jay's old blog

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mobile operators in India and the 3G and 4G irony

I have previously written about my hatred and love for mobile operators in India. Overall, there are some things that are pretty good about mobile operators (for instance, our call rates are definitely lower than most countries) but there are some bad things too. Call drops are one obvious candidate (it's clear that the Indian mobile scene is almost like a cartel now, what with identical call, SMS and data prices across, well, everybody) and of course, most of them have stopped bothering with investing in new infrastructure. In fact, not one day goes without me hearing complaints from other side (when I call people) that they can either not hear or the call just outright disconnects. 

Anyway, the whole call drop thing is a story for another day. Today's story is how ironical the data plans that are offered by mobile operators are. Especially there odd data caps and the prices they charge for it.  

As part of my job and hobby, I get to meet a lot of students. I also get to meet a lot of people as well. Many of these folks have the most minimalistic mobile data plans. Most of them either use a 50 MB per week packs, or just stick with a 500 MB plan with 2G speeds. Some have decided to not have a data at all as they can get WiFi at home as well as office. Every time I ask them, why won't they just upgrade themselves to 4G/3G and a higher data pack, they say 'what's the point. We cannot use it anyway!'. In fact, if someone were to ask that question to me, I would be giving an identical response.  

The reason is, well, the insane prices and the data caps that operators charge here in India. For instance, on my phone I have a 8 G 'unlimited' plan with 3G. I will come to the 'unlimited' part in a while. For the 8 GB of data I am paying 1250 rupees plus service tax and clean tax and education cess and so many other stuff. Overall, I am paying roughly 1400 rupees (give or take a few rupees) for access to 3G 8 GB data. Thankfully, I am on Vodafone which has fantastic speeds where I live and travel (and I travel a lot!) and that means, I can easily get 10 MBPS no matter where I am.  

Now, I also have an Apple Music subscription as well as Netflix subscription. Further, I use YouTube of course. A typical album (with 10 songs) on Apple Music will run me about 150 MB. A single 2 hour movie on Netflix will cost me 700 to 900 MB. Half an hour of YouTube will cost me almost 300 MB. That means, a day of regular consumption will easily eat up 1.5 GB on my phone. That means, my 8 GB quota will be over in less than a week. Of course, this does not include other data consumption stuff like emails, whatsapp, photo sharing on Facebook and Instagram.  

Now, coming to the 'unlimited' part of my data plan. You see, once I consume my 8 GB, I still have net connectivity at a super awesome blazing speed of 64 kbps. Yep! For some reason, Vodafone (my favorite mobile operator about whom I have heaped praises like crazy) assumes that a speed of 64 kbps is useful for me. Well, it does not. In fact, even email won't sync at that speed. If it does, it usually takes about a minute or two. Browsing is impossible because neither Bing.com and Google.com can respond at 

that speed and of course, we can say goodbye to using messengers or streaming video.  

So, what exactly are mobile operators playing at? Does it really make sense for me to continue paying 1400 rupees for 8 GB of data every month? With such high prices, how exactly will an everyday individual, students, professionals or anybody for that matter, afford such data? 

Now, the entire country and all its mobile operators are going gaga over how fast their 4G is. Seriously though, they are still keeping the same data caps as they did with 3G. That means, with 3G I can finish my data cap in 7 days and with 4G (at least twice as fast) I can finish the same data cap in 3 days.  

Awful is the only way this situation can be described. However, I am fingers crossed for Reliance Jio. Apparently, they are going to shake things up and I hope they do.

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Happy With Vodafone

Recently, I wrote my disastrous experience with Airtel Mobile. Thanks to the magic of number porting, I have now officially left my previous mobile partner Airtel, and joined hands with my old friend, Vodafone. Obviously I am pleased that I no longer have to carry two phones everytime I go for a cup of chai (check the airtel post for more details), and I thought I will take this occasion highlight two instances when prompt service from Vodafone made me a happy customer.  

Instance 1 

Way back, there was a time when I had a third number (dedicated to my technology club study nildana). I realized eventually that the investment in the third number was useless and decided to let it go. Unfortunately, times were bad and the bill crept up on that third number and eventually, Vodafone asked their collection agency to look into collecting the dues I owe them.  

The collection agencies are sort of like the folks who stand guarding the doorways at clubs. They aren't exactly polite and will get abusive if the occasion calls for it. Of course, things did not get to the abusive part for I promptly paid up the amount and assumed the issue closed.  

Things got ugly though.  

Three months later, I receive a email from the legal team that I have not cleared my dues. Obviously, this was a shock to me. I was being called from at least 3 different folks (each of them refusing to give me their office address) and each of them claiming that I haven't paid my dues. Eventually, I found out that, the collection agency that collected my money never made the payment. They decided to keep my money and as far as Vodafone was concerned, I was an absconding customer or a 'wilful defaulter'.  

Fortunately, the cash payment was actually an online NEFT transfer. I had solid proof that money was paid to that collection guy from me. I communicated all this to the collection agency and they said they have found that individual who ran away with my money. They said the issue has been sorted.  

Then, things got even more ugly a week later.  

Apparently the issue was not sorted, and now the collection agency has stopped answering my calls, and I was being called again my multiple individuals asking me to pay up!  

Then, as a last resort, I decided to go online and hit up Vodafone on their twitter channel. In less than 24 hours, the issue was resolved! Someone from Vodafone called me up, spoke with the legal team and with the collection agency and I was updated at each step. Awesome! 

Instance 2 

After the Airtel Moble disaster, I waited like a hungry hawk during the apocalypse for the 90 day porting limit to run out. Once that happened, I called up Vodafone and expressed my intention to port over.  

Here are the sequence of events. 

  • Called up Vodafone customer care. 

  • Requested for a documents guy to collect my documents. 

  • Documents guy comes and collects the documents. 

  • A sales manager keeps me updated about the port via watsapp, anytime I ask for a update. 

  • Number gets ported and the sales manager actually manages to activate the specific data pack I asked for. 

Back when I ported over to Airtel, not only did Airtel Mobile not bother to send anybody, they insisted that I walk to the nearest airtel store or forget about ever coming to Airtel Mobile network.  

So, what I see here two large companies. One of them (Airtel Mobile) has become so big that it does not care to take care of its customers. The other (Vodafone) despite its size, going out of its way and actually try and help the customer. 

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