As if slashing 2G and 3G mobile data tariffs is not enough, leading telecom companies (telcos) such as Vodafone, Tata Docomo and MTS have launched high-speed dongles in recent times, that too at comparable and competitive rates.
While 3G dongles offer hi-speeds of 6-21Mbps, 3G mobile data speed does not exceed 4-7 Mbps. In line with this trend, Vodafone on Monday launched Vodafone K4201, a 3G USB dongle (pictured) offering download speeds of 21.1 Mbps and upload speeds of 5.76 Mbps, for its postpaid users, at Rs 999 per month.
The dongle offers expandable storage of up to 32 GB, ability to send SMS from a computer and phone book functionality. It also supports all major operating systems like Window 8, Mac, Linux, Fedora and Ubuntu.
During the introductory offer period, customers can avail 100 % cash-back on 3G rental plans of Rs 650, 750 and 850, or pay rental for six months and get next two months rental free on the same 3G postpaid plans.
Such woo-consumer tactics have become common in a competitive market. Recently, Idea Cellular also launched a 3G hi-speed dongle offering download speeds of up to 21.6 Mbps at Rs 2,160. Reliance Communications, Airtel and Aircel’s 3G dongles, offering similar speeds, come at Rs 1999, Rs 1400 and Rs 1,777, respectively.
Other telcos like Tata Docomo and MTS also launched hi-speed dongles promising over 50% faster 3G speeds, ranging from 6.2 Mbps to 9.8 Mbps. While Tata’s dongle comes at a rate of Rs 1,699, MTS’s dongle starts st Rs 1,399 (with Rs 750 cash-back offers for MTS customers).
“RCom’s 3G dongle business is doing better than all its peers, thanks to its far superior fibre-optic backhaul network. So, even if its peers keep launching dongles at competitive rates, fibre backhaul is a problem, which means inconsistent 3G speed,” said a telecom consultant who sought to remain anonymous.
Complaints against dongles are common. Network capabilities are seldom improved by telcos, in spite of a spurt in mobile data traffic from first-time internet users.
Sandip Biswas, CEO, Lacewood Consulting, said dongles have become a commodity business and “will continue to come free of cost with the 3G connection, just like a SIM card”. The only threat to them, he said, is a tablet, “because you can push a 3G SIM into a tablet”.
Smartphones, Biswas said, have taken away only 20% of the laptop business, since dongles have no roaming charges.
“These dongle offers keep coming from time to time as the business is not very profitable for telcos.” However, Ankita Somani, telecom analyst with Angel Broking, said, “Mobile data will continue to see higher growth trends as compared to the dongle business. However, two reasons pushing new attractive dongle offers could be these: one, the need to expand dongle growth in B and C circles, given the flat growth in A circles; two, mobility is the new buzzword, so the dongle business could help further bolster data growth in the country.”