MTNL has launched its commercial 3G by making the mistakes most telcom operators made across the world – overpricing. The 3G data services are ridiculously priced at Rs. 5/MB, whether you are accessing via the handset or the data card. The HSDPA data card is priced at Rs. 5000, and there are additional HSDPA monthly service charges of Rs. 149.

Broadband vs GPRS vs Data Cards

MTNL  3G

Frankly, it all depends on how you view the service – as broadband, faster GPRS or as a data card connection. With Airtel, I am paying Rs. 6.144 for every MB of data I download using GPRS (around 5-8 kbps, and assuming Rs. 0.6/kb). In that context, 3G is cheaper. But for the Reliance Communications data card, I’m paying much less at around Rs. 740 for 1G of download, which works out to Rs. 0.72 per MB. The data card connectivity is poor and I use it sparingly, so my usage is typically much lower than 1GB.

The problem comes in when the amount of usage increases, with high speed reliable connectivity. At Rs. 5/MB, your monthly bill will skyrocket if you’re not careful. Which is why, from a consumers perspective, it should be compared to broadband, which is much cheaper – MTNLs TriB Unlimited 512kbps plan is priced at Rs. 1299/month.

Compared to the low speed data services, where you are being charged more for less, MTNL 3G is priced much cheaper, but compared to other data cards and broadband, it’s much more expensive. 

We doubt that MTNLs current pricing will last very long: we expect limited uptake, low usage, and that MTNL will take another look at the pricing of 3G services around Independence Day (they have  a thing for making announcing sops on national holidays)

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Video Calling
3Gs open secret is that, from a consumers perspective, the only thing the technology offers is greater bandwidth – which allows better voice quality, and data services like video. Services like video calls have limited usage – unless you’re doing a video meeting over the 3G network, how many consumers will talk with a phone in front of their face? Video Calls have not lived up to their hype, globally. 

The pricing of the service is as follows:

Activation charge:  Rs.500 + service tax
Fixed charges:  Rs.599/- per month
Voice call to own network:  Rs.0.60 per minute
Calls to other network: Rs. 1.00 per minute
Video call own network: Rs.1.80 per minute
Video call other network: Rs. 3.00 per minute
STD/ISD: As per Budget plan
(a) STD video call: Rs.3.75 per minute
(b) ISD video call: Rs. 30/- per minute
Local/STD/ISD SMS: As per Budget plan
Data @ GPRS/3G/UMTS/HSDPA usage rate: Rs.5/- per MB
Data @ HSDPA monthly service charges: Rs.149/-
MMS: Rs.3/-
HSDPA card (Optional)*: Rs.5000/-

Taxes extra wherever applicable. HSDPA Card not provided by MTNL