3G mobile phones in India: Comparisons

Saturday, December 12, 2009, 16:47 by Tech Correspondent

A 3G mobile phone in your shopping list? Read this before you buy.

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 technology?

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.

Why should you have a 3G phone?

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.

Who offers 3G services in India, and where?

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.

Private operators’ 3G services

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.

Some 3G phones available in India

iPhone 3G mobile phones

iPhone 3G, iPhone 3GS

BlackBerry 3G mobile phones

BlackBerry Bold 9000 series including 9700, BlackBerry Storm 2 (BlackBerry 9530)

HP 3G mobile phones

HP iPAQ 910c

HTC 3G mobile phones

HTC Advantage X7510, HTC S740, HTC Shift, HTC Touch 3G, HTC Touch Cruise, HTC Touch Diamond2, HTC Touch Pro, HTC Touch Pro2, HTC Magic, HTC Touch HD, HTC Touch Dual, HTC TyTN, HTC TyTN II

I-Mate 3G mobile phones

I-mate 810-F, I-Mate Utimate 6150, I-mate Ultimate 8150, I-mate Ultimate 8502, I-mate Ultimate 9502

LG 3G mobile phones

LG VIEWTY KU990, LG VIEWTY KU990R, LG CU915 Vu, LG Secret KF750, LG KT610, LG GM730, LG Incite, LG KS20, LGKC910I Renoir, LG KC910 Renoir, LG KF700, LG Chocolate CU800, LG Shine 3G U970, LG Prada KF900, LG KF750 Gold, LG KM900 Arena, LG KT770

Motorola 3G mobile phones

Motorola Droid, Motorola A3100, Motorola Q 9h, Motorola RAZR V3i, Motorola RAZR2 V9, Motorola RAZR2 V9x, Motorola Tundra VA76r

Nokia 3G mobile phones

Nokia 5800 XpressMusic, Nokia N90, Nokia N95, Nokia N97 plus a bunch more

Palm 3G mobile phones

Palm Treo Pro

Samsung 3G mobile phones

Samsung SGH-L700, Samsung GT-S7330, Samsung SGH-J800, Samsung SGH-I200, Samsung SGH-I780, Samsung GT-M7500, Samsung A867 Eternity, Samsung F480, Samsung Ultra Touch, Samsung i8510 INNOV8, Samsung i900 Omnia, Samsung Pixon

Sony Ericsson 3G mobile phones

Sony Ericsson C510, Sony Ericsson C903, Sony Ericsson C905, Sony Ericsson G705, Sony Ericsson K850, Sony Ericsson W508, Sony Ericsson W760, Sony Ericsson W995, Sony Ericsson XPERIA X1, Sony Ericsson Z750, Sony Ericsson C702

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