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Prepaid Data SIM Card Wiki

India

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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 remaining 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 in some cities on rare 2300 MHz (TDD-LTE, band 40 on Airtel and Aircel) and usual 1800 MHz (FDD-LTE on Idea and Vodafone) and will be soon on 850 MHz too. 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 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 a while and you may be called to confirm your identity or local address. Other users had less luck and again it's unclear why:

"After 3 weeks of trying to get three different SIMs activated, from Airtel, BSNL and Vodafone, we gave up. They had passport scans, driving licence scans, 6 photos, and scans of my local UK utility bills, but they never were activated. We finally had an Indian relative who bought us a card in Hyderabad, using his own Indian ID. It still took a week for it to become activated and then once it was activated, the first phone call goes through to a 'Verification Centre' where they verify the ID of the card purchaser. They then wanted us to supply his fathers and mothers details too. The gentleman that bought the card for us is over 60 and his parents have been dead for a good few years! At this point with over three quartes of our holiday over, I ripped the SIM card out the phone chopped it up and came to the conclusion that as a traveller, the Indian authorities will not let you have a SIM card. Good luck if you try to get one."

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

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/LTE has started in 296 cities and around 12 circles. It's open for prepaid in some of them: Airtel's 4G cities . Note that Airtel uses mostly 2300 MHz (band 40, TDD-LTE) instead of 1800 MHz for LTE.

AvailabilityEdit

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. 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.

Data feature packsEdit

Default data rate depends 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 differ for every circle, it's not useful to give prices here as they will be changed to a totally diffenrent package in a different circle. To check their bundles, first choose your circle and look at their 3G/4G plans on their website here. Also on offer are cheaper 2G speed data packs, but are far less useful. 4G/LTE is already offered on prepaid in Dehli NCR, Kolkata, Mumbai, Kerala and Orissa.

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 expert Android users can Google "my airtel apk" and install it in the usual way.

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# . Click here for many other useful codes.

Combo plans: Infinity Edit

In 2015 Airtel launched its prepaid combo plans called Infinity that are valid in all circles where Airtel operates and are on 3G and 4G, valid for 28 days. All packages include unlimited Airtel calls, unlimited local calls, unlimited Wynk music and movies and 100 SMS per day plus:

  • 999 Rs.: 3 GB 3G/4G data
  • 1749 Rs.: 5 GB 3G/4G data
  • 2249 Rs: 7 GB 3G/4G data
  • 3249 Rs: 10 GB 3G/4G data

The 7 and 10 GB bundles also include unlimited STD calls and pan-Indian roaming. Overuse fee for all packages is 25p per MB.

More infoEdit

  • APN: airtelgprs.com
  • Airtel number will be released if not logged into the network for 30 days
  • Website in English: http://www.airtel.in/

Vodafone IndiaEdit

Vodafone

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. In 2015 4G/LTE on 1800 MHz has started in Kochi and will spread to Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru and Kolkata in 2016.

AvailabilityEdit

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

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. In 2015 it started with 4G/LTE and in 2016 it already covers 150 cities in about 10 circles (list) on 1800 MHz.

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 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. 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.

4G/LTE packages Edit

At the beginning of 2016 LTE was available on prepaid in these circles: Andrha Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh & Chattisgarh, Punjab and Tamil Nadu & Cennai.

For prices and packages check their website here and first select circle.

More info Edit

Reliance Communications (RCOM)Edit

Reliance

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 Edit

BSNL

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

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 Kolkata, 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

DoCoMo has only acquired licenses in 9 circles. So it has quite a limited network coverage in India for 3G see here, but at good prices if you need it there. Download list of 3G towns,

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 Edit

MTNL

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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