The frustrating series of unfortunate events that I had mentioned in my previous post have finally stopped and the project was a resounding success! If not for confidentiality reasons, I would have let the world know of a great deal of tips and tricks that they would probably come in a situation similar to mine, but more on that later.
[UPDATE : Dec 2008] : I have been using this connection for over a year and I dont see any major problems with this card or connection. I do not use NetBooster(since the proxy server goes down every now and then). But otherwise, the connection is pretty decent. If you are facing connection issues, please check your network signal strength.
I finally got myself a data card for mobile internet access. I was previously using my Nokia 3230 as a modem and was browsing through it, but it would be really frustrating at times when the connection would be active, but when there would be no response from the server. Then after that, I was using this BSNL broadband at my place which was very good, but it was shared with my room-mates and I found it difficult to use when I really needed it.
Getting a BSNL connection takes time, so I decided to get an Airtel Broadband connection and to my dismay, found that it wasn’t available at my location. So finally, after conducting some research on my own, found that the reliance data card was the best choice of the lot, being wireless, minimal setup and with the advantage of carrying it everywhere. While I have personally experienced a little improvement when using CDMA for data transfer versus GSM.. Hence I decided to go for a CDMA Data Card instead of a GSM data card, like the one offered by Airtel.
The available two choices were from Tata Indicom and the other from Reliance Communications. Though performance-wise, I found that both were the same, the delimiting factor being the strength of the network signal at your place of usage. Then I found a deal at Reliance that seemed good and went for it, I took a plan which had a one time payment of something around INR 9K for which I got a one year subscription of the Reliance NetConnect Service, with 1GB usage per month for a year and with the cost of the card being waived(more tariffs here). Initially I faced some problems with the account not being activated even after being assured by the salesperson at the Forum Branch, Bangalore. After more than a day of calling them(the branch, read below for Customer Service), they finally activated my account. The most disappointing thing about Reliance was that I could not connect to any of their support lines, getting a ‘busy’ tone even at 1:00 AM in the morning.
Then I found that the service kept getting disconnected even when the device could detect three ‘points’ of the signal, with 5 being full. I decided that I needed a powerful signal and hence I sat at another location which had four points and found that I could get decent connectivity at that location. The bottom-line now is that if you have a good signal, your connection will also be good, but if not, its as good as nothing. So check if you have a good signal using any cell-phone(borrow it from your friends!) before buying either of the cards.
One other feature I noticed is the NetBooster software by Venturi Wireless that is provided by Reliance.. I found this to be extremely effective. The software connects to its server which acts as a proxy for our connection, All content is routed through that proxy and depending on our settings, we can load pages much faster. It was interesting to see how they were doing it, If you select the “fastest” options for images, the images are manipulated at the proxy server and sent to the device at a very low quality, which obviously speeds up our download and lowers bandwidth consumption for un-necessary images. It also proclaims that it removes unwanted markup from HTML code, making it load faster without altering the layout of the page! Really very interesting to note! And I found that it was pretty effective too.
I am using the ZTE card model, Sierra and Huawei being the other two models available with Reliance. I doubt that they give us the option to choose though you get to choose if you want the USB external modem or the Data Card itself. I found the Data Card to be giving me around 6.5 to 7KB/sec download speed. The speed fluctuates going as high as 15KB per second but for the most of it hovering around the 7KB mark with four points of network.
I would recommend buying this to anyone who is in need of a “something-is-better-than-nothing” internet connection, though the advantages it offers, especially on the move far outweighs the other drawbacks such as latency and frequent disconnects.