This is fourth in the series of posts about our experiences with 3G services in India. Read our coverage about Airtel 3G, Vodafone 3G and Reliance Netconnect+.
Getting the BSNL Huawei USB Modem was a real pain. The customer service centres kept sending me from one branch to another until finally at the fourth branch someone admitted to knowing who to contact for a 3G Dongle. After I contacted the required person, he made me fill out a form and give my documents after which he gave me a modem and SIM card, and said my service would be activated within two days.
After two days, I was finally able to setup and get the modem working. Signal strength was never full indoors, but it worked great outdoors, with no bars in many indoor locations. Their systems were not all 3G ready, so there were problems using 3G in certain locations, but when 3G was working, I got respectable speeds of between 3.5 and 6.8 Mbps of their advertised 7.2 Mbps.
Sadly, I was never able to get those speeds at either of the two locations where I used it the most because of low or no signal strength, so in the end, I gave up and returned the SIM.
I was, however, pretty blown away by the coverage in rural areas, BSNL worked at every single village and town I tried, with 3G working almost always.
Support and troubleshooting was pretty much nonexistent with BSNL, their support line could not handle anything more than initial setup and were completely clueless about anything else. They were quick to blame anything and everything but their product for any problem, and were at times almost illogical and frustrating to deal with. Thankfully configuration issues could usually be solved by looking around on the web.
It took my representative four visits and eighteen days to surrender the SIM card and another one month to get my refundable deposit back.
Conclusion: BSNL is awesome in areas where they have near full coverage, particularly rural areas, but if you have signal issues with BSNL where you need it, you should pass. Support is pointless, so don’t expect them to help you if you have problems.