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BasicsEdit

India has the fastest growing telecom market in the world with almost 1 billion subscribers. It's also one of the most chaotic to foreigners. A lot of operators used to share the market:

  • Bharti Airtel (takes over Tata DoCoMo and bought Telenor)
  • Vodafone India (to be merged with Idea)
  • Idea Cellular (to be merged with Vodafone)
  • Reliance JIO (on 4G/LTE-only)
  • Aircel (in bankrupcy)
  • Reliance Communications (RCom) (to be sold to Jio)
  • Telenor India (sold to Airtel)
  • BSNL (likely to be merged with MTNL)
  • Tata DoCoMo (to be taken over by Airtel)
  • MTNL (likely to be merged with BSNL)

Operators and mergers Edit

Reliance JIO shook the market when it arrived on the scene with predatory pricing in 2016/7. The reaction is a wave of consolidation, with mergers planned or done between: Vodafone India and Idea Cellular - Airtel with Telenor India and Tata while RCom and Aircel are expected to exit the market after their merger collapsed. The government is also expected to merge state-owned operators BSNL and MTNL, but no plans have been confirmed. Should the current raft of mergers and takeovers all be completed, the nation’s mobile market would slim down from 10 to only 5 operators with the following market shares (based on subscriber totals in 2017):

  • Vodafone + Idea Cellular: 35%
  • Bharti Airtel + Telenor India + Tata DoCoMo: 32%
  • Aircom: RCom + Aircel: 15% - merger collapsed!
  • Reliance Jio: 9%
  • BSNL + MTNL: 9%

Frequencies Edit

Besides GSM networks, WIMAX and CDMA is used too, but not part of this survey. CDMA is progressively shut down and the spectrum is refarmed to LTE. So it usually makes no sense to activate CDMA subscriptions.

  • 2G/GSM
    • 900 MHz (Band 8): used by Airtel, Vodafone, Idea, Aircom, MTNL/BSNL
    • 1800 MHz (Band 3): used by all operators (except Jio)
  • 3G/UMTS/HSPA
    • 900 MHz (Band 8): used by Idea (Delhi)
    • 2100 MHz (Band 1): used by all major providers (except Jio)
  • 4G/LTE
    • 700 MHz (Band 28): freed from digital TV, prepared for LTE
    • 850 MHz (Band 5): previously CDMA, re-auctioned to Jio, Aircom, Tata, MTNL/BSNL
    • 900 MHz (Band 8): used by Airtel
    • 1800 MHz (Band 3): used by Airtel, Vodafone, Idea and Jio
    • 2100 MHz (Band 1): used by Vodafone (Tamil Nadu)
    • 2300 MHz (Band 40 - TDD-LTE): used by Jio, Airtel, Idea
    • 2600 MHz (Band 41 - TDD-LTE): used by Vodafone and Idea, intended for BSNL

Coverage Edit

India is diverted into 22 mobile telephone markets called circles. All licenses were given out per circle. So there is a considerate fragmentation especially when it comes to 4G/LTE. Some spectrum was re-auctioned in 2016 and the current holdings per circle can be found here.

You can never really rely on one network only as blackouts and congestions are frequent. At other times and places, you may also get worldclass speed and coverage.

All major operators (except Jio) have coverage in all circles when it comes to 2G/3G. The 4G market is much more fragmented. Only Jio, Idea and Airtel and soon Vodafone have started in major towns in all circles by 2017, but often on unusual TDD-LTE bands.

According to crowdsourced Open Signal's State of mobile networks report from Oct. 2017 Jio has reached the largest 4G coverage in the nation, but offers the slowest speeds due to congestion. In major towns Airtel is the winner for 3G/4G performance followed by Vodafone and Idea. 4G/LTE remains pretty slow in India with average speeds of 6 Mbps by Jio and 9 Mbps by Airtel.

Legal requirements Edit

Greylist

It's theoretically easy to get a prepaid SIM card in India as a foreigner, you just have to make sure you have all the proper documents and they'll probably want photocopies of them too. These documents you'll probably need:

  • make a copy of the photo / name page of your passport,
  • a copy of the Indian visa page in your passport (or your OCI card),
  • and a passport sized picture as well.

You will need to present these, along with your original passport document, to the SIM vendor.

  • Get a proof of where you're staying in India. While for many vendors a visiting card of a hotel may be enough, some may ask for a letter from the frontdesk verifying that you are indeed staying there.
  • If you are staying by private invitation instead, be ready to provide these contact details as the operator may phone your host to verify your data under "Know your Customer" rules.
  • If your passport doesn't have a home address, try to show something which looks official with it.

The Indian Government has recently put in restrictions that puts a 3 month limit on prepaid SIM connectivity for foreign visitors to India. In reality your SIM card may have validity for 3 months or till the end of the validity of your visa (just a matter of luck)

As of November 2012, there has been a significant tightening of regulations around the purchase and activation of SIM cards. Some operators are saying that it will take at least 4 days to activate a SIM card once purchased. Officially, this process takes 24-48 hours. In practice, some SIMs are activated within 12 hours since the rule has changed, and other SIMs have taken almost a week to activate. And, just to make things more difficult, there is very little rhyme, reason or logic to how long any of these things take.

In 2015 the process seems mostly to be a bit swifter. Many people report that their SIM cards were activated within 2 days. For latest reports and updates check this forum. But you still have to be prepared that it takes quite a while and you may be called to confirm your identity or local address. Some users finally gave up during the lengthy process.

Miraculously, there are also opposite reports especially from tourist locations, where users needed to pay some extra fees like Rs. 700 to bypass the paperwork and skip activation time. These SIM cards usually work for 30 days only. In 2017 the government and the national tourist office stated that tourists need to wait for 5-6 hours on average for activating a new SIM Card, and after providing all relevant documents. So things seem to have speeded up.

In 2018 the situation remains confusing. Increasingly, at gateway airports private SIM vendors in small phone stores are offering SIM cards for a premium. These cards appear to be already registered (on probably somebody else) and should be verified at the point of purchase. Nevertheless, they may be an option, if you want to be sure to be connected and as prices are minimal in India, you still pay less than in many other countries.

Because of the legal hassle at the end of this article a travel solution for India with a phone rental including data SIM is added. With Trabug you'll pay a heavy surcharge, but can pre-arrange your SIM and can be sure that it will work in the country rightaway.

Availability Edit

Most international airports in India have counters where you can buy SIM cards. These counters are usually located right after you clear customs. For the most part, if you have the above documents in order, you should be able to get your card in 15-20 minutes after you fill out the required documentation.

If you don't get one at the airport, you should be able to get a prepaid SIM card at a local, independent cellphone dealer. If you have all the documents in place, it will make it much easier for them and will lead to less hassle.

Regional organization Edit

When starting up, be sure to enable (domestic) roaming as the networks are organized on a state (circle) level. Different prices and offers apply to every circle in India. Jio started with agressive priceing in 2016/7 and so far most operators have announced to scrap all domestic roaming charges within India by 2017.

Special rules for Jammu and Kashmir state Edit

A prepaid SIM card bought and registered somewhere in India, can be used all over the union, except in Jammu and Kashmir (State of North India) this is because of the fear of terrorism. Only a new prepaid SIM, bought in J&K works in this state. There the restrictions are even higher: you will need 4 passport photos, copies of your passport and your local sponsor (hotel manager or local counterpart) and expect that activation takes even longer. J&K SIM cards have reduced functionality: You can't receive or send text messages and the number of the prepaid subscriber from Jammu and Kashmir won't work outside the state. This restriction has been extended to 2018.

Survey of providers Edit

Unlike most other countries, in the following list no survey of data rates is given. This is because India has become a very dynamic market with many special offers which often differ between circles. Therefore we characterize every provider and link to their data plans instead. Links on this Wiki have the problem of getting broken as soon as the provider redesigns its website. So for a general survey of all providers, circles and mobile plans check on reload.in or compare plans on komparify.com/operators.

Airtel (Bharti Airtel)Edit

Airtel

Airtel (a.k.a. as Bharti Airtel) is the biggest provider in India. It has about 280 million mobile subscribers in 2017 and still the widest coverage. In 2017 it plans to take over Telenor which is getting all the required approvals and it's in talks with Tata to do the same as the latter is trying to exit the Indian market. This would build the second biggest mobile provider aside of Vodafone/Idea soon with sharply falling revenues. Airtel has about 35% revenue market share in 2017 and gained by the exit of as smaller telcos the acquisition of Telenor.

Airtel offers 2G/3G in all circles partly through roaming agreements. 4G/LTE is available in 591 cities so far in all circles, but it's open for prepaid in only in a part of them: Airtel's 4G cities . Note, that Airtel uses mostly 2300 MHz (on band 40, in unpaired TDD-LTE), but lately the more common 1800 MHz (band 3) and from 2018 900 MHz (Band 8) for LTE as well.

The incumbents have come under extreme pressure because of Jio's agressive pricing in 2016/7. Airtel announced scrapping all national roaming charges for voice, SMS and data from April 2017. Users recommend Airtel especially for the metropolitan areas.

A special warning for Apple users: Some users with iPhones have reported that Airtel is constantly trying to activate iMessage and FaceTime which eats up all your balance. So better keep an eye on that or deactivate FaceTime and iMessage for your stay with Airtel.

AvailabilityEdit

An Airtel SIM card costs Rs. 50-100, some vendors may charge more. Swapping a 3G SIM to a 4G SIM is free.

Activation takes two hours up to some days. 3G/4G activation takes up another four hours after intial SIM card activation. When you buy the card, initially you will have no network; after some hours, you'll notice network availability; call 59059 to activate. You'll need to give the last four digits of your ID.

Any Airtel number may be released, if not logged into the network for 30 days. Balance check: *121*2#. Click here for many other useful codes.

Data offersEdit

Default data depending on prepaid tariff line and region and is mostly around 4p per 10 KB.

Airtel always offers promotions for new customers and their first time recharge. So ask for it. Afterwards 3G/4G data "normal" recharge price applies and they differ between circles. There are no manual activations as such, once the credit is added the data package is activated automatically, with a SMS notification. So every top-up correspondents with a certain allowance. Be sure to top-up the right amount exactly to get the right bundle.

As the top-up face prices and packages sizes differ for every circle, it's not useful to give prices here as they will be changed to a totally different package in a different circle:

  • for 2G packages (less useful): select "prepaid" and circle and check here
  • for 3G packages: select circle and check here
  • for 4G/LTE packages: select city and check here (scroll down to red boxes)

4G/LTE is available for prepaid in about 100 towns so far in 2016 like Mumbai, Kolkata, Delhi and many others. To counter Jio's offensive, Airtel has come up with some remarkable deals and at the beginning of 2018 these plans with daily quotas in 2G/3G/4G data are given out:

Price daily Data = total Data Validity
Rs. 199 1 GB 28 GB 28 days
Rs. 349 2 GB 56 GB 28 days
Rs. 448 1 GB 70 GB 70 days
Rs. 549 3 GB 84 GB 28 days
Rs. 799 3.5 GB 98 GB 28 days

To all plans unlimited local, STD and roaming calls along with 100 SMS per day are added.

To apply a feature data pack, you can ask at any shop showing the Airtel logo, which are very widespread. Contrary to most countries, don't just buy the airtime - you need to buy and apply data packs separately.

There are lots of special offers, and data packs can be shared with up to five 'family' members. It's worth downloading the My Airtel app to see all offers and easily apply them; this is only available on the Indian App and Play stores, but how to install it on a device from outside is shown here.

Domestic roaming has to be switched on to use internet out of the state you've purchased the SIM from. There are no extra charges for this domestic data roaming, but for roaming and STD calls there remain extra charges.

More infoEdit

Vodafone India (to be merged with Idea)Edit

Vodafone

Vodafone has the 2nd most subscribers in India with 200 million customers in 2016 and is one of the better networks for metropolitan coverage. Some locals consider its 3G as fastest and most reliable in India recommended for the cities.

Vodafone has 2G/3G coverage in all circles partly through roaming agreements with Idea. In 2015 4G/LTE on 1800 MHz (Band 3) has started in Kochi and has spread to Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru and Kolkata and more places in 2016.

In 2017 Vodafone India agreed to a merger with Idea Cellular, through which the two will create a combined entity with a market share of over 35% and thereby India's largest operator. The merger would also help both the telecom operators withstand intense price competition brought by Jio. The combined entity of Vodafone India and Idea Cellular will have a more balanced subscriber mix, as Vodafone is strong in urban areas whereas Idea focuses more on the rural mass market. The brand strategy of the new company will be determined at a later date.

AvailabilityEdit

SIM card costs: Rs. 50-100, various vendors may charge whatever they feel like. Recharges are made in their shops or online from Rs. 111 for a credit of Rs. 105 to Rs. 1000.

The most useful USSD codes to manage a Vodafone SIM can be found here.

Data offers Edit

Default rate outside of packs is on most prepaid tariffs and circles is around 4p per 10 KB. For prepaid they 4G/LTE, 2G and 3G is widespread available. Like Airtel, their rates and package sizes differ very much from circle to circle. So it doesn't make sense to quote prices here.

Some special offers may be available:

  • In summer 2017, Vodafone launched the Rs 29 recharge pack, meant only for data usage in the night 1am-6am, that offered unlimited Internet 3G/4G data to the users.
  • Later Vodafone unveiled a Rs 445 plan which was later discounted to Rs. 244. The plan offers 1 GB data per day, matching rival operators plans, "unlimited" Vodafone to Vodafone voice calls valid for 70 days.
  • At the end of 2017 Vodafone has introduced a package for its prepay customers: For Rs. 198, the plan includes unlimited local and STD voice calls, and 1 GB for data traffic per day. Customers will also have access to unlimited local and STD calls while roaming in India. The pack also includes 100 SMS per day. It is valid for 28 days and is available across all its 4G circles. New customers can recharge by Rs. 229 and access the same benefits on Vodafone's 4G network.

International roaming offers Edit

Vodafone has the best international roaming offer on the Indian market called iRoam Free. These roaming plans come in different time frames beween 1 day at Rs 500 and 30 days at Rs 5000 (for full list see here). These packages are valid in 40 countries. In the USA, Singapore and UAE calls and data, both incoming and outgoing while travelling in these countries are completely surcharge free. In 37 further countries: France, Germany, Italy, Ireland, Spain, Greece, Switzerland, Singapore, Australia, Hong Kong, Thailand, Malaysia, Turkey, Belgium, Netherlands, Norway, Denmark, Czech Republic, Portugal, Romania, Albania, Hungary, Luxembourg, Canada, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar, Kuwait, Sri Lanka, New Zealand, Japan, Korea, Russia, Taiwan, Mauritius, and Morocco all incoming calls are free, and data plus outgoing calls being nominally charged at Rs 1 per MB and Rs 1 per minute respectively.

More info Edit

Idea Cellular (to be merged with Vodafone) Edit

Idea

Idea is the 3rd provider in India with 189 million subscribers in 2017. It has 3G licences in 11 circles and offers services in all circles through network sharing with Vodafone and Aircel. For a survey, check their website or here.

In 2015 it started with 4G/LTE and in 2017 it already covers 200 cities in about 10 circles (list) on 1800 MHz (band 3) where it has own coverage and is considered to be particulary strong.

As 2nd incumbent after Airtel Idea announced the drop of all national roaming charges on voice, SMS and data from April 2017 as a reaction to Jio's agressive pricing.

In March 2017 Idea Cellular agreed to a merger with Vodafone India, through which the two will create a combined entity with a market share of over 35% and India's largest operator. The merger will end in both companies having a 50% share. The brand strategy of the new company will be determined at a later date (see Vodafone above).

Availability Edit

SIM card costs Rs.10 + 1.10 tax, various vendors may charge whatever they feel like. Default data rate is around 3p per 10 KB. For USSD codes that can be used to manage your SIM, check here.

Data offers Edit

Idea has very competitive prices for packages, slightly below the level of Airtel or Vodafone. However, their prices differ widely according to state/circle. For 2G/3G you need to check their website here and first select circle on the right. Idea is besides of Airtel and Jio the only provider offer 4G in all circles. For 4G prices and packages check their website here and first select circle.

  • The latest Idea offer to take on Jio is the new Rs 453 prepaid pack, which provides 84 GB of data for 84 days, with a 1 GB daily data cap. The data is limited to 3G speeds, and the buyer also gets bundled calls (300 minutes per day and 1,200 minutes per week) for the validity period.
  • Idea Cellular upgraded Rs. 309 prepaid recharge plan which is now offering 1.5 GB daily 2G/3G/4G data for a period of 28 days. Idea's Rs. 309 prepaid recharge plan previously used to offer 1GB daily data. The upgradation also brings up the total bundled data for the validity period from 28 GB to 42 GB now. Rs. 309 prepaid recharge plan offers outgoing calls with a cap of 250 minutes per day and 1,000 minutes per week.
  • Idea started a new Rs. 93 plan with 1 GB data per day for 10 days in 2018 to fight similar offers of Aircel and Jio.

More info Edit

Reliance Communications (RCom) shutting down 2G/3G Edit

Reliance

Reliance Communications (RCom) has been the 4th provider in India. It has also run a CDMA network (which is incompatible to GSM) that is about to be shut down along with 2G and 3G.

UPDATE: Reliance Communications (RCOM) has informed the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India that it will be shutting down its 2G/3G networks and all voice services on 1 December 2017, but will continue to offer 4G mobile data to customers. In order to ensure the transition proceeds smoothly, the regulator has requested that cellcos accept porting requests from RCOM users until 31 December. The move will see RCOM close down its 2G and 3G networks nationwide, leaving it with just its 800 MHz LTE systems in 8 circles – Andhra Pradesh, Haryana, Maharashtra, Utarr Pradesh East and West, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala. RCOM is planning to refarm its CDMA network to LTE in the following 9 circles, some of which overlap its existing footprint: Delhi, Rajasthan, UPW, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, West Bengal, Gujarat and Kolkata.

In 2018 it was announced that Reliance is going to sell all its assest to Jio. So it can be expected that the operator is going to exit the market-

Availability Edit

SIM card costs: Rs. 50-100, various vendors may charge whatever they feel like. USSD codes to manage the SIM can be found here.

Data offers Edit

Their pay as you go rate is a pretty high 10 Rs. per 10 KB.

For some states, they have special plans, packages and offers you can check here.

It looks like RCom learnt a lesson for not launching attractive tariff plans when incumbent operators such as Jio, Bharti, Airtel, etc. were luring customers.

  • RCom is now offering 1 GB of 2G data per day for 365 days with a recharge of Rs- 365. The recharge amount might differ from circle to circle, and so does the validity. The 2G data seems to be a huge letdown because other operators are providing 4G data at the same price. But none of the operators have been offering it for 365 days like RCom.
  • In 2017 RCom launched a new flagship plan of Rs. 193 for its prepaid customers, where it is offering 1 GB of 4G data per day for 28 days, which is on par with other telecom operator plans. This plan was lowered to Rs. 149 in 2018.

More info Edit

Reliance Jio Edit

Jio

Reliance Jio Infocomm (RJIL), the mobile arm of petrochemical giant Reliance Industries Ltd. (RIL) owned by India's richest man Mukesh Ambani, started its new 4G-only network in 2015/6 nationwide.

This is the company everybody is afraid of. In 2016 RJIL started a price war with their new 4G/LTE network. The operator currently covers 90% of the population with 4G/LTE in all circles. It has twice as many towers for 4G than all its competitors combined, but on Jio, there is no fallback to 2G or 3G. You'll need to have a device capable of LTE on 2300 MHz in TDD-LTE (band 40). Jio claims to have the double average speed with 16 Mbps compared to its competitors, but Open Signal tests proved otherwise and showed slower speeds than Aircel, Vodafone and Idea.

It's recommended to take Jio only for data or if you have a VoLTE enabled device as the voice service is completely based on VoLTE.

The beginning Edit

Under it's welcome offer, all Jio services including voice, apps, and 4G/LTE data were available free until March 2017 (up to 4 GB per day). Long lines have been building up in front of their stores already. It's the fastest growing technology firm with 100 million customers gained in just 170 days, that's 7 customers per second. As Jio is expected to see a dip in its subscriber base once it begins charging for services in April 2017, they were offering every existing customer Prime membership for once-off Rs. 99. Prime members will be paying only Rs. 303 per month for unlimited data until April 2018.

By the end of March 2017 Jio had 108 million subscribers of which 72 million customers had opted to become Prime members. Jio announced that it would be adding to its more than 100,000 LTE tower sites 100,000 new sites by the end of the year, targeting mobile 4G coverage of 95% of the population.

Availability Edit

As their SIM cards are in high demand, expect delays and problems like overcrowding of their network. Jio faces a blockade of the other carriers e.g. through interconnection issues with the other networks. Jio claims a call failure rate of 175 calls per 1000 calls due to anti-competitive behaviour of the other providers. In 2017 their data download rates which were unreliable at first, seemed to have stabilised nationwide.

Top-up vouchers are sold from Rp. 10-5000 or top-up online. The best way to monitor your consumption is to install their MyJio app.

Data plans Edit

Reliance Jio, which claims to be the world's largest mobile data network, continues to bring about paradigm shifts in the Indian telecom market. Jio has launched new plans to ensure customers get the best deals:

  • First off, there's the Rs 399 pack for another 84 days by providing 1 GB data per day, along with all the other services like free SMS, calls and apps.
  • The other new Jio plan, priced at Rs 349, provides users with 20 GB data for 56 days, with no daily limit on data consumption; however, users will get 10 GB data for the first 28 days and the remaining 10 GB for the other 28 days with this plan, instead of 20 GB together.
  • The Rs. 309 and Rs. 509 Jio plans come with 56-day validities, with 1 GB and 2 GB daily data consumption, respectively. The Rs 999 and Rs 1,999 plans, which come with 90 days (90nGB) and 120 days (155 GB) validity. The Rs. 4,999 and Rs. 9,999 plans have been upgraded to provide 210-day (380 GB) and 390-day (780 GB) validities as well.

All of these plans require Prime membership for Rs. 99. They include free calls (VoLTE only) local, STD and roaming, free SMS to all operators and a data quota and "unlimited" data regulated by a daily quota

Price Validity Total Data = FUP per day
Rp 19 1 day 150 MB 150 MB
Rp 52 7 days 1.05 GB 150 MB/day
Rp 98 28 days 2 GB
Rp 149 28 days 42 GB 1.5 GB/day
Rp 199 28 days 56 GB 2 GB/day
Rp 299 28 days 84 GB 3 GB/day
Rp 349 70 days 105 GB 1.5 GB/day
Rp 398 70 days 140 GB 2 GB/day
Rp 399 84 days 126 GB 1.5 GB/day
Rp 448 84 days 168 GB 2 GB/day
Rp 449 91 days 136 GB 1.5 GB/day
Rp 498 91 days 182 GB 2 GB/day
Rp 509 28 days 112 GB 4 GB/day
Rp 799 28 days 140 GB 5 GB/day
Rp 999 90 days 60 GB
Rp 1999 120 days 125 GB
Rp 4999 210 days 350 GB
Rp 9999 390 days 750 GB

Prices are the same in all circles. Exceeding the FUP, speed will be throttled to 128 kbps.

More info Edit

BSNL and MTNL Edit

BSNL

BSNL Edit

BSNL for Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited is an Indian state-owned telecommunications company. It operates in all circles except the cities of Mumbai and New Delhi where MTNL operates instead (see below). This provider is seen generally as not so reliable in the cities, but is in some provinces the only available 3G option. So better make a network scan before you buy a SIM card. BSNL holds spectrum for 4G on the unusual 2500 MHz TDD-LTE (band 41) only, but hasn't launched it by now.

It's expected that the state will eventually merge BSNL with MTNL, but no date has been fixed yet.

Availability Edit

They sell a prepaid data SIM with voice for Rs. 20 with a 96 Rs. voucher as a normal SIM or for Rs. 59 as USIM. This includes 500 MB vaild for 30 days. These packages below can be booked for 2G and 3G.

For SIM card management, check out these USSD codes.

Data options Edit

State-owned telco BSNL is not aloof from the ongoing battle amongst the private industry players either.

  • In June 2017 the company launched the Rs 444 plan, under which the prepaid subscribers could get 4 GB data per day with a validity of 90 days.
  • In a matter of days, BSNL launched the Sixer 666 pack, priced at Rs 666. It came with 120 GB data bundled with unlimited calls for the prepaid subscribers with a validity of 60 days.

For other plans and latest offers check their website here.

Tourist SIM Edit

From February to November 2017 BSNL and the government of India ran an initiative to provide tourists a free SIM card at airports. This SIM card came already pre-activated skipping the lenghty activation process. It was made available at the Indira Gandhi International Airport (T3 Terminal) in New Delhi and over 15 international airports to tourists of 160 countries who were elegible for an eVisa. Tourists were only required to present a copy of their eVisa and the first page of the passport for proof to get the SIM card.

This promotion seems to have been discontinued in mid-November 2017.

MTNL Edit

MTNL
MTNL for Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd. is the other state-owned telecommunications service provider in the metro cities of Mumbai and New Delhi. They operate only there and in two different branches for Mumbai and Delhi. It's expected that they will be merged with BSNL soon.

MTNL in Mumbai Edit

MTNL sells a broad and quite cheap variety of data packs for Mumbai only: check data-packs

MTNL in New Delhi Edit

Likewise, MTNL sells similar very cheap packs in Delhi only, check here and tick data plans

More info Edit

Aircel (in bankrupcy) Edit

Aircel

Aircel is the 6th largest mobile provider in India with a market share of about 8%. It's mostly owned by Malaysian Maxis. It has 3G licences for 13 circles and started 4G/LTE as TDD-LTE on 2300 MHz (Band 40) in 2014, that is not available for prepaid yet. You should check 3G availability before on their map.

In 2016, RCom and Maxis Communications announced a merger that collapsed in 2017. At the end of 2017 Aircel is planning a sellout and to close down services in 6 of its least profitable service areas (namely Uttar Pradesh West, Haryana, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh and Maharashtra) and will return its spectrum for those circles to the government.

In February 2018 other providers have stopped interconnection with Aircel because of unpaid dues. This means that you can't call across networks anymore from Aircel. Finally, Aircel has filed for bankrupcy. Better stay away as Aircel is very likely to be shut down.

Availability Edit

Their start-up kit is available where they have a 3G coverage. So you don't find it in Mumbai or Dehli, but in Kolkata. Check aircel coverage map first. It's sold for 28 Rs. including taxes. Top-ups are available Rs. 10-1500. For online recharges, Airtel offers 20% data bonus. To manage your SIM, try these USSD codes.

Data options Edit

Data by default is 15p per MB. Internet packages are called Pocket Internet. For circles and places, check their website and adjust circle on top first.

Aircel has not been as frenzied in launching plans with high bundled data as Airtel, Vodafone, Idea and BSNL to compete with Jio, but has recently released a few to make sure it remains attractive to buyers. All of their offers can differ highly between circles.

More info Edit

TaTa DoCoMo (about to be taken over by Airtel)Edit

Tata Docomo
Tata Group is planning to close the wireless operations of its unit in India, which operates via several brands, including Tata DoCoMo and sell its assets to market leader Airtel.

Tata’s loss-making and heavily-indebted telecoms arm initially launched a CDMA network in 2002 before switching on a parallel GSM system in 2008 and later adding W-CDMA in 2010. Despite an injection of capital from a new partner in late 2008 in the form of Japan’s NTT DoCoMo, the firm struggled to keep pace with its competitors: its market share peaked at just under 12% in late 2010, and has gradually fallen over the subsequent years, to less than 4% by mid-2017. Tata had considered filing for bankruptcy for the beleaguered unit, but decided against the move due to the potential impact it could have on other Tata companies.

Indian market leader Bharti Airtel has agreed to acquire the consumer mobile businesses of Tata Group’s Tata Teleservices Limited (TTSL) and Tata Teleservices (Maharashtra) Limited (TTML) divisions in October 2017. The takeover is subject to regulatory approval and will see Tata’s wireless operations across 19 circles (17 through TTSL and two via TTML) merged into Bharti Airtel. Under the agreement, all of the customers and assets of TTSL/TTML will be transferred to Airtel, including its more than 40 million subscribers and a portfolio of spectrum.

Data options Edit

Tata Docomo has introduced new plans for prepaid customers in Nov. 2017. For INR 148, customers can access unlimited local and STD calls and 2 GB data valid for 28 days. Customers can also opt for the INR 349 pack to receive 1 GB of data per day and unlimited calling (local and STD) with a longer validity period of 56 days.

More info Edit

Telenor India (to be taken over by Airtel) Edit

Telenor

Telenor as a branch of the Norwegian provider joined by local Unitech Group is one of the smaller providers in India with only 54 million customers. They only operate in 7 circles across the states of Uttar Pradesh (East and West), Uttarakhand, Bihar, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Goa, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Telangana. They currently hold a 1800 MHz license for 2G and 4G/LTE in these circles. It sells SIM cards in their stores (locator) in these circles.

In February 2017 Telenor India agreed to be bought by market leader Airtel (see above). Telenor India's operations will continue as normal, until the transaction is completed by the end of 2017.

Data options Edit

Data packages differ between circles and are given here for 2G data: change circle on top right.

In 2017 4G/LTE on 1800 MHz is active in the cities of Vizag, Vijayawada, Eluru, Tenali, Bhimavaram, Warangal, Guntur, Cuddapa, Rajahmundry, Karimnagar and Hyderabad. 4G data plans for prepaid differ again between circles and can be checked here: change circle on top right.

  • Telenor’s two new plans of Rs 116 and Rs 146 are giving a tough fight to Reliance Jio and other operators. Seeing the growing demand for unlimited data, Telenor has launched two 1 GB 4G data per day packs. One is priced at Rs 116, and the other one is priced at Rs 146. Both packs offer unlimited Telenor to Telenor calling. However, to enjoy voice calling to another network, users have to recharge with the Rs 146 plan because of the Rs 116 plan offers just Telenor to Telenor calling. Also, for the Rs.146 prepaid plan, calls to other networks are capped at 400 mins. The Rs.116 pack lacks free intra-operator calling.n Both the packs lack free SMS and free roaming.

While placing a call, Telenor network shifts from 4G to 2G. Given the network quality and presence in only 7 circles as of today, Telenor poses no significant threat to any of the incumbents. But after the Airtel-Telenor deal is completed, Telenor plans will be closely watched by every user. Airtel-Telenor combine will try to retain existing customers with its attractive plans.

Trabug Edit

Trabug

Because of the legal hassle to get a SIM card (see Basics) a travel solution for India with a phone rental including data SIM is offered with Trabug. You'll pay a heavy surcharge for their service, but can pre-arrange your SIM before travel and can be sure that it will work in the country from the start.

Trabug was launched in 2016 by a small team of tech professionals in the North Indian town of Panchkula. They rent out smartphones powered by a 4G/LTE SIM card to foreign tourists. The Android phone and operators are not specified, but will have 4G access where covered. It additionally includes a travel guide.

Rental Edit

You have to order online on their website. Though you still have to send all the required documents (see Basics) to them when ordering, but Trabug will do the arrangements for you. Once the traveller arrives in India and receives the kit, all he/she has to do is activate the SIM card, by following a simple set of instructions.

For returning the phone to the company the user needs to place it in a pre-supplied box, leave it at the hotel reception or place of stay, and the company will have it collected.

Rates Edit

The product must be ordered and payed in advance online by credit card or PayPal. They offer three plans with an Android smartphone and 4G data:

  • ECO: US$ 16.99 including 300 MB, 45 domestic mins, 15 dom. SMS and rental for 1 day
  • FLEXI: US$ 34.99 including 2 GB, 125 dom. mins, 30 internatl. mins, 50 dom. SMS and rental for 1 day
  • POWER: US$ 69.99 including 16 GB FUP (beyond throttled to 64 kbps), 300 dom. mins, 60 internatl. mins, 150 dom. SMS and rental for 14 days

All incoming calls and SMS are free. Smartphone rental is charged at US$ 1 for every extra day over the included number of days. Due to government regulations, plans can not be greater than 80 days. There is a refundable security deposit of US$ 65 charged before shipping, which is refunded within 10 working days after returning the device.

More information Edit