Bharti Airtel has launched a new unlimited 3G plan – the ‘data share plan’ that allows users to share data among two of their friends or family members or among three of their own devices. The plan is available on both prepaid and postpaid Airtel mobile connections.

How to activate: Airtel users need to SMS ‘DATA SHARE ADD Mobile Number’ to 121 to activate the plan. Users can also add mobile numbers of their friends and family by visiting Airtel’s website. Airtel charges Rs 1,000 per month for a 5GB of 3G data. Post 5GB of data usage, the connection speed drops to 80Kbps, which technically makes the plan unlimited. It is advised to talk to Airtel customer care before subscribing to the new data share plan as it might affect the user’s current 3G data plan.

It should be noted that this data plan can be shared only with customers on Airtel network within the same circle, which kind of limits the usability of the plan. The pack would have made more sense if users could have been used pan-India. One of the use case where we think it would make sense for a pan-India plan: A young working professional wants to share the connection with their family in different telecom circle. Usually it’s a pain for technically challenged senior folks to manage their internet connection. In that case, it would be much easier if their kids living away could manage their connection. However, we understand it would be difficult for Airtel to launch such plans as they hold 3G licences in only 15 of the 22 telecom circles. Besides, DoT had previously asked telecom operators to stop providing 3G services in telecom circles where they do not have the licence.

Apart from sharing the connection with 2 friends and family member, the plan also allows users to opt to share the connection with up to three of their own internet enabled devices. Data sharing plans are common in the US, however, with the increasing number of Indians adopting to multiple internet enabled gadgets, the plan makes sense in India as well where earlier people had to opt for a completely new connection for each gadget. Besides, maintaining those connections and bill payment is also an unnecessarily cumbersome task.

With Airtel taking an initiative to launch the data share plan, we can only hope other telecom operators with 3G licenses also launch such plans. That begs one question — whether the connection with data share plan would be counted as one connection or three connections while counting India’s mobile Internet connections? Here’s a big opportunity for telecom operators to report inflated numbers for 3G adoption in India.