BSNL 3G Speed Hands on Review

BSNL and MTNL – the government owned companies are currently offering 3G data and voice services in India which is going to change soon. The auctions for 3G spectrum are going on and we will have players like Bharti Airtel and Reliance who have already setup 3G networks but yet to launch their services. We can expect a tough competition then. In this article, I have summarized my six months of experience as a BSNL 3G user both on my iPad as well as a “permanently On” USB modem connection.

Why I went for BSNL 3G instead of a wired connection or an alternate wireless connection from Reliance, Tata Indicom or Airtel?

As I live in a place where all nodes for an airtel broadband is full , I need to wait till someone disconnects. Infact, I applied for airtel and tata wired connections. But the response from both the sides after taking the application fee was to wait till some one cancels a connection as the nodes are full. But I wanted a broadband connection in 2 days. So I searched for alternatives. Tata and Airtel USB sticks never impressed me. No wonder they work on CDMA 1X / GSM EDGE networks which are nowhere near the 3g HSDPA network provided by BSNL. I tried Reliance USB stick which offered 3 Mbps but it does not have a true unlimited plan. So, BSNL 3G became the ideal choice to get a broadband fast. I purchased a prepaid BSNL 3G SIM to test the network and activated unlimited internet. Initially it costed Rs.1499 per month. Infact, for the first two months, I was recharging for Rs.1499 every month to enjoy unlimited internet. But recently BSNL introduced an offer where I recharged for 6 months at Rs.4200. So effectively it comes to Rs.700 per month which is the cost you need to pay for a 512 Kbps wired connection from Airtel. Also the sweetest thing is BSNL 3G is totally unlimited. I mean real unlimited. Not like other networks which have a cap of 8GB / 25 GB and reduce the speeds after that.

Practical Speeds – Check yourself
I am not going tp post you screen shots of and sites download and upload some data from/to your mobile and gives you the speed based on time taken. I do have screenshots of such tests but I think they are misleading as they don’t show you how sustainable are the speeds. They many times show you a peak burst which will settle after few minutes. Instead I will show you a video of an actual file downloaded over BSNL 3G network using Huawei E122 USB modem. Watch in full screen and note the speeds displayed in the widget on right corner in realtime.


The lowest speeds I had are 2 Mbps at peak hours and most of the time I get 4+ Mbps, but these speeds were achieved during off peak hours especially after 11 PM and till 10 AM morning.

What I like in BSNL 3G?
One thing you will always like about BSNL 3G is it has amazing download speeds. These are not burst speeds. The modem I have is a 7.2 Mbps capable modem and I have a BSNL cell phone tower very near to my home. I have set the modem to WCDMA only and manually selected the nearest tower to my home. So the speeds I get are always conctant with little hovering which is reasonable.

Also this eliminates the modem switching from HSDPA to EDGE. When your nearest 3G tower is unavilable for few seconds due to any reason, your downloads will stand stil lbut never switch to EDGE. Things will be back at normal speed when the 3G tower becomes available. This happens once every few hours and I dont kno why the towers go off for few seconds every once in a while.

What I hate in BSNL 3G?

One thing you will hate the most is the ping times are pathetic that you have to forget browsing over it. You will see the torrents and download managers pulling at 4+ Mbps (500 KBps) but the browsing will feel worse than a dialup. As many folks would have suggested you, I have tried OpenDNS servers, Google’s servers for a better DNS, but practically speaking it never improved perceivably. I even tried purchasind 3rd party antenna and connected it, but the problem is not with signal reception but with the servers of BSNL. The pings are always way beyound slow. means you have to wait every time you click a link so the browsing experience is horrible.

One wierd Observation

As i told you the DNS servers ping time is too slow. So on a windows machine your browsing will be pathetic though your downloads zip fast. I got the same results using the modem and 3G SIM in my mac. But the wierd thing is, I used the same 3G SIM card on my iPad (after resizing it) and in the iPad, I never experienced the slow ping time in browsing. Still i dont know why. If any of you know, drop your comments.

Signal while travelling

I use the same 3G SIM with unlimited connection on my iPad while travelling and the network will switch to 2g the moment you cross the city limits. The service of BSNL 3G is scattered throughout the country. If you don’t get a 3G signal you automatically go back to the old 2G network, thought if you are in the city you will get the 3G signal. When you are on 3G network you can comfortably browse websites check your email it will look like you are on your broadband connection. Your google maps will load in a wink of eye. Youtube will load without buffering. Its enjoyable as long as you get a 3G signal. The BSNL 3G connection works even when you are roaming provided 3G is available in that particular area, the unlimited connection is still unlimited even when you are in roaming.

Call Quality on the 3G network

The cellular call quality is also crappy on 3G network. I tried using this SIM on my Sony Ericsson Vivaz and every time I experienced poor call clarity and dropped calls, I almost decided its totally unusable as your main phone connection. I tried making video calls to other BSNl numbers but the video wuality is never appreciable. Still a long way to go to improve Video calls.

Is it advisable to have BSNL 3G as main broadband connection?
If you take the unlimited plan I am in i.e Rs.4200 for six months, you pay Rs.700 every month and you have portability and a very fast download connection that will put wired connections to shame. You can use it as your main download connection as it is truly unlimited. TRULY. And BSNL IS THE ONLY PROVIDER GIVING TRULY UNLIMITED CONNECTION AT 4+ MBPS. NO OTHER WIRED / WIRELESS PROVIDER DOES THAT AT REASONABLE RATES. JUST RS.700 every month.

But you cannot browse sites comfortably on this BSNL 3G connection due to slow ping times. You can rtake a 256 Kbps wired connection for normal browsing and use this BSNL 3G for heavy downloading from Rapidshare / megauploaad and rtorrents. I download more than 150 + GB every month using this BSNL 3G / Huawei E122 modem.

Why I chose Huawei E122 modem for BSNL 3G?

Huawei E122 modem on BSNL 3G

I first tried the default modem BSNL gives when you buy from them. It is only a 3.6 Mbps capable device. Don’t think the network cannot give beyond 3.6 Mbps. It can if you have a capable mode. So I tried ICON modems, Other Huawei modems (E1750, E1150, UMG 1831) but all these modems had one same problem. When you move the modem around your signsal fluctuates so much. If you touch the modem it fluctuates. When you swutch rooms on your laptop it fluctuates. But this E122 is the only modem that has a stedy signal no matter what you do with iot as long it is connected to the USB. An amazingly steady modem just costing you Rs. 295. I strongly suggest you to pick this modem if you are planning for BSNL 3G. My friends who purchased so called 21 Mbps modems never get the speeds and stability I get using this modem. It is a truly good modem with antenna support in case you are living in an area where you get poor reception. The antenna can make a 3 bar into full 5 bars.

Specifications of Huawei E122
Max Download Speed: HSDPA 7.2 Mbps
Max Upload Speed: HSUPA 2 Mbps (5.76 Mbps with firmware upgrade)
3G Band / Frequency: Single band 2100 Mhz
GPRS / EGDE: 850/900/1800/1900MHz
Voice Support: No / SMS support Yes
MicroSD slot: Yes
External antenna Slot: Yes
Cost: Rs.2950
Availability: Easily purchased on eBay. I know a seller in Chennai selling this. If you are from Chennai I will give you the address.


BSNL 3G really brings the excitement of broadband on the move, but it cannot be used as a replacement for your everyday browsing connection. it will surely delight you as a download connection for your heavy movie / music downloads. If you want to use your 3G in laptops this 3G paired wirth Huawei E122 is the most perfect way. The easiest way to get a USB modem is buying from Ebay and you get the 3G prepaid SIM from your nearest BSNL shopee, activate unlimited internet and start surfing.

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