Oct 7, 2007

Blazing Fast MTNL Broadband

Perhaps you are aware that the year 2007 has been termed as the Year of the Broadband by the Ministry of Telecommunications, Government of India.

As a part of this initiative, the Government has decided to upgrade all existing (state-owned) MTNL and BSNL broadband customers with 256 kbps plans to a whopping 2 Mbps at no additional cost beyond what they have been paying for their connection at present.

Presently I have two Broadband connections at my home -- one from the privately held company Airtel, and the other (my fall-back connection) from the state-owned MTNL.

Airtel are known across India for their super efficient customer-care system and their non-interrupted connectivity. In fact, Airtel has become a benchmark for other companies to measure their consumer satisfaction and their broadband up-time.

On the other hand, MTNL are known across New Delhi and Mumbai for their super-lazy staff, completely non-existent customer care, and pathetic up-time. However MTNL is the only other company in New Delhi, that, besides Airtel, offers DSL (or ADSL) based broadband connectivity.

Of course we also have companies like Tata Indicom and Sify Broadband that offer cable based broadband; however, their uptime is so poor (about 25% to 50% up-time, depending on your luck), that they don't count in this discussion.

Therefore, when going for a broadband solution, I went with Airtel as my primary broadband service provider, and MTNL as a fall-back connection for situations when my Airtel connection was out of order and I had business critical work to accomplish.

From Airtel, I chose a monthly plan of Rs. 999 (+ taxes), which promises speeds up to 256 kbps and no limits on the amount of data that can be downloaded or uploaded. From MTNL, I chose their cheapest monthly plan of Rs 199 (+ taxes), which promised me a minimum speed of 256 kbps, and a monthly data limit of 400 MB.

I was using both these connections optimally for the past few months, when suddenly, one day, my MTNL connection stopped working (thanks to one of the MTNL employees, who did something weird with my in-house wiring the last time he visited us to help us get rid of noise in our land line telephone).

After that, it took me countless phone calls, countless minutes of waiting, and countless number of times of getting humiliated by the state-owned MTNL staff (from linemen to their high-ranking officers, who are not even interested in speaking to customers) to get my broadband connection working again. Almost one month had passed between the time when my MTNL broadband worked the last time around.

However, imagine my surprise when I noticed that this time, MTNL have upgraded all their 256 kbps connections to 2 Mbps. On Airtel, 256 kbps is the maximum speed that I could ever hope to get for Rs 999 per month. However, on MTNL, I am now getting 2 Mbps speeds by paying as little as Rs 199 a month.

Look at the screenshot of my laptop that I took today. It clearly shows a download speed of about 200+ KB/s on my MTNL broadband connection.

(Click on the image to enlarge)

Now imagine my dilemma -- I am now stuck with two incomplete broadband service providers:

One, that promises excellent uptime and great customer service (Airtel), but are unwilling to lower their price or increase the average broadband speed beyond 128 kbps (yes, that's the average speed of their 256 kbps plan).

Second, which offers a pathetic, almost non-existent customer-care, a very highly unreliable connection, but blazing fast speeds at a very affordable price (MTNL).

Perhaps the Airtel guys are aware that they have an upper hand over the state-owned MTNL because of the better reliability and customer-care that they offer, because of which people who wish to use a broadband connection for their business critical needs will never opt in for MTNL as their primary broadband provider. As long as this condition remains, Airtel have little reason to lower their prices or to offer better download speeds at existing tariffs.

What would you do if you were in my situation? As for me, I am just praying to God to help me see a day in my lifetime when I can get a combination of the best from both the worlds in a single broadband connection.

Till then, let's enjoy the Year of the Broadband :-)