Prepaid Data SIM Card Wiki


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Basic InformationEdit

India has the fastest growing telecom network in the world with about 900 million subscribers. It's also one of the most chaotic to foreigners. 8 major GSM-operators share the market:

  • Bharti Airtel
  • Vodafone India
  • Idea Cellular
  • Reliance Communications (RCOM)
  • BSNL
  • Aircel
  • Tata DoCoMo
  • MTNL

Only 10% of the users are on the two state-owned networks (BSNL, MTNL), the remainig 90% on privately-owned carriers.

Frequencies Edit

This is very straight and one of the few uniformed platforms: 2G/GSM is on 900 and 1800 MHz, all 3G on 2100 MHz up to HSPA+ speed. 4G/LTE has started on Airtel and Aircel on 2300 MHz (TDD-LTE) in a few cities. Besides GSM networks, WIMAX and CDMA is used too, but not part of this survey.

Coverage Edit

In 2010 the licences for 3G were auctioned. The result has been a very fragmented situation. Most networks acquired only licences for specific states locally called circles. List of network and circles. 3G network map of India. Airtel, Vodafone and Idea agreed on sharing through a national roaming agreement, but this is often not available for data. So going to India, first check, which network is operating in your destination region: 3G network coverage in India. Travelling through India, the widest 3G coverage have Airtel and BSNL (but not in Kolkatta and Dehli).

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

Legal requirements Edit

It is 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. 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,
  • 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. If you're in a hotel, you should be able to get a letter from the frontdesk verifying that you are indeed staying there.
  • 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. Cellphone vendors cannot sell SIM cards with longer than 3 months validity.

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 to be a bit swifter. Most 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 a while and you may be called to confirm your identity or local address.

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.

Using a prepaid SIM card registered everywhere in India, can be used trough the whole of India, except Jammu and Kasjmir (State of North India) this is because of the fear of terrorism. Only a new SIM, bought in Jammu and Kasjmir will work within this state.

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 region in India. In the following article the prices are given for Mumbai. For other places, use the links provided.

Airtel (Bharti Airtel)Edit


Airtel (a.k.a. as Bharti Airtel) is the biggest provider in India. It has about 200 million customers and the widest coverage. It has 3G licences in 13 circles and a roaming agreement for voice with Vodafone and Idea. Users recommend them especially for the metropolitan areas. 4G has started in 23 cities and is open for prepaid in some of them: Airtel's 4G cities


Airtel SIM Card Cost : Rs. 50-100, some vendors may charge more. Lifetime validity requires a recharge of Rs. 49

Activation takes 2 hours up to some days. 3G activation takes up another 4 hours after intial SIM card activation.

Data feature packsEdit

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

For new customers' first time recharge there are special rates:

Data Talk time (Rs) Price (Rs) Duration (Days) Remark
3GB 448 30
1GB 100 251 28 applicable for only first 90 days on airtel network
1GB 10 159 30

Afterwards 3G/4G data "normal" recharge price (as of Oct 2015) are as below. Note some offers seem convoluted and confusing, make sure you ask for the right package when recharging at Airtel shops, otherwise they may charge a higher price for the same data package. There seem to be no manual activation as such, once the credit is added the data package is activated automatically, with a SMS notification.

Data Price (Rs) Duration (days) Remark
1GB 252 28
800MB 265 25
1.2GB 298 28
1024MB 374 56
2GB 449 28
2.2GB 498 28
2048MB 3G 575 56
3GB + Unlimited 655 28
3.5GB + Unlimited 698 28
4GB + Unlimited 749 28
5GB + Unlimited 849 28
4GB, Unlimited post free usage @ 64kbps 899 28
6GB Unlimited 949 28
7GB Unlimited 1049 28
5GB 3G with unlimited 2G @ throttle speed 1097 28

Airtel website does not say what "unlimited" means

Recharged data is in addition to previous remaining amounts, and resets expiration period from date of new recharge. 1GB is counted as 1024MB

Also on offer are cheaper 2G speed data packs, but are far less useful.

Domestic roaming has to be switched on to use internet outside the state you purchased the SIM from. But there are no extra charges for this domestic roaming, but for phone calls there are roaming charges.

Credit balance check: *123#

Remaining data check: *123*11#

More infoEdit

  • APN:

Vodafone IndiaEdit


Vodafone has the 2nd most subscribers in India, and one of the better networks for metropolitan coverage. Some locals consider its 3G as fastest and most reliable in India. It has 3G licences in 9 circles and a roaming agreement with Airtel and Idea.


SIM card costs: Rs. 50-100, various vendors may charge whatever they feel like

Data feature packs Edit

Default rate outside of packs is on most prepaid tariffs and circles is around 4p per 10 KB.

The following prices apply to Mumbai only. In other regions/circles you may have different prices and packages. Check here and select your state/circle first.

Volume Period Price Cap
25 MB 1 day 26 Rs. hard
150 MB 5 days 44 Rs. hard
300 MB 21 days 102 Rs. hard
500 MB 28 days 147 Rs. hard
1 GB 28 days 251 Rs. hard
1.5 GB 28 days 348 Rs. hard
2 GB 28 days 452 Rs. hard
3 GB 28 days 655 Rs. soft
3 GB 56 days 851 Rs. hard
5 GB 28 days 899 Rs. soft
5 GB 56 days 1252 Rp. hard
10 GB 28 days 1502 Rp. hard

Hard-capped packages will charge the default rate for overuse, soft-capped packs are called "unlimited" and will throttle down to 56 kbps.

More info Edit

Idea Cellular Edit


Idea is the 3rd provider in India with a market share of around 15%. It has 3G licences in 11 circles and offers service in 14 circles through network sharing with Vodafone and Aircel. For a survey, check their website or here.

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.

Data feature packs

Idea has very competitive prices for packages, slightly below the level of Airtel or Vodafone. However, their prices differ widely according to state/circle. Generally they sell 3 kinds of data packs:

  • Sachet packs: for small data amounts, often charged by the minute and for 20 mins only at around 7 Rs.
  • Limited volume packs: for medium data amounts, 300 MB to 3 GB per month, hard-capped, overuse around 4p per 10 KB.
  • "unlimited" volume packs: for big data, 3 GB to 15 GB, soft-capped, throttled to 40 or 20 kbps when reached quota
  • special packs, like night traffic, add-ons, whatsapp packs, only offered in some markets

For the exact packages and prices, you need to check their website here and first select circle on the right.

More info Edit

Reliance Communications (RCOM)Edit


Reliance a.k.a. RCOM is the 4th provider in India holding licences in 14 circles and network sharing agreements in some others. It runs a CDMA network too, so be sure to get the right plan.

Availability Edit

SIM card costs: Rs. 50-100, various vendors may charge whatever they feel like.

Data feature packages Edit

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

They offer this anchor pack for all circles: for Rs. 177, you get 1GB 3G data and unlimited Facebook, Whatsapp and Twitter in all regions in 30 days. To activate type *777*177#. Overuse is 3p per 10 KB.

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

Data-only SIM Edit

They offer data-only SIMs too which has no voice and is intended for tablets or modems.

  • 7.2 Mbps USB Data Card: Rs. 1,499
  • 21.6 Mbps USB Data Card: Rs. 1,999

These packages are offered for the data card in all circles:

Data Volume Period Price
1 GB 1 day 98 Rs.
750 MB 7 days 153 Rs.
1 GB 7 days 173 Rs.
1 GB 30 days 255 Rs.
2 GB 30 days

449 Rs.

3 GB 30 days 650 Rs.
12 GB 90 days

1,500 Rs.

30 GB 180 days 3,000 Rs.

In all circles special packages and pricings are offered and can be checked here.

More info 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 Dehli where MTNL operates (see below). This provider is seen as not so reliable in the cities but is in some provinces the only 3G option. So make a network scan before you buy a SIM card.

Availability Edit

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

Data feature packages Edit

BSNL chart

* = promotion. Other plans and offers may apply regionally and can be found on their website

More info Edit

Aircel Edit


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 LTE as TDD-LTE on 2500 Mhz in 2014.

Availablility Edit

Their start up kit is available where they have a 3G coverage. So you don't find it in Mumbai or Dehl, but in Kolkata. Check aircel coverage map first. It's sold for 28 Rs. including taxes.

Data feature packages Edit

For Kokata, they offer these packages. For other regions check their webpage.

Aircel chart

For online recharges, Airtel offers 20% data bonus.

More info Edit

TaTa DoCoMo (Virgin mobile India, Tata Indicom)Edit


DoCoMo as 7th operator in India is one of the losers. It only acquired licenses in 9 circles. So it has a quite limited network coverage in India for 3G see here, but at good prices if you need it there. Download list of 3G towns,

In Dehl it is called "Tata Indicom". The best prices you may get when you go to their MVNO Virgin Mobile.

Availability Edit

Starter pack is sold for 35 - 49 Rs. in their stores.

Data feature packages Edit

DoCoMo, Virgin Mobile and Tata Indicom in Dehli have very low prices. They differ immensely on the circle you are in. Note that the nationwide coverage in India is very limired however. For exact prices in your circle, check their websites.

More info Edit



MTNL for Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd. is a 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 Dehli.

MTNL in Mumbai Edit

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

MTNL in New Dehli Edit

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

More info Edit

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