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BSNL Crashes GPRS Price Barriers With 5 New Packs; Comparisons

PSU Telco BSNL has launched five new GPRS plans – not for its new 3G users but existing 2G GSM users – the packs effectively lower the rates of Mobile Internet in India to far affordable levels.

BSNL had 62.8 million wireless connections as of December 2009. The exact number of active GPRS users in the country is not known, but it is pegged at around just 8-10 million of India’s total 525.15 million mobile users: as dismal as the country’s broadband userbase, which was at 7.83 million in December. The New GPRS  plans are effective from January 25, 2010 and, except the unlimited plan, applicable to users of BSNL’s 2G data card.

Comparison Of GPRS Packs By Other Operators

Per KB Plans: BSNL has sharply dropped pay per download rates – its Plan 1 allows surfing on your mobile for 3 Paise per 10 KB. Compare this with Aircel’s Normal Plan which offers 10 Paise per KB as does Vodafone Essar’s Pay as You Go plan and Tata Indicom’s flat rate for all GPRS usage. (Updated) BSNL’s rate is a whopping ten times lower than leading operator Airtel’s Zero Rental Plan which is priced at 30 Paise per 50 KB. As Tracy Chapman once said, we’re talking ’bout a revolution!

Daily Plans: Airtel recently launched 2 more daily plans that charge Rs. 20 per day for 8MB and Rs. 10 per day for 3MB but these are restricted to users in Maharashtra & Goa. Vodafone Essar also has another daily plan under its Mobile Connect package for which users have to settle a down payment of Rs. 199 and then are charged a lowered rate of 5 paise per 10KB. But BSNL’s 3 paisa for the same (minus the down payment) beats it hands down.

Tata DoCoMo recently launched its GPRS On Demand pack where one has to pay Rs. 5 and can surf upto 10MB of data downloads – fine for emergencies but not really a reason to shift operators when Mobile Number Portability arrives, is it? Its other plan is for Rs. 33, and data download of 50MB but only for its postpaid users. BSNL’s plan 2 for Rs. 49 offers double the download limit at 100 MB!

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Monthly Plans: Tata DoCoMo’s Rs 95 monthly pack allows users to surf until data downloads reach 200 MB (for postpaid users) and 100 MB for prepaid users, and this could be regarded as a fair offer when compared to Vodafone Essar’s Mobile Connect that charges Rs. 250 for 100 MB download. Vodafone also has another plan for Rs. 499 that permits 500 MB download – the priciest of the lot. BSNL has come out with a Rs. 199 plan that again offers double this data download limit at 1 GB – half price for double the amount of surfing!

Tata DoCoMo also has another GPRS offer just for postpaid users that is cheaper – Rs. 33 per month for 50 MB. There is an Airtel Online GPRS plan for Rs. 98 that offers a 2GB download limit but it may be just a promotional offer, available only in Kerala. Its Mobile Office plans are: Rs. 350 for 100 MB, Rs. 599 for 1GB, Rs. 799 for 2GB and their validity is for a month.

BSNL’s plan 3 takes on Tata DoCoMo’s Rs. 95 for 200 MB (for postpaid users, this is 100MB for prepaid users) plan, charging just Rs. 3 extra for 100 MB more of data download – Rs. 99 for 300MB.

3 Day Plan: Aircel’s launch of Pocket Internet prepaid card was game changing because it offered unlimited surfing for 3 days for Rs. 98 and the advantage was that users could connect their PCs or laptops and surf the Internet through the mobile using this plan. Aircel also offered the same for Rs. 14 for Mumbai users, but did not enable the laptop surfing ability. Tata DoCoMo’s Rs. 15 GPRS Pack lasts 3 days and allows one to surf upto 30 MB (for postpaid users, 20 MB for prepaid).

Unlimited: BSNL’s monthly Plan Unlimited charges Rs. 299 (Rs. 274 for prepaid users) and looks quite attractive to those who are addicted to staying connected.

The arrival of simpler, cheaper data plans will help not just users but telcos to boost their revenues. At Mobile India 2010, Google India MD Shailesh Rao talked about how Aircel’s flat rate data plan offered in May 2009 resulted in the number of GPRS users on its network soaring from 30,000 in May 2009 to 1.7 million in October 2009, and data revenues growing by 7 times. Will India’s telecom operators succumb to BSNL’s move and lower data rates too? This might be a way to reduce churn when Mobile Number Portability arrives. Or are they planning to hold onto their cards and wait for 3G?

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