3G mobile phones in India are dime a dozen. However, do not forget that 3G mobile technology in India is still in its early stages. If you buy a 3G phone in an area which does not have 3G coverage, you will be using a 3G phone practically as a 2G phone.
In India, so far, there are only two mobile operators offering 3G mobile services. Apart from government-owned BSNL and MTNL, no one else offers 3G mobile telephony in India. So, if you are currently with Airtel, Reliance Communications, Loop Mobile, Aircel, MTS, Idea Cellular, Vodafone, Tata Indicom or Tata DoCoMo, forget 3G phones for the time being. You will be buying a 3G phone and using it for 2G purposes only.
What is 3G, in the first place? 3G, or third-generation mobile telephony, is a set of standards prescribed by the International Telecommunication Union for mobile data. This includes the standards GSM EDGE, UMTS, CDMA 2000, DECT and WiMAX. The highest download speeds on 3G phones will be around 14 MBPS, while the highest upload speed will be around 5 MBPS. 3G also allows you to use speech (voice) and data services simultaneously. 3G networks have higher security, and can be used for services like Mobile TV, video on demand, telemedicine, video conferencing and location-based (LBS) services in India. The most common 3G standard in use is UMTS, which is also being developed as a 4G mobile technology.
Well, think of your phone line as a pipe carrying voice. The bigger the diameter of the pipe, the more information it can carry. 2G phone lines have a smaller pipe, while 3G phone lines have a bigger pipe. If you use your cell phone for voice calls and SMS text messages, 2G is enough for you. If you intend to surf the internet, chat on instant messengers, use mobile applications for Facebook & Twitter, and send & receive emails on your mobile, you will benefit with 3G technology. If you don’t need these services, (collectively called data services) stay away from 3G phones, which usually come at a higher price in India. Currently, I use many of these data services on my 2G mobile phone. Once 3G comes to my city on a private mobile network, I plan to switch to a 3G phone, which can deliver mobile data better.
MTNL offers 3G mobile phone connections in two metros, New Delhi and Mumbai. BSNL offers 3G connections across the rest of India. Check with BSNL/MTNL whether they offer 3G phone services in your area, if you plan to buy and use a 3G mobile phone on their network. MTNL offers 3G mobile services under the brand name Jadoo in New Delhi and Mumbai. BSNL and MTNL also allow their existing customers to migrate from 2G to 3G.
If you already have a 3G mobile phone in India, and want to use 3G but do not have a 3G phone connection yet, you can switch to BSNL or MTNL. If you do not want to switch numbers just like me, you will have to wait till either (1) mobile number portability kicks off in New Year, or (2) wait for your mobile phone operator to start 3G phone services in India.
Why aren’t Airtel or Vodafone or Reliance not offering 3G phones and services? In India, 3G is still in its infancy. Unlike in the developed Western countries, and in many Asian countries including Japan, China, Singapore and South Korea, mobile telephony in India has not made the transition from second generation (2G) to third generation (3G). This is because 2G and 3G mobile services are offered on different radio spectrums. In India, 2G spectrum (which is primarily used for voice calls) is in use for over a decade. However, 3G spectrum is not opened for everyone yet. Opening of 3G spectrum has been mired in problems both legal and technical. First, there was the reported scarcity of spectrum. Then, the government could not decide on a price at which spectrum should be offered. The methodology of auctioning spectrum and its modalities have faced delays due to long-winding debate and revisions and lawsuits. Finally, the government announced that the 3G spectrum auction will be in January. The Union cabinet meeting on December 3 will fine-tune the process, and the defence department is expected to vacate its band in the 3G spectrum on December 7. On January 14, the government of India will auction 3G spectrum. Once the winners are announced and the licences given out, the mobile operators in India will kick off plans to launch 3G networks. Operators like Airtel, Reliance Communications, Loop Mobile, Aircel, MTS, Idea Cellular, Vodafone, Tata Indicom, Tata DoCoMo are expected to bid for 3G spectrum at the auction. The winners will roll out 3G mobile phone connections in India by April 2010.
Tata DoCoMo, a tie-up between Tatas and Japan’s NTT DoCoMo claims that the company’s GSM mobile network is already 3G-ready. Which means that if Tata DoCoMo wins the 3G auction, they might be able to launch 3G services faster than rivals.
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