Tata Docomo offers it only on its data card). Now only three CDMA operators offer unlimited data packs.
With high speed 3G services people have the ability to consume much more than they can ever think of doing on a 2G connection. However, a lack of unlimited-data packs is ruining what could potentially be an enjoyable experience.
A random analysis by the usage calculator (screen shot image) shows that an average person who uses the internet for one hour of music streaming, a few mails with attachments, a few app downloads, and a few minutes of video ends up using 4-5 GB of data.
But Airtel for instance offers a maximum of 2 GB for Rs 750 and 1.25 GB for Rs 675 with speed reduced to 2G rates (and charged accordingly) after 1.25 GB, and free surfing after your bill reaches Rs 2,000.
RCom’s 5 GB plan will cost you Rs 1,200, and with Vodafone it will be Rs 1,250. Tariffs are similar in Aircel and Idea Cellular as well depending on the circle you are in.
The most basic 3G plans start at Rs 50 for 50 KB. In fact, almost all operators have very similar plans with each MB costing Rs 1 in a pack and 10 paise per 10 KB with the pay as you go model. Tata Docomo offers unlimited data packs starting at Rs 1,000 but it is meant only for data card users.
The lack of unlimited plans, however, can be compensated by more aware usage. But do get the pack exceeding slightly what you would actual need. The cost of extra data is charged at 10 paise per 10 KB in most cases and 20 paisa for 30 KB or 1 paisa per 10 KB in others. Even in the 1 paisa per MB plan, at 3G speeds most people would use too many MBs in a very short span of time. On the 10 paisa per 10 KB plan it would cost more than Rs 10 per MB.
CDMA players do offer unlimited plans for mobiles but those typically cost upwards of Rs 750. The most basic CDMA unlimited plans generally offer 5 GB fair usage after which speeds reduce to 128 Kbps. Some plans earlier used to cost close to Rs 1,250 and offered up to 15 GB fair usage cap. Since CDMA speeds are slower than 3G speeds, even a 5 GB plan would offer good value in the sense that you will find it hard to reach the limit and will therefore enjoy decent speeds throughout the plan period.
2G data choice
Most operators offer 2 GB data through their 2G network and term it unlimited as that’s the maximum data that users can consume given the slow speeds that you get. Pricing is generally in the range of Rs 90 to Rs 99.
Most people opt for this plan as it gives them peace of mind that they cannot be charged more than this no matter how much they use the net. But in my case, I have never exceed 1 GB even though I stream music, use email, and download a lot of games and apps on my phone. However, if I choose to go for the pay as you go model my bill would be much more than the Rs 99 I pay. Most operators charge 10 paise for 10 KB,which makes it more than Rs 10 per MB and Rs 10,240 for 1 GB. Some operators also offer 1 paisa for 10 KB but even that amounts to Re 1 per MB and Rs 1,024 for 1 GB.
However, this doesn’t mean you should always go for unlimited plans only. For instance, if you just want to check mail and not open attachments, along with a little social networking like posting status updates, the 50 MB pack which costs Rs 5 (at Airtel and most other operators,) will be sufficient. Similarly, you can buy a 1 GB pack for around Rs 50 if you are a slightly heavy user but do not stream music.
Do remember to keep track of your usage.