PHOTO: Airtel is a major telecom provider in India. Advertisement in a ‘dhaba’ (street fast food joint).
Update April 26, 2011
Very slow internet – tech, customer and email support. 5 days of pain. Airtel sucks but internet providers run monopolies in most areas. Details
Update March 11, 2011
Slow internet, tech support, speed returns. Details
Given internet’s crucial place in the continuity of civilization, you can imagine my internet concerns before moving to India. Is broadband going to be fast enough? Will the connection in Gurgaon be reliable or will I spend all my time on the phone with Bob from Bangalore? Do they sell data cards so I can get my fix when I’m on the move?
Worry not. All your fan mail will reach me at lightning speed…
Internet at home
Everyone told me that it takes 24 hours to get broadband internet connection at home in India. Well, 24 hours really means 2 calendar weeks. Be prepared for the usual daily phone calls. First, a salesman will come with forms. He will also try and sell a landline phone connection to you. A few days later, a guy will drop off a modem (yes, you’ll need it) and phone equipment (if the salesman succeeded in the upsell). A few daily phone calls and a week later, the ‘installation team’ will come and hook it all up. Broadband from Airtel runs on the standard telephone copper wires but somehow it delivers on the speed. Inside your apartment, you can have whatever you like – RJ45/46 Ethernet cable or Wireless (as long as you have a router).
I’ve had the connection for over a month now. It stopped working once due to non payment of bill (I used to be a Bihari, sorry Airtel). After going to an Airtel office and paying it off, it took 4-5 hours to get back online.
Outside of that, the internet connection has worked flawlessly.
You can sign up for many speeds. I signed up for the fastest offered – 4 Mbps download speed up to 50 GB of data for $40 (Rs.1800). Shockingly, that’s the speed I actually get. I check it occasionally to make sure Airtel isn’t screwing me.
They’ve turned out to be such wonderful people.
Note: Make sure to check the connection speed when the installation guy comes to hook up everything (http://www.speedtest.net). He had to call his internal Airtel contact to change the settings so I’d get the 4Mbps speed.
PHOTO: I actually get over 4Mbps broadband internet at home through Airtel!
Update April 26, 2011
Very slow internet – tech, customer and email support. 5 days of pain. Airtel sucks but you don’t have another choice.
The internet at home started running slowly again. Videos wouldn’t run, podcasts wouldn’t download, nada. Airtel said that the speed had been downgraded to 250kbps on purpose because of the terms of my contract.
My plan gives me 4 Mbps speed up to the first 50 GB of data. After that, the speed will be slowed to 250Kbps. According to Airtel, I’d consumed 50 GB of data.
Said another way, I’d streamed a movie DAILY on the internet for the last 2 weeks and didn’t remember. But Airtel’s website said that we’d used 15, not 50 GB.
Meenal and I spent excruciating 4 hours DAILY on the phone for 5 days to get the problem fixed. I’m told that this is very common – Airtel will randomly claim usage on your end and start charging you for it. If you don’t pay, they use BIHARI ways (wild wild west ways) to extract ransom money.
Update March 11, 2011
Slow internet, tech support, speed returns.
For the last 2 weeks, the internet was running very slow. I kept ignoring it until today. The suckers have been screwing me alright:
20 minutes on the phone with a very helpful technician, some DNS changes on my computer and a modem restart later, the speed is back. I guess I have to keep checking and keeping them on their toes.
Internet everywhere else – data card dongle
Tata, Reliance, MTNL, etc. provide data cards for getting online through the cellular network. MTNL is a government company – enough said. Online reviews for Tata and Reliance are mixed with complaints and praise on both sides. Everyone I called for advice in Delhi only knew of Tata Photon Plus. Also, Reliance only had 1 office in Gurgaon while Tata had several. So I went with Tata Photon Plus. Not very scientific, but there wasn’t much to go on.
Take your laptop and go to your nearest Tata Indicom office. Make sure that they install the dongle on your laptop and have it working before you leave. The whole affair should take about an hour.
USB Dongle: $50 (Rs.2500)
Monthly costs: $5 (Rs.250) for 250 MB is one the cheapest. Many other plans are available. Some examples:
Too soon to tell. Will update once I’ve used it a few months.
You’ll never ever get the advertised ‘up to 3.1 Mbps’ speed. I’ve tried it several times in 2 different places in the National Capital Region (NCR – Delhi and its suburbs). I’m not sure what causes the changes in speed – time of day, location, whether you’re inside a building or outside … but it surely varies a lot.
PHOTO: 12 pm on Saturday in Gurgaon
PHOTO: 1 pm on Saturday on the way from Gurgaon to Delhi
PHOTO: 8 pm on Saturday in south Delhi
PHOTO: Who the hell is surfing at 12:40 am on a Sunday in south Delhi?