Buying Guide: Data Cards

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Buying Guide: Data CardsIndia got the taste of wireless broadband when CDMA players rolled out evdo based data services.

Tata Photon+ and Reliance Netconnect+ was either of the choice for people who are always on the move. Later BSNL and MTS also joined the EVDO bandwagon. EVDO is mostly offered via USB modem.

Though EVDO services are getting cheaper these services have few glitches for end users, like:

1. The modem comes operator-locked and there is no easy solution to unlock - that means when you buy it it’s your lifetime investment. If you like to change operator, buy another device.

2. EVDO connections don't allow recharge of 1X plans.

With the roll out of 3G/HSPA services from PSU and private GSM operators, there is a sudden increase of demand for 3G modems. Using unlocked 3G/HSPA modem means you have complete freedom to choose any GSM operator as these modems are backwardly compatible, i.e. supports 2G network (GPRS/EDGE) also.

3G modems mostly come with these specs:

Downlink: HSDPA -3.6Mbps; HSPA - 7.2 Mbps.

10Mbps, 14.4Mbps, 21.6Mbps

Uplink: 384kbps, 5.76 Mbps

Plug & Play over USB 2.0 High speed

Doubled as pen drive with support of 2/4/8/16/32 GB microSD.

Advantages of unlocked 3G Modems:

  • You can use 2G operators also
  • GPRS/EDGE network is present in almost everywhere in the country – never out of internet.
  • You can change operator by changing the SIM
  • Easy transition from 2G to 3G and vice versa.

Some operators already launched 3G data cards:

Operators3G Data Cards
AirtelHuawei E1731- 7.2Mbps
Huawei E153 - 3.6Mbps
Reliance (Unlocked modems)ZTE MF190 - 7.2Mbps @ Rs 2500
Huawei E173 - 7.2Mbps @ Rs 2500
ZTE MF668 – 21Mbps @ Rs 4499
AircelHuawei - 7.2Mbps @ Rs 3499
Tata DocomoZTE MF632 - 7.2Mbps @ Rs 1999
21Mbps @ Rs 4000
BSNLTeracom - 7.2Mbps @ Rs 2000
Teracom - 3.6Mbps @ Rs 1600
MTNLiLemon/Teracom - 3.6Mbps @ Rs 1799
iLemon - 7.2Mbps @ Rs 2590
VodafoneVodafone 3G Stick Huawei K3565 - 3.6Mbps @ Rs 1600
IdeaIdea Netsetter Huawei E1550 – 3.6Mbps @ Rs 1600

** Note: the prices of 3G data cards are falling down. So expect changes in the price.

Till now only STel did not launch 3G data cards. STel who has 3G licences in 3 circles did not roll out 3G commercial services in any of the circles.

Indian 3G Data cards:
Micromax has a good portfolio of 3G data cards - 300G, 310G, 350G, 351G, 352G. Each one has different form factors. Micromax 300G and 310G was earlier sold with Airtel and BSNL.

Beetel, a part of Bharti group also has 3G data card product line. Some of Beetel modems are rebranded ZTE MF170, MF180, MF190, MF631. Beetel also has some own branded modems.

Recently Lava Mobiles entered the data card market with 720G (7.2Mbps HSUPA modem), which was shared on Telecomtalk. I guess soon other desi companies like Maxx, Lemon, Karbonn may come up with such products. Another desi company VisionTek launched 82GH (3.6Mbps/384kbps) modem some times back.

Olive Telecom already showed off World’s first Multi-mode, Multi-band modem. This modem is to support 14.4Mbps HSPA category 8 and 14.7Mbps EVDO Rev B network.

Interestingly there are many other internationally accepted brands which make 3G data cards, like Nokia, Maxon, Novatel Merlin, Option Globetrotter, Alcatel, Sierra Wireless and Sony Ericsson. But officially they are not available in Indian market.

My personal favorite brand is Huawei, as its generic dashboard comes with many functions but Huawei itself does not sell 3G devices in India. Either you buy one from Reliance (E173) or get one from online reseller.

Online resellers generally offer 1 yr warranty with the product, but before you buy it check all details. They also give replacement of the faulty products if returned within 7 days of purchase. And beware of fraudulent online sellers.

There are two types of unlocked modems – either unlocked by someone or factory unlocked. Currently online resellers import the modems from abroad and unlock and sell. In that way you can get Huawei, Nokia and other brands. Before you buy such modems from online resellers

Dashboard software

This is an important part of the 3G USB modem, if you like to use the modem just like a mobile phone. With the dashboard you can make and receive calls’ send; receive and save SMS; change settings, send USSD, contact, call records etc etc. When you upgrade your modem’s firmware it is expected you will get generic dashboard.

In general dashboard of ZTE modems do not support USSD, which is very essential for balance check. To check USSD from the modem, you have to close the dashboard and open MDMA.

Tata Docomo 3G data cards come with a stripped dashboard which does not support calling and SMS facility. Micromax modems do not offer calling facility with their dashboard.

Wireless Routers – If you like to connect multiple PC/laptop/tablet

Olive Nexus V-R9 (Multiple Connectivity Options- EDGE/3G/1X/EV-DO USB modem, Data-enabled tethered cell phone, Ethernet -ADSL, Cable, WiMAX ) priced at just Rs 2990 at Olive online store.

Micromax 400R – unlocked 7.2Mbps HSUPA router. Price Rs 5000

Tata Docomo 3G WiFi Hub – dual mode HSPA ((7.2/5.7 Mbps)) & EVDO (3.1/1.8 Mbps) – MRP Rs 5999 [locked with Tata Docomo SIM & Tata Photon+ RUIM]

Vodafone R201 (Huawei made) (7.2Mbps downlink and 5.7Mbps uplink) – MRP Rs 5500 [Locked with Vodafone SIM

One of Our Guest writer is also selling unlocked 3G modems at The modems are completely unlocked and special discount is also provided to TT readers

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