As soon as Airtel launched their 3G services in Delhi/NCR, I got my number ported from MTNL to Airtel and got the 3G services activated. Since the iPhone 4 is not officially launched in India, it is still not in Airtel’s supported handset list for 3G in India. So, when I tried to activate 3G by sending 3G as sms to 121, I got a reply that my handset is not supported (duh).
I then called up 198 (Airtel’s complaint hotline) and went into the 3G technical help section. I spoke to an executive and told him that I have an iPhone 3GS (which is in their supported handset list). He then activated the 3G services on my number after a few verification questions. After a few minutes, I received the confirmation SMS saying that the services have been activated on my number. After this, I restarted my iPhone 4 and could connect to the Airtel’s 3G network. No APN settings were needed, however, you do need to enable cellular data, 3G and data roaming under Settings -> General -> Network.
Here are my first impressions of Airtel’s 3G network.
Browsing speed is very good. Its significantly faster than EDGE and loads most websites in under 10 seconds. Loading an article from woikr took about 8.5 seconds:
What really impressed me was the 3G speed test results. I navigated iPhone 4’s Safari to my3gspeed.com to test out the download speed and I got around 0.83 Mbps which is 104 KBPS and is very good compared to MTNL’s 3G network. However, the latency with Airtel’s 3G network is too high. Its almost as high as on the EDGE (2G) network. This results in wastage of 2 – 3 seconds when you open any website:
I do understand that 0.83 Mbps is not impressive when we look at the claims made by Airtel in the advertisements. Also, iPhone 4 being HSDPA compatible, should theoretically get 21 Mbps. Yes, theoretically. You usually never get such high speeds even in developed nations (unless you are in Japan where you can probably get even more than that). Also, 104 KBPS (Yes, thats Kilo Bytes per second NOT Kilo Bits per second) is pretty good speed on a mobile device for browsing, youtube etc.
I had updated my iPhone 4 to iOS 4.3 yesterday which added the feature of Personal HotSpot allowing me to share my iPhone’s 3G connection over WiFi (in addition to BlueTooth and USB). I enabled it, connected my Macbook Air to the iPhone’s WiFi HotSpot and ran a few speed tests. The new feature is pretty cool and is a total hassle free setup. It also shows the number of devices connected to the HotSpot. As you can see, its showing 2 connections – my Macbook Air and iPad in my case.
Here is the result from speedtest.net:
Yes, I know, not very impressive. They are a little lower than what I got from my3gspeed.com. What was extremely disappointing was the meagre upload speed of 0.06 Mbps. I expect Airtel to do much better than that. Not 21 Mbps better, but at least constant 3.6 Mbps download.
I then went to Airtel broadband’s speed test page. Here is what I got there:
The upload speed was much better during this test. However, this is Airtel’s speed test site, so I will not count on it. I then tried to download the linux kernel from kernel.org using chrome browser. This is what I got initially:
Yes, download speed upwards of 200 KBPS is not bad at all. What I got is close to 2 Mbps. However, after a few moments, it got dropped down to 167 KBPS and remained around that figure for the remaining time juggling upwards a few times :
This means that the average download speed over Airtel 3G in Delhi/NCR is >=1 Mbps and the best you can probably get is close to 2 Mbps. I would say that its significantly better than MTNL’s 3G considering that you also get Airtel’s awesome coverage indoors and even basement car parks.
So all of you who are planning to use iPhone 4 over Airtel’s 3G network in India can confidently do so. You can be assured of decent speed wherever 3G coverage is available.
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