Buyer’s guide: Best data cards in the market as of April 2015

By April 5th, 2015 AT 11:27 AM

reliance3G-wifi-datacardEven when a smartphone is the best choice for internet on the move, still data cards are used by many as a broadband replacement. As wireless internet like 3G and EVDO has become much cheaper than wired broadband, many now rely on data cards for the daily internet.

Advantages of data cards

  • Portability: This is the prime reason why users prefer data card. It can be carried along to any places they go as the mobile network has wide coverage and offer free data roaming on many plans.
  • Easy activation: Unlike wired internet which require complex physical installation, data cards can get you online instantly after you purchase it.
  • Choice of provider: Changing your wired broadband provider is no easy task and may involve significant cost. But with an unlocked data card, changing provider is as easy as changing the SIM in your phone.
  • Low cost of ownership and cheaper plans: Compared to wired broadband modems, the cost of a data card is much lower at around Rs 1000. 1GB data on 3G is much less compared to wired broadband plans.
  • Voice call: Most data cards on the market now offer voice calling, SMS and USSD service right in the data card dashboard software.

Types of data cards

The data card market is primarily dived into two, unlocked open market data cards and operator locked data cards. With the entry of data card manufacturers like Huawei and ZTE, unlocked branded data cards with manufacturer warranty is now easily available for the buyers. Micromax, D-Link, Netgear and Lava also compete in open market data cards with their own offerings.

CDMA EVDO data cards like Reliance Netconnect+, MTS Ultra and TATA Photon remains top choice for operator locked data card. The latest trend is WiFi enabled data cards which can create internet hotspot without the need of a computer.

Data Card Technologies

3G Data card: Offer download speed up to 21.1Mbps and upload speed of 5.76 Mbps on 3G HSPA network. These data cards are also backward compatible with the 2G network offering a download speed of 236kbps on EDGE network.

EVDO Data Cards: Offer download speed of 3.1Mbps on Rev A network and 14.7Mbps on Rev B network.

LTE Data Cards: Offer download speed up to 100Mbps and upload speed up to 50Mbps. Backward compatible with 3G and 2G networks.

Note: Above speeds are maximum speeds supported by the device. In real world scenarios, speed depends on operator’s network.

Handpicked Data Cards

1. Huawei E3531 (Unlocked 3G): Download speed 21.6 Mbps HSPA/upload speeds 5.76 Mbps, Soft Wi-Fi, Voice call and SMS – Rs 1,334

2. Huawei Power-Fi E8221 (Unlocked 3G): Download speed 14.4 Mbps HSPA/upload speeds 5.76 Mbps, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, Works from any USB power source – Rs 1650

3. ZTE MF197 (Unlocked): Download speed 14.4 Mbps HSPA/upload speeds 5.76 Mbps – Rs 840

4. Mblaze Ultra Wi-Fi DF800 (EVDO): 9.8Mbps downlink RevB EVDO and 3.6Mbps uplink, WiFi 802.11b/g/n, Works from any USB power source – Rs 999

5. Reliance Pro 3 AC2791 (EVDO) – 14.7 Mbps download speed RevB EVDO and  5.4Mbps upload speed –Rs 899

6. Airtel 4G Mobile Hotspot (4G LTE) – up to 61Mbps downlink / 18Mbps uplink on 4G LTE, 6 hours battery backup, WiFi 802.11b/g/n for 10 devices – Rs 5000

An IT professional who has got great passion for telecom. Has been closely watching Indian telecom space since 2009.

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