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Who says broadband is easy

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An excellent article on the status of broadband in India in The Hindu Business Line argues that private broadband players face, and will continue to face, problems because state operators BSNL and MTNL aren’t willing to share their last mile networks.

That leaves the private guys two options: invest huge amounts of money to build their own last mile networks, like Bharti Airtel is doing, or cut a deal with the Mom & Pop local cable operators to provide last mile connectivity. Private operators providing broadband over coax, like Sify and Hathway, have been able to build their broadband customer base faster tapping the local cablewallahs, as they focus on Internet Protocol and because they are not telecom operators whose primary business is voice. But this model may not be sustainable.

We in Delhi had a pretty bad experience with Sify—likely showing the downside of partnering up with the local cable guy–and we weren’t alone. We got a Sify connection because Bharti’s operator-built network hadn’t reached us yet, proving the point that tapping cable operators may speed rollout. But for the nine months that we were Sify customers, our daily morning routine included (usually me) calling up ‘Sify Suresh’ (as he was listed in our mobile phone’ address book) at 9:00 am to tell him that the Internet was down again.

Competitors’ vandals (or birds?) would cut Sify’s lines, strung as they precariously were over tree-tops and across residential roofs. Worse, we were inundated with viruses over their open network. ‘Sify Suresh’ became such a fixture in our house and in our lives that we soon began to interact like close pals. Once when I called him, he said, “Remember that tree near which you met me the other day and I was up on that tree repairing the wires? I just passed that tree so I’m just five minutes away.” Yup, I knew which tree he was talking about and that exchange conducted in Hindi, was ten times funnier than this translation sounds.

Now, we use Bharti Airtel’s broadband service which has finally made its way to out neighborhood. We and others had some exciting interactions with Bharti as well, showing that their rollout of Broadband, as the Business Line article points out, hasn’t been smooth. Their sales representatives, eager to close a deal, would insist they provided service in our neighborhood. On two separate occasions, we forked over the 500 bucks (Rupees)advance to sign up only to hear from the guys who actually came to install said connection that Airtel didn’t have any pillars in this neighborhood. Trying to get back that 500 bucks was worse than having a root canal.

Later, lured by a new, one-time scheme offering unlimited broadband, we again called Bharti Airtel. The sales rep duly showed up assuring us that they ‘now’ have pillars here and asks for 500 bucks. I kept saying I’m not going to give that to you until we are actually connected. He said it was policy. I told him he could leave. He looked at me like I was completely mad and looked toward my husband for corroboration of my insanity. Turns out this time Airtel had expanded to our neighborhood (and some others) and we have unlimited 256 kbps “broadband” connection, that has for the most part been reliable.

But sometimes we do miss ‘Sify Suresh’ J

22 Responses to “Who says broadband is easy”

  1. Kamal Halder

    I have gone through the entire post of this page.Can you all tell me what is the use of discussing this fact, we all know that our country is worst of all in service sectors you name it I can give you atleast 1000 incidents of that company say it Airtel, Reliance BSNL MTNL Vodaphone aircell you name it. Do our respected ministers or so called infrastructure setter is listening to this problems of peoples, they are just doing their best in what they are good, plundering India. I stay in a place where top brasses of people stays Police commisnor lawyer judge MLA but can you beleive me that in our area there is no Airtel, Reliance or BSNL brodband. no no BSNL is there but they have billed their bill without installing the modem or connection. Look the service and customer satisfaction status of this Bharat sanchar nigam limited. So respected all the condition is not going to improve until the so called Trai takes immediate action against this Operators.The only solution to meet the lat mile setup is wireless connectivity through WIFI which is doing great in the field of connectivity, the cost is also lower than that of OFC. Has too say a lot but got to go respected peoples.

  2. Alok Tiwari

    Hi Guys

    I wish to Comment about My Stupid ISP (TATA INDICOM – Broadband) connection and Their Services.
    I am really surprise to know that when problem comes My ISP Needs 2days to Make my problem rectified.
    Well Really Its Sucks when you know what the problem is and you are are able to rectifiy it within 3 minutes but your stupid so called administrator takes 2 days to fix a simple connection problem

    Only Stupid staff.

    I am by profession webmaster and I need connectivity. But I am stuck in between nontechnical stuff. (Don’t be surprise if I say I am sitting in India’s IT Capital Bangalore)

    Really Unprofessional ISP not recommended at all.

    My email id is [email protected]
    If any person that from TATA Indicom reading this feel free to mail/call me.
    I don’t think they have some responcible person.


  3. Shrikanth

    yeah…guys noe what?? THERE IS NO BEST ISP IN INDIA>>> the fact is these ISPS r cheaters..iN usa my bro gets 5mbps unl at 35$ = 1400 rs..n i also read in some forum that sing provides 25mbps @ 100 sing $ = 3000rs but in india 2mbps hit the shore 2 months back @@@ that too unlimitedis minimum gonna cost 4k+…2mbps hit the world long time back…i dunno why the hell new new isps arise with same old ancient dark age internet speeds with extraordinary in other countries there r no different funny packages like in india..its std unlimited….so temme…is there any ISP in india which can provide me 5mbps atleast at 2000rs..??? ppl go n talking that india developed its gonna own the world etc etc..will the vision of 2020 come with a good broadband?

  4. Hi,
    I do agree with the worst experience we had while availing sify broadband service, every night i leave my pc so that it can download some stuff and by morning i find that net had already gone off after 30-40 mins when i left pc..and my pc was working all night just for nothing and i had called up airtel many a times but they always say that they hadnt started their operations in my area and again i am left with no options, Sify really sucks, worst customer care, no response illetrate cable walas. customer care will only turn up once ur prepaid card ends up, and all during rest of month they will hide under neath their worst bull shit network.

  5. Nisheel, In Indian TRAI has classified 256Kbps (and above) as “broadband”. When the regulatory authority itself has set such low standards why would IPS’s set a higher standard?

  6. Broadband in India is a joke. Its 256Kbps to 512Kbps at best and most have a download cap !!! The world has already moved from 1.5Mbps DSL which was the standard 5 yrs ago to 4-6Mbps connections. In singapore, Singtel and Starhub give you 25 Mbps connections at home (yes 25 Mbs !!) for Sing$100 a month…Rs.3000/-. I’ve used it while visiting there and words can’t describe it
    Ohhh and don’t get me started on customer service of these providers !!!
    Mr.Telecom Minister…can you stop calling Kbps “broadband”

  7. The un-bundling of local loop has been making rounds since many years. It is arguable whether it is fair on private players part to ask for it?

    BSNL and MTNL’s more profitable fixed line subscribers are fast eroding. The cost of maintenance of such large infrastructure is also too huge, especially in rural area’s where the infrastructure is underutilized (thanks to low penetration). Being only operator with pan India presence and having wired all of India, they can command significant premium for sharing the infrastructure. For the country, it means effective utilization of infrastructure and for BSNL it can mean more profits which has eluded them in poor density area. In another words it makes good business sense for BSNL and MTNL to do so provided they get good market price for it.

    I think Sify’s Biz Model is suffering big time, thanks to unorganized cable TV operators (CTO).

    In Chennai, the cable TV is fairly organized. The majority of area is covered by only two CTOs’ – SCV (Market leader) and Hathway. But still the Sify model has not succeeded very much. The major reason being SCV is not very keen to promote Sify. Well thats not all, Sify has its own sets of issue & problem with service. Just imagine when I called Sify’s customer care they are not able to offer help, instead they say “Please contact you local CTO”. Heck, I contacted Airtel instead.

  8. Shailaja,

    Some background; I live in and am an investor in last-mile retail networks in metropolitan Russia.

    I don’t believe that the urban density is much different between metropolitan Russia and Mumbai, Dehli et al.

    PDI is not that different either i.e. cash left in pocket to spend after essentials; food, drink, credit cards and hire purchase – clearly on a per capita basis there is an issue but if you were to cull the richest 11 million people in Dehli or (and not and) Mumbai PDI falls back in to line.

    So why are start-ups waiting for the established guys to let them in? A company in which I am an investor installs 100mb to the customer FTTH networks (1Gb to the home – home being a block of flats) for $15 a home passed. India’s metropolis can do the same – why isn’t it?

    I am sure that India could do the same

  9. Probably a group of people should start doing what MCI worldcom did to incumbent providers in US. Please let me know about your opinion. I will definitely be interested in joining hands in making such an effort happen.

  10. Sandeep Kaul

    Hey Shailaja, I had a similar problem in getting a refund of 1,000 rupees from Airtel. Customer Care kept giving me dates. Finally, I sent a fax to Sunil Mittal asking for company policy on refunds from him. Still no response. Sent him another fax stating that the company’s inability to refund 1,000 bucks (rupees) indicated severe cash flow problems and, if that was the case, I could lend the company 10,000 rupees to help them tide over the crisis. Got the cheque two days later!! No joke…this is real!!!

  11. when will t1 cables available in india ? we do we indians can use bandwidths in mbps ?

    welll i agree with shailaja.. many users are facing problem with sify broadband and i am frustuated with thier service… they handed over to cablewallas who dont even know what an internet is …

  12. MTN & BSNL have done the right thing in not sharing their last mile n/w as our IT minister is very interested in pushing forward wirless broadband. Sify & Broadband, uff!!!
    Airtel customer service is the best, call them and demand your money back, I am sure they will adjust in your next monthly bill.

  13. If BSNL and MTNL are not willing to share the last mile, screw them. Why dont the private players just team up and setup one cable to the last mile. Then everyone can share that cable. They could pay an independent company to setup that cable and maintain it.

  14. Its the same in Bombay, and if its the same in Bombay and Delhi Im sure its worse everywhere else.

    At least you havent had to deal with MTNL’s billing issues. They gave me a bill 5 times the amount it should have been. I spoke to peple all over MTNL, and they said theyd get it sorted, but at the end I had to pay it, cause of the pay first than dispute policy that Indian companies have.