We all watch videos and TV content online. But we also know that streaming videos can become frustrating on a dawdling internet connection, which usually kills the experience. This is where mobile broadband connections come to the rescue. A mobile broadband connection is essentially a mobile phone for your PC — it uses the same GSM/CDMA and 3G technologies that provide voice and data to your mobile.
Tata’s Photon Plus
Tata’s Photon Plus is an example of such a wireless broadband connection. It promises high data transfer speeds within its coverage area and, as of this month, offers a new live TV feature called Photon TV.
You must have already seen the latest ads, where people are shown carrying around a TV. Basically, Photon TV is an in-built application on Tata’s Photon Plus, allowing users to catch real-time TV content from a clutch of sports, news, entertainment and regional channels. There’s also recorded TV shows from Photon’s library to stream movies, music and videos on demand.
Truth be told, watching live TV on a Photon Plus connection was better than the usual video-streaming experience we got on Reliance Netconnect, another wireless broadband solution. But Photon TV cannot be your only TV experience.
We were promised speeds of up to 3.1 Mbps on Photon Plus, which remained a theoretical claim. At best, we got speeds of between 1.4 and 2.4 Mbps, with disappointing signal coverage while on the move within city area. In short, watching TV on a Photon Plus-connected laptop was nowhere comparable with carrying a TV set.
Also, there is hardly a choice in terms of TV channels. Another downside is that upload speeds seemed very erratic. Photon Plus gave around 15-18 Kb/sec for file uploads, which is nowhere close to the advertised speeds of 1.8 Mbps.
The good news is that the pricing mechanism of the Photon TV service seems reasonable enough to give it a shot. For starters, users can choose between three subscriptions — Rs 4 per channel per month; Rs 29 per month for a bouquet of 10 channels; and Rs 75 per month for all channels. Mind you, this does not include the monthly data charges that will be applicable as according to the subscriber’s data plan. Data plans start at Rs 299 and the modem costs Rs 3,500.
When compared with the Reliance Netconnect wireless broadband, the Photon Plus loses some of its shine. RCom has a much wider footprint in terms of network coverage across the country. However, with speeds ranging between 100 kbps and 1Mbps, watching videos or live TV feeds on a Reliance Netconnect connection means that a user has to allow for video content to buffer up before it can be played. Although during our review, we were able to browse YouTube videos (high definition mode) without buffering them, with connection speeds averaging at 1 Mbps. We even tried video chatting and there seemed to be an acceptable time lag (less than 3 seconds) in delivering video and voice.
Reliance Netconnect will set you back by Rs 2,900 (activation and unit cost) while the data plans start at about Rs 299 per month. Noticeably, during peak hours, Reliance Netconnect delivers speeds much below the average 512 Kbps and, again, this speed depends on the signal strength at your place.