We have not explored other service providers (Vodafone?), but according to Popagandhi, this is probably one of the better deals, considering that you now pay Rs. 15 instead of her previous Rs. 20 per day. You have to take into consideration that we got this deal in Hyderabad and may not be applicable in your area.

We had a Lenovo laptop, a Nokia 3G phone (the E65/E66 range would be good, although it should work for all 3G/EDGE/2G phones) and bought a prepaid Airtel SIM card. If you would like to work with a Mac, you may refer to Ross Barkman’s Scripts for Nokia 3G (EDGE/UMTS) Phones, otherwise, you will just need to install the latest version of Nokia PC Suite before you come to India (or at least have the installation copy).

Getting the Airtel prepaid card

You will need the following documents ready:

  1. Your passport and a photocopy of it (in India, they may also refer it as a Xerox or a Xerox copy; they mean the same thing)
  2. Your visa and a photocopy of it
  3. Your NRIC for verification of your permanent address and a photocopy of it
  4. 2 recent passport photographs (35 x 45mm will do)
  5. A local address
  6. A letter from your hotel/apartment management committee/friends/family stating that you are staying with them at the local address; for hotels, you will need a letter with a letter head
  7. A utility bill (or a photocopy of it if you can’t bring one down, but preferably the original if you can)

Next, you would need to fill up 2 forms:

  1. A foreigner application form
  2. A prepaid card application form

Then, you need to pay the following:

  1. About Rs. 90 for the SIM card
  2. About Rs. 360 for the activation and initial top up
  3. We are not sure how much each top up unit is, but we will find out soon and update

To apply, you need to go to either an authorised Airtel shop or the Airtel Headquaters in the state that you are in. For Hyderabad, there’s one at Splendid Towers along Begumpete Road (some spell Begumete without the last “e”). They usually open at 10am and close around 8pm.

Turning on your Internet access

You will need to do the following to get your Internet access turned on:

  1. Send an SMS to “52121” with the text “Internet ON” without the quotes
  2. You will receive 3 SMSes informing you that the Internet access costs Rs. 15 a day and that you need to have at least Rs. 30 in your SIM card to access the Internet
  3. If you are using an unsupported phone, you may call 121 for assistance. At the time of writing, you have to press “2” for English and follow the instructions. Listen for the keywords: Internet and Laptop. When you speak to the operator, try to speak in short sentences, and in proper English. Keeping out “lah”, “lor”, “har?” will be a good idea.

Accessing the Internet on your mobile phone

Accessing the Internet on your phone should be quite an easy task, taking for granted that most phones that support web browsing should also come with an in-built web browser. If not, we would recommend the Opera mini browser. Remember to check if your phone has Java installed. It might be useful to have it too.

  1. Your phone should be able to search for operator services. You will see “Airtel Live!”, “Airtel Live! MMS” and “Mobile Office”. Select Mobile Office to get online; if all else fails, select “Airtel Live!”. If you are using a 2.5G (EDGE) phone, you should see “Airtel Live! GPRS”. “Mobile Office” doesn’t seem to exist in EDGE phones.

Accessing the Internet on your laptop

We are not sure if there’s Nokia PC Suite for Mac, and we definitely do not have any other phones with us; and having said that, it’s best to get your phone software installed. Most phones and laptops should come with Bluetooth, although we are also aware that Infrared is becoming less common nowadays. You should be able to connect your phone via Bluetooth to your laptop. For Nokia PC Suite users, it is quite straight forward:

  1. Connect your Nokia phone to your laptop (either through USB cable, Infrared or Bluetooth)
  2. Open your Nokia PC Suite
  3. Click on the icon that says “Connect to the Internet”
  4. A “One-Touch Access” window should open
  5. Click on Settings
  6. Select the modem (in my case, it’s “Nokia E65 Bluetooth Modem")
  7. Click next and select the network operator from the list. “Airtel India” is there
  8. Confirm the settings
  9. Other information you need may include:
    1. PPP service provider: airtelgprs.com
    2. Username: guest
    3. Password: guest
    4. Primary DNS:
    5. Secondary DNS:
  10. Get connected =)

We tried the above settings with a Lenovo U110 and Nokia E65 over Bluetooth and to the best of our knowledge, this works quite well. Coverage is intermittent sometimes, but works well most of the time. We got downgraded to an EDGE connection usually, but if you have Google maps installed on your phone, it’s just wonderful. There is also no limit on data and access is over 24 hours. The validity of your card is probably for about 30 days, but you may wish to consider keeping it alive by purchasing top up cards. Auto-roaming if also available on all pre-paid cards and so you may consider using it back at your home country – although this will deplete all your credits almost immediately. =)

Have fun!

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