New Delhi, December 29 2011: From Anand Parthasarathy. The year-end announcement by Chinese telecom products leader and the world’s no. 1 dongle-maker, Huawei Devices, of new wireless access devices for the Indian market underlines a trend that has been quietly building up during 2011: freedom from service providers when it comes to personal Wi-Fi hardware: Both the Huawei USB data card EC303C dongle and the E560 MiFi or home WiFi device allow owners to fuel their wireless networks from the operator of their choice – or even change operators as they move or travel.
The EC303C Dongle allows customers to use utilize the same SIM card used in a handset, to connect and access data. On the other hand, the E560 Mifi offers the customer “WiFi for your home” facility, where the users and the entire family can access internet facilities through one Mifi plugged in. It will allow the user to create a hostpot and connect 5 devices to internet and carry it wherever they go. Both the devices will offer 3.5G speeds HSUPA 7.2 Mbps download and 5.76 Mbps upload.
Says Anand Narang, Marketing Director, Huawei Devices: “In our research, we found that mobile professionals wanted to access faster internet speed in multiple cities at the most affordable rates. As 3G coverage is increasing in India, consumers can now have the freedom to choose the best 3G coverage available from any operator wherever they travel. In addition, millions of budget-conscious users can now get onto internet by looking for the best internet plans every month. The E560 MiFi gives families the freedom to create hotspot anywhere, anytime – in the car, in any room the house, on the beach and even in the hotel rooms.”
Other operator-free options in India
Even before the market leader offered these service-provider-independent devices, a few Indian players have similarly launched “unlocked” WIFi USB dongles. In September 2011, Salora International an Indian company engaged in manufacturing of consumer electronics goods, launched the 'Salora Zapper 3G Data Card', which was compatible with multiple telecom operators at a price of Rs 1,650. The device was compatible with Windows 7, XP, VISTA, SP2+ and Mac OSX (10.5 X Intel based CPU). Another data card doubling the data rate to 7.2 MBPS was also promised.
Meanwhile, the state-owned BSNL chose not to shackle its own 3G data services to the USB dongle it provided. Rather, it tied up with the Hyderabad –based Visiontek to ride its services at the higher speeds of 7.2 MBPS, equivalent to HSPA/UMTS standards ( in major metros) on Visiontek’s operator independent USB modem prices at around Rs 2100. While the buyer could slip the BSNL 3G SIM into the device, the option of shifting to another operator’s SIM was still available.
BSNL’s lead is yet to be followed by private providers who still put their proprietary software into their branded USB data dongles. But with the customer now offered a choice of operator-independent data access devices, it may not be long before device and operator are delinked -- giving the customer the ability to switch operator at any time – without having to invest afresh every time in a new dongle.