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All you want to know about data cards
Shobhana Subramanian | October 11, 2005
Would you like to surf the net while lazying on the beach? Or even in the car, on your way home? Get yourself a data card. It's a small card - slightly bigger than a credit card - with a small antenna.
Insert it into your laptop and browse at length. And it's not just the Internet - you can also log on to your office LAN or intranet and access your mails and other files. So, even while you're travelling, you can stay in touch with the sales, MIS and other automation systems.
Of course, the card comes at a price. A Tata Indicom V card costs Rs 9,995, while an Airtel card would set you back by Rs 12,999, which is an introductory offer. The Reliance card is now available for Rs 9,000. But, if you can persuade your boss to pick up one for everyone in the office, it would cost you less.
And each of these card suppliers is happy receiving your money in instalments. While the Airtel card can be picked up in 12 instalments of Rs 1,229 with a Citibank Credit card, EMIs for the Indicom card are either Rs 1,995 or as low as an incredible Rs 295.
Now, what about speed - single most important feature to be scrutinised? Well, they may not match the speed of your broadband connection at home, but they're not too bad either.
The companies claim that a peak speed of up to 100-150 kbps is possible and concede that the average speed may be much lower. The average throughput one can get at any time is far lower at 33-56 kbps.Tariff plans offer variety. So, apart from standard packages (see table) you may opt for other schemes as well. For instance, Tata Indicom has a six-month scheme priced at Rs 3,600 for six GB, which allows you to use one GB every month.
This means the rate drops to 60 paise per MB from 70 paise per MB, if you pick up a monthly scheme. The rate falls further, if you pick a yearly package.
Data cards also allow you to make a phone call. No, don't pick up your cellphone, just plug the earphone into the PC and talk on.
Charges for these calls are according to the standard plans, and one can opt for value-added services such as a caller-identification services.
If you don't want to talk but simply want to send a message, that's possible too. And you can receive messages too. The charges for phone calls and SMSs are usually the same as you would pay for your mobile phone.
One thing you must always remember to do: charge your laptop battery, and you can use the card wherever you go. A Bharti spokesperson says the card can be used across the country if the customer is logged on to the Airtel network. The card also works when you are roaming internationally on GSM networks.
The Reliance team says the service is available in 3,700 cities and towns, wherever there is a Reliance network. And this holds true for the Tata data card as well.In the not-too-distant future, the Evdo (Evolution for Data Only) and EVDV technologies would get you data speeds of 2.5 to 3.5 mbps. But that's still some time away.