BSNL EVDO Review – High speed 3G Broadband in India

ev-do AC8700 ZTE Introduction

Indian government is yet to give 3G band licenses for mobile access. Yet months before that BSNL has introduced 3G in the form of wireless EVDO broadband service (the advantages of being a public sector company!). It is only available in select cities in India and offers download speeds up to 2mbps! But if there is no EVDO coverage is your area, the EVDO card switches to CDMA 1.0 based Internet access which gives speeds up to 128kbps. This article will give you a complete picture of BSNL’s EVDO service, its features and a list of frequently asked questions(FAQ) on it.

What is EVDO?

EVDO (also spelled EV-DO) stands for Evolution-Data Optimized. It is a telecommunications standard for transmitting digital data through radio signals and hence is used for wireless Internet access. It used CDMA and TDMA techniques for data transfer.

EV-DO is considered as a part of 3G standard of mobile access. The maximum speed supported by an EVDO device/network is about 2.4mbps. EVDO devices offer backward compatibility and hence can access CDMA 1x network.

How to get BSNL EVDO Broadband Connection?

You need to visit the main BSNL office in your area to get EVDO connection. If you already have a BSNL service (land line or a post paid mobile connection), you just need to fill out a form. If you don’t have an existing service, you will need to give an address proof document also (photo copy of your passport, election id card, driving license, nationalized bank passbook etc.).  Once they verify your application form (you will probably have to meet the engineer in charge at the office), you are asked to pay the fee (see tariff below).  Once you pay the fee, the EVDO card is immediately issued. This comes in an elegant package along with instructions for use.

What is the cost of getting BSNL EVDO (tariff structure)?

Important Note: BSNL EVDO Tariff structure change from time to time. Please see BSNL homepage for latest tariffs. For BSNL EVDO, the fixed monthly charges for unlimited access is Rs. 750. Additional payment required for buying the EVDO card. If you buy it, it will cost you Rs. 2500. But if you don’t have that much money to spare, you can take the EVDO card on rent. This rent per month is 200+Tax and hence your monthly payment will increase to Rs. 950+.  There is also a refundable security deposit of Rs. 1000 for rental. So you need to pay the following on the day of taking a new EVDO card (under post paid plans),

On purchase of EVDO card= 2500 + 500 (activation fee) = Rs. 3000

On rental of EVDO card = 1000 (security) + 500 (activation fee) + 200 (first month rental) = Rs. 1700

As of August 2010, BSNL is also giving various EVDO tariff options under both prepaid and postpaid plans. For example, if you need only 500MB bandwidth per month you can take the Rs. 199 per month postpaid plan. See EVDO Tariff page for detailed tariff information.

bsnl evdo box What do you get when you buy a new EVDO connection?

When you get BSNL EVDO, you will be given a box which contains EVDO card, user manual and a CD for installing drivers in Windows systems. You will also be given a receipt for your payment along with details of your EVDO connection.

evdo ZTE cd Typically the user id associated with your EVDO card is written on the card itself. In Kerala, the password is set to the last 4 digits of the EVDO card’s user number. The user number with the STD prefix (without 0) becomes your user id.  Here is an example,

The card has 1234567 (sample number) written on it. The STD code where I am staying is 0471. Hence my user id/passwords are,

USER ID (STD+EVDO card number) :  4711234567

PASSWORD (last 4 digits of EVDO card number): 4567

When you configure EVDO connectivity,  the phone number used is always #777.

How to use EVDO card for Broadband access in Windows?

There is a Windows software CD that comes with BSNL EVDO package. You can use it to install ZTE’s EV-DO software for Windows.

Do not connect USB EVDO card before installing the software. During installation, the program will ask you to insert the card. At this point, the EVDO card will be successfully installed. The installation also has a user manual in CHM format.

After you start the EVDO software, you need to configure phone number, user id and password (see the above section). Click on the settings icon on the right side of ZTE EV-DO App. It will open settings window and enter your details there (don’t forget to replace 11111111 with your number). Click on apply.

configuring BSNL EVDO

LED on the EVDO card indicates the status as shown below,

LED Insert Data Terminal (Network Registered) (There is service or Searching the Network)
    EV-DO 1X EV-DO 1X
Yellow ON OFF Slow Flash OFF Quick Flash
Green ON Slow Flash OFF Quick Flash OFF

The top bar on ZTE EV-DO application provides a lot of information on the EV-DO connection as shown below,

evdo indicators evdo card indicators

What is the monthly bandwidth limit for BSNL EVDO access?

Get ready for the biggest surprise. As of now there is no monthly bandwidth limit on BSNL EVDO service. That means you can continuously use it without fearing additional bills. BSNL EVDO broadband service is still in experimental stages and not many people are currently using it (people know it from friends and relatives). Once it is officially rolled out, we may see some limit on the monthly bandwidth. But right now it is time to enjoy unlimited Internet at 2mbps!

Update in August 2010 – Now unlimited EVDO is costlier and there are many limited bandwidth plans available at lower cost.

Why is my EVDO Internet access speed so slow?

There could be many reasons for slow EVDO access. You may have weak signal at your area or there may not be any EVDO coverage in your BSNL network antenna. Also if there are too many customers connecting to a specific BSNL network antenna, you will see slow access speed.

Is there a way to boost EVDO speed?

If the signal strength at your area is weak, experiment positioning the card at different places. You might be getting good signal near room corners. Also turn the antenna and see whether signal strength improves.

How to use EVDO data card in Linux?

Most of the latest distributions (Ubuntu 8.04, Fedora 9 etc.) supports BSNL EVDO card out of the box. You just need to plug the EVDO card and then configure the dial up connection using phone number #777, your user name and password.

You can use the "kppp" to set up a dial up connection. Use the following settings,

Modem: /dev/ttyUSB0
Baud rate : Up to 921600
Dail to : #777

If the data card is not detected, use the following command.

modprobe usbserial vendor=0×05c6 product=0×6000

What is the hardware used for BSNL EVDO?

BSNL uses AC8700 EV-DO card manufactured by ZTE Mobile Tech. This is a sexy black USB card with adjustable antenna. It weighs about 40g and in my 4 months of use I found it quite sturdy. ZTE also provides software drivers for Windows XP, 2000 and Windows Vista.

There is a service indicator on the card. A blinking yellow indicates CDMA 1.0 access and a blinking green indicates EVDO access. So just by looking at the card you can know whether your area has EVDO access.

Are there any technical limitations for BSNL EVDO service?

evdo speed variation for a single file download Typically BSNL EVDO service doesn’t give you a public IP (As of August 2010, public IP is available for a monthly fee of Rs. 150). Your Internet access is routed through a static shared IP. This typically doesn’t cause any issues, except in cases where the public IP is important. For example, services such as Rapidshare has a download limit per IP. Since you are sharing the same IP with a lot of other EVDO users, you may not be able to download from Rapidshare (free service) at all!

There are rumors that you can sometimes get a unique public IP when you connect to EVDO. According to some reports, each area is given about 60 public IPs and the first 60 to connect are given those. The remaining connections are given shared public IP!  IP4 addresses are fast depleting and I don’t think we will see unique public IPs for all EVDO users until IP6 is rolled out.

Currently EVDO coverage is still very low and you may not get high speed at many places. In such cases the bandwidth will be limited by CDMA speed of 128kbps. Even when EVDO is available, the Internet speed depends on the signal strength. Another interesting aspect I noticed is that the Internet speed is not uniform, it varies a lot (see image – this shows downloading a large file).

How can I share EVDO Internet connection with two or more computers?

The easiest way to share EVDO Internet connection between two machines is to use a proxy server. You can connect to Internet from Machine 1 through EVDO card. You also need to run a proxy server software on Machine 1.  Then to access Internet from Machine 2, configure the Machine 1 as the proxy in Internet explorer. This way you can configure any number of machines to use the same EVDO Internet connection.

AnalogX is a very small proxy server available free of cost. You can download it from here.

Can I pay EVDO bills online?

Yes. If you have online banking account of SBI (State Bank of India), you can register your EVDO number in bill pay options. After this registration you will receive EVDO bills in your SBI online banking account (internet banking account) and you can pay the bill by just a mouse click!

Troubleshooting EVDO connection problems

If you are having troubling connecting to EVDO network or accessing Internet, try the following steps.

  1. Double check user id and password entered.
  2. Check that you do have EVDO or CDMA coverage at the area (antenna indication).
  3. Disable all other network connections in your Windows machine. Sometime software such as Vmware can create network bridges which can cause problems.
  4. Check that no proxy is configured in the browser.

BSNL EVDO In Kerala

Almost all major cities of Kerala are covered under EVDO service. Click here for the complete list of cities and areas in Kerala where EVDO is available. Currently EVDO roaming is available only inside the state.

Summary

BSNL’s EVDO broadband is a good choice if you cannot get wired broadband service (for example if you are staying in a rented house). It can also be a good choice if you access Internet a lot on the move. I mainly use it as a standby broadband connection!

Further Resources

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August 22, 2008 | Posted in Technology Tips 9 Comments » | By Jayson Joseph

9 Comments to “BSNL EVDO Review – High speed 3G Broadband in India”

  1. Rohan Chavan Says:

    I m very satisfied after reading your information n thanks a lot… well also wanna mention that this information is the best info available overall on net.

  2. amit Says:

    Yeah nice work ..can u give the details of ping(latency) . I want to use evdo for playing games like dotA .will it lag too often?

  3. Akshay Raj Says:

    I am using BSNL Evdo from sept 2010, its quite well in compare to others, before buying bsnl evdo it is better to check out your local evdo signal tower, if its in the radius of 3-4 km then it will be good option. mostly the people are concerned about downloading speed and its bandwidth limit, the speed is ok if you are downloading from explorer, chrome ,firefox, and it will be around 20-30 kbps, and again the same file you are downloading from download manager (dont use orbit it is not working good on evdo)it will gave you great boost and its speed will be 80-220 kbps, little surprised. Company and many sites says that there is no bandwidth limit, but in torrent and download manager i had noticed that in the starting of the month speed goes around 80-120 kbps, but after downloading 9-10 movies and personal downloading i have observed the download speed goes to 45-55 kbps , so i am sure there is bandwidth limit, and that is 512kbps after your beyond bandwidth limit. and after all this my opinion is bsnl evdo is much much better in comparison to tata photon , reliance , etc, etc…….

  4. Priyanka Says:

    can i connect Evdo with Nokia 6300 via bluetooth to access internet on my phone??

  5. Priyanka Says:

    Another question, can I convert my Evdo card to a 3G connection??

  6. paramasivan Says:

    I am using BSNL EVDO datacard last 2 years its totally amazing day by day because first six months its give speed around 300kbps after one year i get speed around 600 kbps at same place.finally now i getting max speed of 2.1mbps i think no one get this speed ever really its amazing me.

  7. Mayank Says:

    I am using micromax mmx300 modem. Is there any way to increase signal strength and downloading speed , please let me know. Thanking you in anticipation.

  8. Arun Says:

    I am using BSNL EVDO since 3 years. Although it serves the purpose but speed is just normal. There are enough alternate available in the market now a days. Mobile companies with HSPDA type connection offers much attractive speed and at low price. EVDO is certainly costly as well as slow. One should not opt for this connection.

  9. Curious mind Says:

    will using two evdo data cards in same room will decrease overall speed in each datacard.
    i have a evdo data card, and have been using i for two months. now my room mate got another one. both of us are using the data card simultaneously. will my speed decrease on account of the other data card

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