Bharti Airtel Limited, also known as Airtel, is a global Indian telecommunications services firm headquartered in New Delhi, Delhi, NCT, India. Airtel offers 2G, 4G LTE, 4G+ data services, fixed line internet and voice services depending on the country of operation.

Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited, also known as BSNL, is an Indian government-owned telecommunications company headquartered in New Delhi, Delhi, India. It offers mobile voice and internet services throughout India through its national telecommunications network.

Reliance Jio Infocomm Limited, d/b/a Jio, is an Indian telecommunications company and a subsidiary of Jio Platforms, headquartered in Mumbai, Maharashtra, India. JIO does not offer 2G or 3G service, and instead uses only voice over LTE to provide voice service on its 4G network.

Vodafone is an Indian subsidiary of the Vodafone Group plc, which is based in UK. It is essentially an Indian mobile service company with its operating headquarters in Mumbai. Since its merger with Idea, the Vodafone Idea collective network provides 2G, 4G LTE and 4G+ data networks.

Top Mobile Network Operators & Internet Providers In India


Access to telecommunications infrastructure and networks is a crucial driver of the socio-economic growth of countries within the Information Society. The exponential spread of the Internet and cell phones as a means of politics, trade, education, social networking and connectivity has rendered the advancement of telecommunications technology and policies a high priority for governments around the world.

India's telecommunications sector has grown at a phenomenal rate of 45 percent over the last few years, and, according to the Indian Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRAI), it has been the world's third largest network with 65 percent tele-density, 785 million telephone connections (750 million mobile and 35 million fixed landline connections) and 10 million broadband subscriptions. The proliferation of cell phones has exceeded fixed-line networks, making mobile the main medium of connectivity in the country.

We will focus on the four largest mobile operators in India; Airtel, JIO, BSNL and Vodafone. But, before we delve into the merits and demerits, let's first understand what a mobile operator is.

What Is A Mobile Operator?

The Mobile Network Operator (MNO) is a telephone service provider company that offers cellular voice and data connectivity to its subscribed mobile users.

Mobile network operators are autonomous telephone service providers who own a full telecommunications system for hosting and handling mobile communications between subscribed mobile users in the same and external wireless and wired telecommunications networks.

The role of these operators is to build a network of high-end telecommunications equipment, proprietary applications and client-end subscriber identity modules to enable end-to-end connectivity between wired and wireless end-user devices.

The operators use a variety of base stations, while mobile users use a circuit-like chip in their cell phones to reach the stations while they are in the base station's range or coverage cell. In addition to providing voice dialing and receiving services, MNOs also offer data communications through text messages and Internet access and are now also delivering video communications.

Top Mobile Operators in India With Merits & Demerits

While there are multiple network providers in India, four major players are currently ruling the telecommunications and internet market. Listed below is a brief summary of each network provider, along with their merits and demerits, which will help you identify the right mobile operator for you.

Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd. (BSNL)

Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd. (BSNL) was founded on 15 September 2000. It took over the business of offering telecommunications services and network administration from the former Central Government Departments of Telecom Services (DTS) and Telecom Operations (DTO), with effect from 1 October 2000 due to an ongoing concern basis.

It is one of the biggest and leading public sector entities offering a wide spectrum of telecommunications services in India. The firm is the fourth largest provider of telecommunications services in India

BSNL is the primary service provider to make targeted attempts and proposed projects to bridge the digital rural-urban gap in the ICT market. It is the largest telecommunications operator in India operated by the Government of India.

As of 2019, there are 21,56 million broadband subscribers, including both wireline and cellular connections.

Market share: 9.9 %

Popular Prepaid Offers
Plan Calling Data SMS
Rs. 9 Unlimited 2 GB data for a day 100 SMS
Rs. 27 Unlimited 1 GB 2G/3G data for 7 days 300 SMS for 7 days
Rs. 29 Unlimited 2 GB data per day for 7 days 100
Rs. 171 Unlimited 2 GB data per day for 30 days 100 SMS per day for 30 days
Rs. 444 unlimited BSNL-BSNL voice call for 60 days 6GB data per day for 60 days -

Merits

  • BSNL plans are lower compared to the tariff charged by other networks, despite the current high-priced telephone service market.
  • BSNL, while being one of the oldest players in the networking market, is a state-owned company, which provides a wide network coverage in both rural and urban areas.
  • The customer service has mostly received positive reviews and are known to be well-informed and co-operative.
  • BSNL provides its customers with free roaming services all over India, which negates the need to buy a new SIM while travelling or being charged heavy costs.

Demerits

  • With the emergence of new companies that provide affordable plans and better features, BSNL may seem unappealing.
  • The network speed may pale in comparison to its counterparts, especially in rural areas.

Bharti Airtel Limited

Bharti Airtel Limited is a leading global telecommunications company with operations in 18 countries across Asia and Africa. Headquartered in New Delhi, India, the Company ranks among the top three mobile service providers globally in terms of subscribers.

In India, the company’s product offerings include 2G, 3G and 4G wireless services, mobile commerce, fixed line services, high-speed home broadband, DTH, enterprise services (including national & international long distance services to carriers). It is a Private telecom operator in India. Airtel has recently become India's first telco to showcase 5G over a live commercial network in Hyderabad.

Bharti Airtel had more than 403 million subscribers in all of its operations at the end of March 2019. The Company is seventh in the ranking of the top 10 telecommunications firms in India.

Market share: 27.5 %

Popular Prepaid Offers
Plan Calling Data SMS Added Benefit
Rs. 19 Unlimited 200 MB - -
Rs. 49 Rs. 38.52 talktime for 28 days 100 MB - -
Rs. 149 Unlimited 2 GB data per day for 28 days 300 SMS Music downloads for free from Wynk, 370+ live TV channels and 10000+ movies on Airtel Xstream app
Rs. 398 Unlimited 3 GB data per day for 28 days 100 SMS per day for 28 days Rs. 100 cashback on FASTag, free 4-week course on Shaw Academy and unlimited music from Wynk app
Rs. 2698 Unlimited 2 GB data per day for 365 days 100 SMS per day for 365 days All of the above

Merits

  • One of the oldest network providers in India, Airtel has over a million users around the world due to the number of towers it has which permits better accessibility and connectivity even in rural areas.
  • Airtel is one of the network providers that enables users to switch to 2G network if they don’t need high-speed internet at the moment. This helps users save data and their device’s battery life.
  • Most users claim that this mobile virtual network operator provides the best internet speed in comparison to other service providers.

Demerits

  • Compared to other service providers, Airtel’s plans can be costly.
  • Most users rate Airtel’s customer care between average to bad with the primary concern that customer problems aren’t solved in time.

Reliance Jio

Jio Infocomm Limited, also known as Jio, an Indian telecommunications networks corporation wholly owned by Reliance Industries and headquartered in Mumbai, Maharashtra, India, runs a nationwide LTE network covering all 22 telecommunications circles.

Jio does not provide 2G or 3G services and only uses voice over LTE to deliver voice services on its network. The company is second in the ranking of the top 10 telecommunications firms in India.

Jio released a beta for collaborators and staff on 27 December 2015 and became publicly available on 5 September 2016. It's a private telecommunications operator in India. It is second in the ranking of the largest telecommunications firms in India 2020

As of 31 May 2019, it is the largest mobile network provider in India and the third largest mobile network operator in the world with more than 322.99 million subscribers.

Market share: 30.8 %

Popular Prepaid Offers
Plan Calling Data SMS
Rs. 299 Unlimited Jio-to-Jio calls for 29 days 3 GB per day 100 SMS per day
Rs. 399 Unlimited calls for 84 days 1.5 GB per day 100 SMS per day
Rs. 444 Unlimited Jio-to-Jio calls and 1000 Jio-non Jio minutes 168 GB 100 SMS per day
Rs. 498 Unlimited Jio-to-Jio calls 2 GB data per day for 91 days 100 SMS per day for 91 days
Rs. 1699 Unlimited Jio-to-Jio calls 1.5 GB data per day for 365 days 100 SMS per day for 365 days

Merits

  • Jio was the first telecommunications provider to offer a free 4G service called LTE that ensures high-speed broadband, which is faster than 2G and 3G.
  • Jio's call is entirely dependent on Voice over, known as VoLTE, which provides high-quality call services.
  • Jio provides its users with free calls and SMS services in their postpaid and prepaid plans. But as per the TRAI law, the maximum number of messages can only be 100.
  • Jio offers free roaming services across the world, while the others bill for the same.

Demerits

  • There are no competitive data plans, such as Rs. 50/GB. And one has to recharge a tariff package for calling and texting services.

Vodafone Idea Limited

Vodafone Idea Limited is a collaboration of the Aditya Birla Group and Vodafone Group. It is India's largest supplier of telecommunications services.

The Company has the highest spectrum holding among all Indian telecommunications operators, containing 1,849.6 MHz spectrum across 22 circles, of which 1,714.8 MHz is a liberalized spectrum.

The Company offers voice and data connectivity through the 2G, 3G and 4G networks.

As of March 31, 2019, the company's subscription base was 368.3 Mn (on VLR), with a subscriber market share of 36.0 per cent, the highest in the industry. It is the No 1 top telecommunications firm in India 2020 based on market share.

Market share: 31.5 %

Popular Prepaid Offers
Plan Calling Data SMS
Rs. 10 Rs. 7.47 talktime - -
Rs. 49 Rs. 38 talktime 100MB for 28 days -
Rs. 299 Unlimited 2GB data per day for 28 days 100 SMS per day
Rs. 599 Unlimited 1.5GB data per day for 84 days 100 SMS per day for 84 days
Rs. 2399 Unlimited 1.5GB data per day for 365 days 100 SMS per day for 365 days

Merits

  • With the merger of two of the leading telecom operators, the advantages of data and call services have increased.
  • Both organizations have network towers throughout the world, making it easy to make hands-free calls even in remote areas.
  • Internet and data services usually cost less, compared to other service providers.

Demerits

  • The offers may seem unappealing as its competitors coming up with more appealing and affordable ones.

There’s no doubt that mobile phones and connectivity play a crucial role in our lives. Hence, it’s imperative to choose the right service provider that matches your requirements. Each of the mobile operators listed above has a unique benefit, hence, be sure to compare the plans properly before choosing the one for you.

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