This article contains information on How to buy mobile connection in India. In most countries to buy a mobile connection is a very easy process, you just visit a store, pick a number and that’s it. You could get a pre activated Sim card which you can start using instantly. Making calls and using data services on that connection was fairly straight forward. However in India, a recent government regulation has made it very difficult to get a working Sim Cards. After you buy a new connection there is a minimum 1-2 days waiting period before it gets activated. This regulation came into force starting 9-Nov-2012.
Prior to 9-Nov-12, you could visit a store in Delhi (or any other city), give your passport size photograph, a photocopy of your passport and visa. The store person would then fill out the form and get your Sim Card activated in 15-30 minutes. You could then top it up and start using. The verification of your documents used to happen in the background. If any discrepancy used to be found, the connection used to get terminated. This verification process used to take about a week and happened in the background while your connection was still active. Now the entire verification process has been made compulsory before the mobile connection is activated.
The process is something as follows but may differ from one mobile operator to the other.
- Passport Size photograph with Light Background. Preferably White. Size should be 4.5cm x 3.5cm
- Photocopy of the photo page of the current passport. Self attested.
- Photocopy of the latest Indian Visa Page. Self attested.
- Visit the shop closer to your Hostels in Delhi (there are plenty shops) or closer to where you are staying, choose a number, fill out the form, affix the photograph and sign the appropriate places.
Please be careful at the time of filling the form. Enter details as they appear on your passport and Visa. For example, if your name is Thomas, please don’t write TOM as your name. Another example is that if your nationality on your passport is DEUTSCH, then don’t write German. This is important to note that the “Details on the form have to match that of the Passport”. For permanent address, give the address in your country along with the ZIP / PIN CODE. For Local Address, give the address of the hotel or the hostel where you are staying in India.
Now that your Form is filled, you need to wait for 1-2 days for the mobile connection to get activated. When you insert your sim card, it will not show any network. Now will be a good time to buy topup vouchers because when you leave your current city, the only reliable way to top up your new mobile connection will be through internet. There is a technical reason for this, but just believe me when I say that you need to top your phone from the State you bought your connection from.
The store people, will now send the forms for processing. The forms get collected from the stores once every day, so if you have missed the collection time, your form will be collected the next day (Monday to Saturday only). After this the forms enter the queue where an officer manually checks the details filled on the form against that of your passport and visa. If there is any discrepancy, the form is rejected and you need to fill the forms again. So please be careful when filling the forms. After physical verification is passed, then the data is entered into the system.
After the data is entered into the system, your mobile connection will start showing network. When you see this, you need to call a designated number which the mobile connection store person would have told you. For example for Vodafone it is 117. After you call the number, the officer on the other side will ask you to verify your details like Date of birth, local address (address of the hostel), father’s name etc. Basically he will ask you to repeat the information you entered. After that a verification call will go to your alternate number which is the number of the hotel you are staying in. The hotel need to confirm that you are staying there OR did stay there (if your phone gets activated after you leave the city). If all goes well, your mobile connection will get activated. After activation, you can use the top up vouchers to top up your phone with calling credits.
The entire process mentioned above takes about 1-2 days to complete and there are no SLAs OR guarantees in place.
Regarding availability of the sim cards, most of the hostels in Delhi carry them OR there are many shops nearby from where you can buy them. After you buy just tell the hostel people to co-ordinate with you one email in case there is a rejection in your form and you are not in Delhi anymore.
So if you come to India, and want a new mobile connection, you will have to be prepared for the above. India has the cheapest call rates anywhere in the world. There is another article that describes how the costing works and other concepts like national roaming etc. You can read about it on this site by clicking here.
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