Salora International and Huawei Devices have launched operator-agnostic 3G data cards called Salora ZapperHuawei E303C dongle respectively, supporting downloads speeds up to 7.2 Mbps and upload speeds up to 5.76 Mbps. Now these devices essentially allow consumers to use 3G SIM cards from any telecom operator of their preference, thus introducing inter-operability, hence allowing users to switch from one telecom operator to another. Typically, USB dongles are sold directly by telecom operators along with their USB data card plans. The Salora device is priced at Rs 1900.

These data cards could be particularly useful for for users who are hesitant to use 3G services due to expensive data tariffs, since they will no longer be bound to any single operator and they can effectively switch to any other operator who offers the best data plan in the market. Up until now, telcos like Airtel had justified the necessity of expensive data tariffs to prevent choking of bandwidth. However as we saw in voice tariff wars that have played out the last year and a half, it took aggressive pricing from Tata Docomo, with its per-second-plan and Reliance Communications with its free minutes to push tariffs down.

It is quite possible to see such a move in data tariffs as well, especially if Reliance Industries (RIL) offers data plans for as low as Rs 10 per GB, but until RIL’s broadband services launch, there is scope for reduction in data card tariffs. However, this scenario is only possible if these operator-independent data cards gain traction among consumers. Another issue that perhaps needs to be addressed, is the difference in pricing between data on mobile handsets and data on USB dongles. We don’t see why the device should define data pricing.