After my harrowing experience with Reliance and MTNL continuing to perform sub optimally, I finally made up my mind to sign up with Airtel Broadband for their 8mbps Rapid 175 plan, which comes with 175GB FUP limit (512kbps beyond FUP limit) and costs around Rs. 3000 a month (including taxes).
Initial signup process was quite good and professional (way better than Reliance) and I was even informed by the sales rep that I was the first guy in my neighborhood to sign up for Rapid175 plan, with majority of other users choosing plans ranging from Rs. 1000-1500 a month.
Couple of days after I had made the initial security deposit of Rs. 500, wiring was done at my home (again more professionally done than Reliance) and an hour later, technician supposed to setup my router, came to my home.
Thanks to payment gateway issue, my order for Netgear Router from Flipkart was still in a limbo and thus I decided to get the initial setup done on my 3 year old MTNL Wi-Fi router.
After initial setup was done, it was time for speedtest (fired up by the technician himself) and the first run topped out at less than 4mbps (less than half of the promised connection speed)! Another run ended in similar results and switching from Chrome to IE didn’t help either (technician’s idea).
Since the latency was quite high for a local speedtest, I told him to try changing the DNS servers on my desktop (he had setup Airtel DNS servers on the router) and that seemed to help matters and this speedtest result showed more than 8mbps connection speed.
However, the local speedtest server being used was now different (Vodafone instead of Hughes), so I asked the tech to run the speedtest against US servers and my fears came through, as the results hovered between 2.5-4mbps.
Switching to London test servers didn’t help matters and the technician scoffed at the quality of MTNL router and took out a brand new Airtel Wireless Router (not sure about the manufacturer) from his bag to test the connection and funnily enough it wouldn’t turn on and neither would the second router he had. He tried changing the power adapter to what came with those routers (he had initially used MTNL’s power adapter) and they still wouldn’t come to life and even the second power adapter couldn’t bring either of the routers to life, even though they worked fine with my MTNL router!
Seeing this, I was glad that I hadn’t opted to buy router from Airtel, especially as the tech gave up on those router and continued with the MTNL one.
However I was quite disappointed by the speed, but still gave Airtel Broadband a benefit of doubt, since Speedtest servers can be slow at times. So I decided to download a 100mb test file from Softlayer’s Dallas DC (Softlayer operates some of the finest data centers and has recently been acquired by IBM for US$ 2 billion!)
Speedtest in case of Softlayer’s test file topped out at 695KBps, which translates in to 5.56mbps. Which was faster than the speedtest.net (testament to Softlayer’s network), but still way below what I had signed up for.
At this point, the technician gave up and told me this is about as good as it is going to get and this is indeed the maximum international speed they support and once again ran speedtest against Vodafone and Nextra servers, which showed better than 8mbps results (strangely, Airtel’s own speedtest server timed out).
Which I guess is expected, since Airtel either has peering agreement with these two providers or provides the bandwidth to these, since neither of them operates their own undersea cables.
Since I had no plan to stick to browsing sites hosted only on the Airtel, Vodafone and Nextra network, I told the tech, this isn’t acceptable and asked him to escalate the issue to NOC.
However, he informed me, irrespective of the person I try to contact, troubleshooting the connection will come down to him and as per the normal speedtests they run (against Vodafone and Nextra servers in Delhi and Gurgaon), it is working fine! At max he could go ahead and get my connection cancelled or switched over to 4mbps, since that is the maximum international speed they can provide.
Since Airtel does not offers 4mbps plan with more than 80GB FUP limit and then throttles the connection speed to a pathetic 256kbps, I had no intention of keeping Airtel and told him to cancel the account.
Now I have been told that I will get my Rs. 500 back soon, so I will update this blogpost at a later stage, based on whether or not Airtel keeps its promise of refunding my money.
For now I am absolutely disheartened by the way ISPs in India behave and that even Airtel Broadband, which is supposed to be one of the best ISPs out there, cannot even provide promised speeds for its Rapid175 plan, which is the highest tiered “Faster” plans it has!
Update 10-6-13: Turns out that on Saturday, Airtel tech who came to activate my Airtel Broadband Connection and told me Airtel cannot provide 8mbps international bandwidth and hence I could either cancel my account or learn to live with 4mbps speed while paying 3k a month for 8mbps connection, didn’t actually cancel my account. And instead stated that the connection activation has been delayed due to customer! And now Airtel is calling me to “activate” that account! Then after 3-4 call, Airtel Rep told me to upgrade my account to 16mbps, that way I might actually get 8mbps! Guess I was expecting too much by believing Airtel was any better than Reliance!
Update: After escalating the matter to the top brass of Airtel, I finally got a final reply from them, “Airtel cannot provide 8mbps international bandwidth and will provide the same international speed on 8mbps connection that they do on a 4mbps plan!” Eventually connection was cancelled, Rs. 500 I had given to them, was refunded to me. However they never removed the wiring from their pole to our home and I have been told that they do not provide any service to ex-customers and hence my home is still connected to Airtel junction box and will remain so, until I pay to get the wire removed!