What does the generic customer want?
Essentially, good call quality at a cheaper call cost, and a few value added services like texting, surfing, roaming thrown in....... and yes, sincere service with a smile when you are in soup... these are what excellent cellphone service is all about!
TRAI is yet to enforce the mobile number portability on the cellular providers, which will let the customer change the provider without changing the number. Thereafter, the companies might show the same (if not more) enthusiasm towards the existing customers than the prospects and hopefully, quality will result from competition. But until then, it's the responsibility of the customer to pick his service provider after a fine study and synthesis, then going for the first pack on the rack.
Just like any other service industry in India, it is very difficult to refer to any cellular provider as “the best”, BUT we can find a “suitable best among the available” after a brief study.
Some of the major cellular providers operating at national level are BSNL’s Cellone, Airtel, Reliance, Tata Indicom and Hutch. Reliance and Tata Indicom operate on CDMA technology and others on GSM. Apart from these, there are regional GSM operators like Spice in Karnataka, Aircel in Tamilnadu, MTNL’s Dolphin in Mumbai and Idea in North India etc.
CDMA or GSM? What do I go for?
This could be the first question. Although both technologies have equally evolved in India, one can't help but notice that the call quality and surfing speed in CDMA is slightly higher-up than GSM. Even call costs are cheaper in CMDA.
But roaming access (both national/international) is not much to speak of in CDMA , whereas it is GSM’s ultimate strength. So if you are on the go most of the time, then CDMA is a BIG no-no! Also there is not a huge variety of cheaper handsets for CDMA, if you would like to change your mobile phone frequently. More often, though not always, choosing your service provider plays second fiddle to the handset selection itself. Phones with dual SIMs and dual technologies have already started arriving, but at least for now, GSM is the word for Nokia maniacs, Motorola freaks and a whole lot of others.
Now... let us see how the vendors fare in the decisive factors.
For rural and sub-urban customers, this is often the issue. Airtel and Hutch provide good coverage in urban sectors, and BSNL reaches much of the rural sector too. But in signal quality, Airtel is way better than Hutch and BSNL is yet to come out with the Bhai Saab Nahi Lagega (Big Brother will not work) syndrome. In CDMA, Reliance is well established in both rural and urban sectors and Tata Indicom is well on its way.
There are several plans available depending on which vendor, and you can choose what works for you depending on your usage. The first filter is generally, whether to get a prepaid or a postpaid connection. Pre-paid works better for moderate and minimal cell-phone users, where as post-paid for normal, social and business users. BSNL’s prepaid and post paid services are comparatively cheaper than the other GSM operators, followed by Airtel – considered to be the next best. In CDMA, Reliance works out cheaper than Tata Indicom. It is more widespread than Tata (for now at least), and that being said, there are more chances of availing discounts on intra-network services.
The quality of Customer service varies significantly across cities. For e.g. Hutch’s customer care works great in Mumbai but is somewhat pathetic in Bangalore. On an overview, Airtel tops the list in both speed and accessibility and BSNL’s service has lots of scope for improvement. In CDMA, Tata Indicom’s service is comparatively better than Reliance’s lukewarm, off-handed approach.
These comparisons might throw light on what is better for you. But this inference can differ based on other factors like location, call plan option etc and the actual recommendation is not the same for everyone. An executive constantly flying across cities may choose Airtel while a small business man based in the suburbs may go for Reliance. While a texting teen may pick Hutch, a surfing freak may bond with Tata Indicom and a ceremonious senior may pledge to BSNL. What's more, if you find a genuine promotional offer that sounds like it's “Made for You” at the time of purchase,go for it! After all, cellular providers in India or anywhere else for that metter, do not differ much in their performance.
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Ruchika Mandore [ MCA ]
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