by July 6, 2000 0 comments

We had a list of 11 ISPs when we reached Chennai. However,
after a bit of research, we found that 10 of them were operational. We bought
accounts from KMR Online and Cyber Wave at Chennai. Buying an account from KMR
was difficult. First, they said they’d run out of the 100-hour package. But
when we returned about 20 minutes later with the plea that we wanted to gift it
for someone’s birthday, they had an account ready. For the others, buying was
easy, with the respective helpdesks directing us.

Help!

We called up the helpdesks at different times of the day. Few
of them were prompt in helping us out, while few others didn’t respond at all
at times. Those who fared poorly included Manipal Data Control, Mantra Online,
and VSNL.

On the positive side, some of the ISPs have really good
helpdesks. These include Dishnet, KMR Online, SwiftMail, and Sigma Online.

We’d bought our Manipal account in Bangalore and wanted to
use the same account in Chennai. We were unable to get connected and so we
called up the helpdesk. Amazingly, the answer we got was “An account bought
in one city can’t be used in another”. However, the next day, the same
person did agree that it could be used. Moral of the story–don’t believe all
that the helpdesk tells you.

When we approached bplnet for help, we were given a new
contact number. It was difficult getting through to this one, as the line was
continuously engaged. But finally, we were able to get through and got useful
answers to our questions, after the call was transferred to the relevant person.

Cyber Wave was prompt in answering the questions asked. It
wasn’t difficult to get through to them either, but the line had to be
transferred to two or three people before our questions were answered.

Dishnet has a really good helpdesk. Our calls were answered
on the first try itself, and the person who answered the call had the answers on
his fingertips.

KMR Online also has a patient helpdesk. It was, first of all,
difficult to buy the account itself, and when we finally bought one, it wasn’t
easy registering on it. Our tale of woes doesn’t end here. We weren’t able
to register the user ID and password given to us with the package. We were then
given a different set on phone by the helpdesk. At last, we got ourselves
registered, but the connection was slow. Many changes had to be done in the
system settings. The helpdesk guided us patiently through all this. If a good
helpdesk were all that mattered, then KMR Online would have won hands down. But
unfortunately, a patient helpdesk alone does not make a good ISP.

Most of our calls to Mantra went unanswered. Satyam, on the
other hand, has a good helpdesk in Chennai. With SwiftMail, our calls were
answered on the first ring, and the person at the helpdesk seemed to know his
stuff. The same was the case with Sigma Online.

One of our questions was how to use Internet telephony
software. Most ISPs said that we could use Internet telephony software on their
account, provided VSNL didn’t come to know of it. When asked, the VSNL
helpdesk said that we could use the software on their account, though it is
illegal. They, however, warned us that VSNL wouldn’t be responsible if
anything goes wrong.

Pacific Internet is scheduled to start operations in Chennai
in a month or so.

Whatever happened to those smaller accounts?

At the time of the tests, bplnet had a Rs 550, 30-hour
account that could be bought from its dealers. Cyber Wave charged Rs 320 for a
20-hour account. Cyber Wave is concentrating on Internet through cable, which
will cost you approximately Rs 3,250 for three months with a separate modem
costing about Rs 12,325.

Dishnet came at Rs 400 for a 30-hour pack, while KMR cost us
Rs 700 for a-100 hour account.

Manipal Data Control came in with Rs 1,000 for a 50-hour
pack. Satyam Online is available at a price of Rs 690 for 30 hours, while
SwiftMail can be bought at a price of Rs 551 for 31 hours. VSNL costs Rs 225 for
a 25-hour account. As you can see, there’s a wide variation in the per hour
charges of an Internet account from various ISPs.

Cyber Wave offered to come over and register the account at
no extra cost.

Registration blues

KMR was certainly not easy to register. As stated earlier, we
had to make innumerable calls to the helpdesk to help us register. Cyber Wave
too asked us to make changes in the configuration. After making the required
changes, it was easy to connect.

With bplnet, we wanted to use the account that we’d
purchased at Bangalore but could not connect. Finally, the helpdesk came to the
rescue, and we were asked to suffix the user ID with “@blr”.

How easy is it to connect?

Most of the ISPs at Chennai are easy to get connected to. You’d
usually get through the first time itself. KMR did give us problems on this
front, and we were never able to get connected to Manipal at any time of the
day.

bplnet is easy to connect and browse. Cyber Wave, Dishnet,
Satyam, Swift, and Sigma are also easy to get connected to, as is VSNL. However,
Mantra occasionally gave us trouble.

Transfer rates

Chennai gave us some of the best transfer rates we saw across
the country. And the best part was that it was not just one ISP, but many who
gave such fantastic transfers, with two of them, Sigma Online and Mantra Online
averaging above 4 kbps. And at night, Mantra went even above 5 kbps, recording
5.90 kbps and 5.18 kbps during our tests.

Dishnet gave very poor transfers and Cyber Wave and SwiftMail
suffered in comparison to the stupendous performance of the others.

bplnet gave us the same problem that we faced in Bangalore–no
FTP transfers. Finally, we got some results at night with bplnet, but again,
nothing to write home about. The same was the case with KMR Online. No transfers
during daytime, and at night, when transfers finally happened, it was abysmally
slow.

Satyam and Sigma Online saw a drop in transfer rates during
the night, but still managed good overall performances.

VSNL and Cyber Wave gave steady, but middling performances
when compared to the others.

And the winner is…

Mantra’s helpdesk didn’t even answer our calls. But the
stupendous throughput they gave just blew the competition away, and Mantra is
our ISP of choice in Chennai. But that is not to subtract from the services
provided by some other ISPs, particularly Sigma Online and Satyam (especially
during the day). Now, if only Mantra had a working helpdesk.

Krishna Kumar and Vini Goel@Chennai

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