MTNL and BSNL must be sitting on a lot of underutilized 3G capacity, and the uptake doesn’t appear to be as they had expected; we’d be surprised if it was. MTNLs CMD RSP Sinha told Business Standard that they have only 400 subscribers, but are targeting up to 300,000 subscribers for 3G in the first year.

MTNLs 3G plans are expensive and their data plans certainly don’t appear to be encouraging; the 3G head start gifted to them by the Indian government is unlikely to help them much, and other telecom operators, still awaiting the 3G auction, should thank them for a lesson in what not to do with pricing.

For starters, BSNL, the larger of the two government owned telecom operators, has had to offer free incoming video calling for all existing 2G customers with 3G handsets. The offer is valid for 3 months, starting the 18th of May 2009. Video calling is of no use when you know don’t know anyone who can receive the calls; we feel that the propensity to use the service will be low anyway. There is no use making it expensive to transition from 2G to 3G, and keeping costs high. Things will improve for BSNL only after they encourage a transition from 2G to 3G at a minimal cost, and look to make money on increased usage, rather than people people to buy it just because it is 3G.

MTNL Launches Prepaid 3G Services; Tweaks Post Paid 3G Charges

In case of Pre-paid 3G, a new sim is going to cost consumers Rs. 300, and the video call charges are the same as post-paid: at Rs. 1.80/min on MTNLs network, and Rs. 3/min on other networks. Only MTNL and BSNL currently have 3G, so calls to other networks (from MTNL to BSNL) will be charged at Rs. 3.75. Data is charged at Rs. 3/mb, on a pulse of 100 kb. What’s interested is that users are mandated to use at least Rs. 150 per month.

For post-paid consumers, MTNL has increased the 3G signup cost from Rs. 500 to Rs. 800, while existing MTNL customers need to pay Rs. 300. On top of that, there’s a fixed monthly charge of Rs. 100 per month for 3G, over and above a Dolphin Tariff plan. If one uses data over 3G, then it is charged at Rs. 3 per mb.

Data Services: Figure It Out

The way MTNL has outlined its data plans for both Post Paid and Pre Paid, is enough to turn any potential customer off.

chart-mtnl-3g-prepaid-postpaid-pricing-20080603

Looking at it, one would assume that users will have to pay for both a 3G connection, and a data card, and pay multiple rentals and 3G charges on top of it. I still cant figure out that if I can subscribe only to the data services, and not have to take a tariff plan.