India’s Best and Worst ISPs
By Soham Raninga (May 07, 2008)
PC World India asked 3,565 broadband users to rate their ISPs on connection speed, reliability and customer support. 13 Indian ISP players were rated by users over speed, reliability, support and pricing.
Airtel received the most favorable response in terms of speed, reliability and tech support. Almost 20 percent of the respondents were Airtel subscribers. Airtel dominated the charts with 90 percent users rating it excellent when it came to wiring, installation and activation procedure.
BSNL also offers DSL connections and has the maximum user base in India. Almost 45 percent of the home users in India are on a BSNL connection. They have the maximum reach with an impressive presence in rural India. Where other ISPs have struggled to provide access in rural areas, BSNL has stood up to the task of bringing affordable broadband to the C and D class cities. BSNL users are happy with speeds but the satisfaction levels in terms of reliability and quality of installation are just about alright. Almost 35 percent of BSNL subscribers rated the quality of installation between Average and Poor.
Before the advent of DSL connectivity, cable Internet was the only option for broadband connections and while cable Internet providers served for almost four years, they seem to have learnt very little from their past experience. The service levels as well as connectivity is plagued with the same old issues of frequent down time, erratic speeds and high latency connections. Hathway and Sify are the dominant cable Internet providers today and both have a lot of explaining to do.
45.6 percent of the respondents were on unlimited plans, and 21.7 percent opted for the unlimited at night plan that removes the download cap during the night hours. 40 percent of the users are on 256Kbps connection and almost 83 percent are in the unlimited plan.
Apart from e-mail, chat and surfing, downloading and streaming media are the next biggest applications. 84.1 percent said they would download media and 48.3 percent of the respondents enjoy streaming videos.
Working from home
Another interesting trend is the rise in number of users working from home, thanks to a fast broadband connection, the option of working from home is always open. A substantial 49.6% of the respondents say they utilize their home connectivity for work and this segment demands a more reliable and consistent connection. They don’t want unlimited connections, nor do they expect high speeds, its reliability and consistency that matters.
30.2 percent of the respondents are into online gaming and all of them have the same requirements. They want connection with low latency and few hops that can improve their ping times on international servers. While the download speeds for broadband connections are as high as 2Mbps, the upload speeds are generally 50 percent or even 25 percent of the download speed. Most broadband applications are dependent on download speeds but online gaming is heavily dependent on upload speed.
Airtel ranks the best of the lot in terms of customer support, followed by Tata Indiacom and Reliance. But the overall customer support and tech support satisfaction levels were far from ideal. BSNL, Sify and Hathway in particular faired average at best in this department. The most common complaint was the lack of technically trained staff that can handle queries.
With national players like BSNL and Airtel making inroads rapidly, local cable Internet providers are clearly going through a tough time.
Reliance users were satisfied with the speeds they were getting, the reliability and were particularly appreciative of the quality of installation.
Message to TRAI
QoS (quality of service) was the biggest concern for most of the respondents. Each ISP should be held accountable for maintenance of service levels.
22.1 percent of respondents had used wireless Internet and while most of them found the service affordable, speeds and reliability were serious concerns. The average real-world speeds provided by wireless players in India range between 2-7KBps. The cost of wireless modems has also come down drastically and offers like ‘a free modem with three months prepaid subscription’ or ‘free Internet hours with every subscription’ have resulted a steep rise in adaptation of wireless Internet. Unless high speed wireless technologies like 3G and HSDPA are released, wireless Internet is bound to stay more like a backup or emergency tool rather than being the way of life.
BSNL/MTNL, Reliance and Airtel are preparing for the IPTV launch with pilots rolled out in many cities. But large scale implementation is sometime away, the prime reason being the need for high bandwidth links and a strong infrastructure to support smooth streaming of content.
Bangalore and Pune were the first to jump on the WiMax bandwagon with pilot projects being run for almost a year. However, the commercial roll out of WiMax has been limited not just in India but across the globe. But, the need for WiMax globally is not as intense as in our country, simply because they do have other high-bandwidth wireless technologies like 3G and HSDPA, enabling high-speed mobile connectivity for cell phones and laptops.