Money Saver India
PAYG data is absurdly expensive

PAYG data is absurdly expensive

Much has been made out of mobile operators reducing their pay-as-you-go internet rates, but they are always costlier than the plans, unless you barely ever access the internet.

Mobile operators offer internet plans (prepaid) and a pay-as-you-go option (post-paid). Prepaid is marginally cheaper, but the hassle of having to refill the card is what drives many to the postpaid option. Aside from higher rentals under postpaid plans, call and messaging rates are about the same. Does this change for internet? It surely does. On crunching the numbers, we’ve found that unless you use very little data on your phone, PAYG is a horrendously expensive option.

What PAYG costs
Mobile operators don’t need to clarify what PAYG amounts to. Currently, their 2G rates are thrice as much as 3G rates. It’s 10p/10kB (for 2G data) or 3p/10kB (for 3G data), which may seem insignificant, but it’s not. Let’s examine:

2G data
Operators offer nearly identical plans in nearly every circle. For example, Vodafone offers a plan with 1GB of 2G data for Rs125 in Mumbai for 30 days, but in Delhi, the operator offers this plan for Rs127 over a period of 28 days only.

Currently, the most common rate for 1GB of 2G data is Rs125. So the question is this: how much of 2G data would Rs125 buy you?

On PAYG for 2G, operators charge 10p/10kB of internet data. This amounts to Rs1 for every 100kB, or roughly Rs10 for 1MB. This means that even if you use about 1GB of 2G data in a month, PAYG would cost you a whopping Rs10,000! For Rs125 on 2G, you’d be able to access a mere 12.5MB.

3G data
Reliance is the only operator offering what it calls ‘3G at 2G rates’. This is available only for 1GB, 2GB and 4GB plans (the operator’s PAYG for 3G is most expensive, at 10p/10kB, while the rest offer PAYG at 3p/10kB).

Let’s leave aside Reliance for now and make the case for data plans using the more expensive purveyors of 3G data. The other operators – Vodafone, Airtel, etc – all charge about Rs250 per 1GB.

At a PAYG rate of 3p/10kB, you’re paying Rs3/MB, which means you’d end up paying Rs250 for about 85MB. According to this quick calculation, it would make sense to opt for a PAYG scheme on 3G only if you are an extremely light user, but with 3G speeds the chances of this are slim. You might end up downloading a good amount of data when speeds are quick.

Rate MB Used Cost Equivalent to plan
2G PAYG 10p/10kB 12.5 Rs125 1GB of data
2G PAYG 10p/10kB 200 Rs2,000 NA
2G PAYG 10p/10kB 300 Rs3,000 NA
3G PAYG 3p/10kB 85 Rs250 1GB of data
3G PAYG 3p/10kB 200 Rs600 3GB of data
3G PAYG 3p/10kB 300 Rs900 5GB of data

*as on September 5, 2013

Be careful of exceeding usage:

2G: Most operators have set a charge of 10p/10kB if you exceed your data allowance on 2G. As we’ve seen, if you exceed your 1GB cap by just 12.5MB you would effectively be paying double (12.5MB costs the same as the entire 1GB data plan). The price for exceeding your allowance on 2G is high.

3G: For 3G plans, the amount per kB you’d have to pay varies. For a 1GB plan, Reliance charges 3p/10kB if you exceed your allowance, while Vodafone and Idea charge 2p/10kB. So if you overshoot your usage on 3G, the charges are considerably less. But you could easily end up spending as much as the plan cost you for less than 100MB used beyond allowance.

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