by July 6, 2000 0 comments

Welcome to the City Beautiful. But unlike other cities, there
isn’t much hype about the Internet revolution here. It was quite a tough task
to get hotels to give us a direct telephone line. When told that the line would
be busy for at least an hour at a stretch because we’d be connecting to the
Net, we got strange looks at many hotels and guest houses.

Anyway, there are four ISPs offering their services here–Satyam,
VSNL, Glide, and i91. While the first two are national ISPs, the latter two are
local to Chandigarh and surrounding areas. We checked out all of them for their
performance and services.

Where do I buy an account?

It was quite a task to locate places that sold Internet
accounts, as they hardly advertise. We went to a cyber café and asked for Glide
and i91 accounts. We were told that we could get the Glide account only from
their main office. Another cyber café, dealing specifically in i91 accounts,
sold us one. We also asked for a Glide account and were told that he could
arrange for one, but they didn’t have any small packages, say 20 or 25 hours.
Interestingly, a call to the Glide helpdesk yielded the information that they
did indeed have smaller packages, and the person promptly offered to get an
account delivered to us.

Registration and installation

The Glide account was registered by the people who came to
deliver it. However, they left their registration administrator ID and password
on our dial-up connection, and we could actually use it later.

As for i91, the installation CD couldn’t help us set up the
account. After checking out all our settings, we finally called up the helpdesk.
The person there gave us a long list of dial-up numbers for registration. So, we
ended up with around six numbers, none of which worked. Finally, more calls to
the helpdesk gave us a long string to be added to our modem properties. Once the
string was in place, the account worked. Interestingly, this string was entirely
different from the string given in the setup instructions. The difficult
registration process is definitely a disadvantage for i91.

Help!

Glide’s helpdesk was good at responding to our queries at
any time of the day, even at 11 in the night. The person answering was also
prompt in attending calls. For i91, the helpdesk isn’t very efficient. Except
for mornings, calls are seldom answered, though the person answering the calls
was knowledgeable.

Satyam’s helpdesk too isn’t very efficient in
after-office hours. We kept calling them up at nights, but calls were seldom
picked up. Also, for our queries related to usage of Internet telephony on their
account, they directed us to VSNL’s helpdesk.

VSNL’s Website doesn’t mention any helpdesk number for
Chandigarh. Nor were we able to find the number locally.

Connectivity and performance

VSNL didn’t give very good connects in Chandigarh. Most of
the times, either the line was busy, or the computer didn’t respond. And when
we finally got connected–at about 2:40 am–the throughputs were not good. For
Satyam, getting connected was easy, but we experienced frequent disconnects. The
transfer rates showed wide variation, even for multiple tries at the same time
of the day.

With Glide, expect for once, we got connected at first try.
We got good transfers in the nights and mornings, the best of all in Chandigarh.
But during the afternoons, the throughputs dropped significantly.

For i91, we couldn’t complete even a single round of tests.
First, it was very difficult to get connected. The helpdesk had given us around
five dial-in numbers, but all of them were busy most of the times we tried to
connect. When we finally managed to get through, we experienced very frequent
disconnects. Finally at 2 am, we got one transfer test complete, that too with
not a very good transfer rate. Interestingly, when we dialed up to their number,
we got an RAS login in the post-dial terminal screen.

Who’s the best?

The obvious answer is Glide. Good connectivity and good
throughputs ensure a good surfing experience. Their helpdesk also scores top
grades. Satyam gave fair performance, but could do better. VSNL has a long way
to go in terms of support provided by the helpdesk, and i91 needs to improve
connected performance and helpdesk capabilities.

Ashish Sharma and Sachin Makhija@Chandigarh

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