MTS is the global telecom brand of Mobile Tele Systems (MTS) of Russia. In India, it is a joint venture between Sistema (LSE-SSA) of Russia and Shyam Group of India.
Mblaze Premium and Mblaze Standard
Mblaze is their CDMA based high speed mobile broadband service offered in India. The service is offered in two variants. Mblaze “Premium” and Mblaze “Standard”. The premium package comes with two extra features included in the USB modem - a media card reader and a swivel USB connector for more flexibility when connecting to the USB port. The services (speeds) offered with the premium and standard packages are the same.
Regular surfing or video streaming through YouTube is an absolute breeze, with even HD videos on YouTube managing to load quickly.
How Fast Can It Get In Theory?
MTS claims download speeds of “upto 3.1MBps” and upload speed of “upto 1.8 MBps”. These are the theoretical maximum speeds that are supported by the network and not the assured speeds. MTS Mblaze utilizes the EVDO (Evolution Data Only/Evolution Data Optimized), a 3G based mobile broadband technology.
MTS Mblaze uses the EVDO “Rev A” standard. It is capable of download speeds of 600 Kbps to 1,400 Kbps with bursts that can go as high as 3.1Mbps (note that the non-capital “b” used here denotes bits and not bytes). The upload speeds range from 500 Kbps to 800 Kbps with bursts that can reach a maximum of 1.8 Mbps. In areas that do not offer EVDO coverage, the speed drops to CDMA 1x signal level. The CDMA 1x standard is capable of doing speeds of 50-100 Kbps download/upload, with download bursts that can touch 144Kbps. Thus, expecting to consistently get 3.1Mbps download speed from any of the current CDMA based mobile broadband players is not realistic. These connections are comparable to DSL based fixed line 1Mbps connections offered by Airtel, BSNL, MTNL and others.
The table below can help you find out exactly how long will it take for you to download a 10MB and a 1GB file on various connections.
Offers, Pricing and Coverage
The price points for getting the connection (which includes the USB modem) are Rs. 1,999 for the standard package and Rs. 2,299 for the premium package (prepaid and postpaid options are offered). Once you are a subscriber, you can choose from various data plans. These start with a minimum monthly rental of Rs. 198 for a data limit of 250MB, validity of 30 days and every additional MB of data charged at Rs. 0.50 per MB. The monthly plans offered by MTS Blaze can go up to a maximum data limit of 50GB per month and will set you back by Rs. 5000 per month. The 10GB package for Rs. 1,050 is the sweet spot for heavy mobile broadband users. For moderate users, the 2GB data limit plan for Rs. 698 (per month) should suffice. You can get the full list of monthly data plans here. MTS Mblaze offers a fairly comprehensive coverage for its high speed data connect availability, here is the list of areas that are covered under HSD (High Speed Data) coverage in India (complete list at the time of writing this review).
We used the MTS Mblaze connection in two cities – Mumbai and Bangalore. We tested the connection on all three modes that the modem offers – Broadband, Hybrid and CDMA 1x. Hybrid mode is the default, where the modem tries for the broadband connection but drops to CDMA 1x mode if the EVDO coverage is not available. Here are the results:
Average download speeds when EVDO coverage was available were in the range of 800-1200 Kbps. While uploads averaged around 512Kbps. Apart from download speeds, factors like latency (time taken to respond) of the connection plays a big part for real time access like Skype, HD Video conferencing and most importantly online gaming. We were pleasantly surprised with the ping test results. Ping times ranged from 150 ms to 200 ms for Indian servers, while servers in located in China, Korea and Japan took about 200-300 ms to respond. Servers based in the USA clocked latencies in the range of 300-400 ms. These are quite acceptable for online gaming with fixed line connection, so an average ping time of 300 ms (milli-seconds) on a wireless mobile broadband connection is considered good in India as per current Indian broadband standards. Unlike speed, a lower number for latency is a good thing.
We tested the MTS Mblaze service for about two weeks and only experienced a complete down time on two occasions. There were instances when the connection would drop to CDMA 1x speeds, there are typical areas with low network coverage or high interference and noise – these factors cause the signal to drop. But overall, the MTS Mblaze did fairly well for a wireless broadband connection.
Regular surfing or video streaming through YouTube is an absolute breeze. You don’t have to wait for the video to buffer and if you like HD videos on YouTube, the MTS Mblaze does a fair job with them as well, buffering happens within 5-10 seconds and the frequency of breaks is far lesser than a standard 512Kbps fixed line (phone) connection. We were able to comfortably browse through heavy websites with pages loading almost as fast as they load from the browser cache. You can easily browse through six to seven browser tabs and surf across multiple websites without waiting endlessly for the pages to load.
Installation, Interface and Extras
The installation of the MTS Mblaze modem is quite straightforward and almost fool proof. The software needed to get going is loaded on the USB modem itself, just plug it in, run the executable file and you are good to go. The software interface certainly deserves a mention. As you can see from the screenshot, the interface is simple. The default screen offers you a button to connect/disconnect. The top bar shows the connection status along with the mode in which the modem is connected (Broadband, Hybrid or CMDA 1x). You can track speed with the screen next to the connect button, which shows data transfer rates for upload and download. The interface offers some useful features, like ability to check the available data balance while being connected. This is a big plus, since you don’t have to call the help desk and go through endless loops of automated responses just to know your data balance.
The only problem we faced with the interface was the frequent failure of the software to detect the modem, even while it was connected. You need to close the application, unplug the modem and plug it back, to be detected properly. There is a slight delay after which the MTS connecter is automatically launched. There were instances when we had to manually launch the connection software. This is a small niggle that keeps the software away from the “perfect” tag.
The MTS Mblaze website is quite impressive, it provides the latest software download for your MTS modem, allows for recharging your account and allows viewing available balance in your account. MTS Mblaze offers some free services as an extra bonus for MTS Mblaze users. That includes MTS TV, an application that allows you to watch TV on your laptop or PC when connected via the Mblaze mobile broadband connection. We were disappointed with the TV experience though, the video resolution was very low and not suitable for full screen viewing on a normal 15-inch laptop. The channels available are limited and the service is inconsistent, we struggled to get a smooth video playback. So, we’d recommend skipping the MTS TV till they get it right.
If you are looking for a wireless mobile broadband connection, the MTS Mblaze should be considered as one of your best options for a fast on-the-move broadband connection. The provider’s offering of data plan choices makes it easy for users to choose a mobile broadband service for every budget. The entry price point of Rs. 2,300 for a connection is the only sore point - Rs. 1,500 would have been more like it.
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