Airtel 4G: Hands on Review

Airtel began its 4G operations in the country starting from Kolkata as India’s first operator to roll out commercial 4G-LTE services. As of now Airtel offers only data services over 4G network, and offers a multimode 4G-LTE dongle (Huawei E392) and a Indoor WiFi CPE (Huawei B593). More details of Airtel 4G plans and devices can be found here.

We, team telecomtalk did get a chance to make an exclusive review of Airtel 4G at their corporate office at Infinity Building, Saltlake, Kolkata.

Airtel 4G LTE Dongle:

Earlier I mentioned that the dongle is only 4G supported as I heard from Airtel officials at launch event, but there it was clarified that Huawei E392 is a multimode dongle and supports 2G/3G and 4G. In the launch event the dongle was presented there was a ZTE single mode dongle as a test dongle.

Using the dongle is pretty straight forward, just plug it to computer’s USB slot and automatically driver and dialer UI will be installed. In case you have installed Huawei Mobile Partner v23 on your computer it will auto-start after you plug in the dongle. You can create the profile on the dialer UI using APN ‘airtelgprs.com’, and connect to internet.

At Airtel office I was getting signal strength RSSI -71dBm, which is better than 3G signals of many operators (>= 51dBm is best signal strength).

Speedtest results were impressive ones, with Indian servers ping less than 100ms, download speeds 15Mbit/s+ and upload speed is around 4Mbit/s. With the servers abroad download speed was around 10Mbit/s and upload was around 1Mbit/s, while ping was >200ms.

As speedtest results vary a lot, I downloaded some stuffs via Internet Download Manager.

On IDM speed is good enough – 1.91Mbit/s was the peak download speed.

The video was recorded during some files being downloaded from the internet

As Network was running in background, Speed Meter shows peak download speed is 1.91MB/s i.e. nearly 16Mbps.

HD Video Streaming

To test this, I chose a 1080p video on YouTube and started playing. I often dragged the video forward – buffering was just for few seconds (less than 10 seconds). While you are watch HD 720p experience will be smoother than this.

Airtel has already started working for 4G network coverage expansion over Kolkata. To the extreme north, Airtel 4G will reach upto Bandel with few areas uncovered. Airtel is working on Phase I & II 4G coverage expansion to provide robust 4G coverage over the metro.

Verdict:

Airtel 4G uses a not-so-mature 4G technology, LTE-TDD. The ecosystem behind LTE-TDD is also very much pre-mature. But worldwide LTE is the major technology which is shown huge interest and investment by global telecom operators. In 2 years LTE will be very mature as commercial deployment will increase. I tested it indoor, and find that speed on average more than 15Mbit/s, that’s too on wireless. That’s impressive, as that time with me there are another 4 Airtel officials were accessing Airtel 4G from the same room. 

Now with 8K device/initial cost, 4G is right now not for aam admi. But this is the way technology works; it will be mature as well as cheaper to everyone’s reach. Airtel 4G tariff is better than CDMA operators’ Rev B tariff (Tata Photon Max offers 3GB+Unlimited 1X at Rs 1000 and MTS MBlaze Ultra is limited to Jaipur only). Those who like to download a huge, for them fiber is still best option, but those are looking for speed [Need for Speed] on wireless 4G is surely for them.

 

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