In the Indian telecommunications market, which is highly competitive, locking yourself to one operator’s network is not a wise decision. But unfortunately, the 3G data card segment in India is dominated by SIM locked devices.
These devices have two major disadvantages. First, none of the 3G operators have a nationwide network and so you will be left high and dry if you travel to a place where your operator doesn’t have a 3G network.
Also, with a locked SIM card, you cannot change the operator if you are not satisfied with the service. And buying a whole new connection is generally a costly affair. Moreover, operators keep changing tariff plans, so it is better to have the ability to change operators.
Thus, having an open network data card has a lot of advantages over locked SIM dongles. Here we have discussed the top five 3G data card options that are not locked to a network (also called open market data cards,) and are easily available at online as well as physical retail stores. Apart, from that shortlisted dongles support minimum 32 GB micro SD card.
Huawei EC303C dongle (Rs 1,750):
The E303C dongle, which was launched in December last year, offers consumers the liberty to choose their favourite operator as per the best data plan available in the market. Customers can utilise the same SIM card used in a handset to connect and access data.
The data card offers 7.2 Mbps download speed and also works on Edge and GPRS networks. Design wise, the dongle has nothing much to offer, other than very good quality. Also, the company claims that the dongle can connect you to a network in 15 seconds even when you are using it for the first time as there is no dial process to go through.
It supports 32 GB micro SD cards as well. Besides, Huawei offers a co-branded game CD, a Rs 300 gift voucher, and Hungama coupons together with this card.
Salora Zapper-3G data card (Rs 1,900):
Salora Zapper-3G data card was launched last September. It supports download speeds of up to 7.2 Mbps and upload speeds of up to 5.76 Mbps. The 3G data card offers features like voice call through G UI, phonebook and SMS support, and social networking as well.
The Salora Zapper 3G data card comes with auto-install software. The data card is mainly available through online stores and has a memory card slot that supports up to 32 GB.
Lava 730G (Rs 1,700):
This is one of the most affordable options with support for 7.2 Mbps download speed. What’s more, it supports voice calling, phonebook and SMS capability, and users can also check their prepaid balance in the same way as on their mobile (e.g. *123# for Airtel).
This one also supports a 32 GB microSD card. The data card looks sleek and is available in black and white colours.
Beetel MF190 (Rs 1,800):
Beetel MF190 is actually a ZTE device – one of the closest rivals of Huawei. The device supports upto 7.2 Mbps data download and has a microSD slot with support for up to 32 GB. It doesn’t seem to support voice calling and, at Rs1,800, is more expensive than other offerings.
Alcatel X300 (Rs 3,000):
This is the costliest in the list and is so because it supports data speeds of up to 14.4 Mbps. But since very few operators offer that kind of speed, the utility of this data card is limited.
This one too has a microSD slot with support for a 32 GB card, and it also supports phonebook, SMS, and prepaid balance checking. However, high cost is the reason for its being down here in the list.
This is by no means a definitive list. There are other products in the market that are very competitively priced, and still other that are either more expensive or are offered at slower speeds (3.6 Mbps), or have limited or no support for SD cards (16 GB or less).