India mobile carrier recommendation (pre-paid plan)
February 28, 2010 2:27 PM   Subscribe

Can someone recommend a mobile carrier in India? Specific pre-paid recommendations would be helpful as well.

My wife is leaving for India next weekend on a business trip. She'll be moving between Delhi and Jaipur for two weeks and I'd like to keep in touch with her without breaking the bank.

She'll be taking a BlackBerry 8830 WE and we hope that she can walk into a carrier store and grab a pre-paid SIM.

Most importantly, voice and SMS plans are required. However, if any of them have an affordable data option that would be nice to have.

posted by purephase to Travel & Transportation around India (9 answers total)
In December 2007 a friend and I got pre-paid SIM cards during a trip to Bangalore. We went with Reliance Telecom (or was it Vodafone?) for no particular reason I can recall.

Anyway, the carrier store required us to provide passport-size photos, which we obtained from a photo shop down the street. This might have been so that somebody would have a record of who bought the SIM card in case it ever got used for nefarious dealings.

Once we got the SIMs, it wasn't long before we discovered that our cell phones got telemarketing robocalls, which was a bit annoying. (The first call came while I was giving a talk.) I don't speak Kannada, so I have no idea what the calls were about.

My friend spoke Hindi and we both spoke English, and both of these were useful at different stages of the process.
posted by tss at 4:39 PM on February 28, 2010

I missed the part about Delhi and Jaipur---I suppose English will be less useful there...
posted by tss at 4:41 PM on February 28, 2010

Eh, English will most likely be fine in many mobile-phone shops, especially in places like Delhi and Jaipur. And it's not hard to find someone who can help translate. Look for Reliance, Vodafone, Airtel, BSNL, whatever -- none will break the bank, and they tend to offer similar products. Just buy a pre-paid SIM card -- make sure your phone is unlocked and compatible. If it's not, it won't break the bank to buy a cheap phone. Bring two passport photos. You'll need to provide a local address and contact information, too. They probably won't pay too much attention to this other than the fact that it's a formality.

I've heard that data plans are harder to get when it comes to pre-paid cards, if they exist at all, yet.
posted by SpringAquifer at 5:06 PM on February 28, 2010

Specific pre-paid recommendations: Oh, eh, I used Airtel. I can't imagine the other brands being drastically better or worse. Voice and SMS are easy to recharge.
posted by SpringAquifer at 5:09 PM on February 28, 2010

You may probably just do better asking someone using a cell phone in the city, what's the best coverage locally? The reason I suggest this is because it's like having att versus verizon. One has really good coverage in remote locations while one does not in all remote locations.

Maybe even look into a dual sim adapter in the event you decide to use different sims at different locations?
posted by iNfo.Pump at 5:40 PM on February 28, 2010

Unfortunately, she will probably not be able to "walk into a store and grab a SIM card." Due to the imposition of much stricter anti-terrorism measures after the attack on Mumbai, you now technically need to be a resident of India in order to procure one. What this means in practice is that you need to fill out a bunch of paperwork, offer copies of your passport and visa, a few passport photos of yourself, and -- depending on the store -- proof of a permanent address in India, to get your hands on a SIM card.

Not all stores ask for the latter; some can be talked out of it. However, if she has an Indian colleague who is willing to go with her to the store and offer his or her own address in lieu of hers, it would be much easier for her. Otherwise, if she gives an address that she won't be at in a few days, the SIM card will be deactivated when the phone company checks (and they really do check!).

Vodafone and Airtel are the leading networks. Once you have the SIM card, prepaid cards for both are very easy to find just about anywhere you go.
posted by artemisia at 8:59 PM on February 28, 2010

Best answer: Seconding Info.Pump about asking about the coverage- Reliance, for instance, which is very good nationally, was so useless in the particular area where I live that I had people trying to contact me for hours on end without getting through. I switched to Vodafone and it's been much better.

I'd stick with Vodafone for Delhi, since the Airtel network tends to get jammed and Tata Indicom is CDMA only. Vodafone also has pretty affordable data plans, if I recall- she should just go into one of the big Vodafone stores here and ask.

I actually live in Delhi and have a friend from Jaipur, so if you have any other questions, feel free to drop me a MeMail.
posted by Tamanna at 9:00 PM on February 28, 2010

Oops, didn't see your comment about the data option.

Data cards are available here and quite good, but unless her company is going to procure one for her, I'd advise her to skip it. Even some of the official residents I know had to jump through hoops to get one. If she's only there for two weeks, it's just not worth it.
posted by artemisia at 9:02 PM on February 28, 2010

Response by poster: Thank you for all the advice. We decided on an iPod Touch and Skype to keep in touch. Wifi was an option where she was staying, so it worked-out fairly well.

Outside of that, we texted. With India's CDMA coverage, she was able to do it with a Telus phone.
posted by purephase at 4:39 AM on April 1, 2010

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