by July 6, 2000 0 comments

VSNL beats the rest in terms of transfer rates, followed by Sampark Online with good connects and a helpful helpdesk

The Internet fever has definitely got our national capital
under its firm grip. Gone are those days when access to the Internet meant only
VSNL. With ISPs mushrooming all over the place and prices hitting all-time lows,
the consumer is suddenly faced with so many options. So often, some ISP
announces its next dhamaka offer. This triggers a chain reaction with the others
trying to follow suit. We put 10 ISPs in Delhi under the PCQ Labs microscope to
help you decide.

Buying the accounts

Purchasing the accounts was not such a big issue in Delhi.
Most ISPs like Satyam, Mantra, Dishnet, Sigma, and Pacific have their accounts
available at various shops and outlets throughout the capital. A good place
where you’ll find most of these is Nehru Place or Palika Bazaar. An even
easier option available with some ISPs is home delivery. You simply dial their
number and tell them which account you need, and they’ll have it delivered at
your home on the day and time you specify. Full marks to Sampark and Net4India
who were able to deliver on the same day. They even offer to install the account
and get it up and running.

However, it was not smooth sailing with MTNL. First you have
to go to one of their offices and fill up a form and pay by draft or cash. But
the catch is, your account doesn’t get activated instantly. “We’ll call
you and tell you when your account is active” is what they say. And sure
enough they called up after a day and a half, but not to announce our account
activation, but to inform that the username we had selected was already taken by
someone else! The next day we called them up to inquire about the status, and
after a few back-end conversations, we were informed that the account had
already been activated. So much for the promise to call and inform.

Somebody help me!

With the accounts in hand, it was now time to seek some help
from their helpdesks. We rang them all up and hit them with a few easy and a few
tough ones.

First the good ones. The ISP that was definitely the most
helpful and friendly was Dishnet. We got through in one try and what’s more,
the phone was picked up after two rings. The answers were satisfactory and at
the end they were even kind enough to ask “Anything else sir?” Not far
behind was Sampark Online. Getting through was no problem and after a little
call transferring, our queries were all answered satisfactorily. Net4India also
falls into this category. We got through the first time and our questions were
answered without any call transfers. Moving on to Sigma, we didn’t have any
problems getting through and with some hints from our side, we did get the
answers.

Now the not so good ones. First in this group is Satyam. Here
the problem is getting through to the helpdesk. Either the telephone keeps
ringing with no one picking up the call, or it’s outright engaged. Finally, on
the fifth attempt when we did get, through we were greeted with a recorded
message asking us to key in our phone number with area code and various other
choices kept popping up. After a little button pressing, we finally got to hear
a human voice. Our questions were all answered promptly though.

MTNL–the problem here was also of getting through. We had
three helpdesk numbers and all were engaged. But when we did manage to get
through to them, the person at the other end just didn’t want to answer
without consulting his colleagues on every question, but at least he did give us
the answers.

The worst of the lot were VSNL and Mantra. Phone lines were
always engaged and we were not able to even get through. In Mantra’s case when
we got through, all we got was a recorded message saying that they are too busy,
could we please call back later?

I want my bytes

Finally, we had the accounts all configured and ready to go.
So, how easy is it to connect?

VSNL and Sampark were the best in the group and we were able
to connect at first attempt at different times of the day. The other ISPs were
not all that bad, but some of them do have the habit of not recognizing your
password at times, while others had their telephone lines coming busy sometimes.

Now we come to the test for raw throughputs. The scene here
is actually pretty good, barring a few exceptions. VSNL was the most pleasing,
giving us fast transfer rates at all times of the day and at night. Another good
performer was Sampark, which gave us fairly fast connects and was more
consistent than VSNL. ZeeNext actually gave us the fastest transfer rates in our
morning session, but we were not able to record its performance in our night
session due to its server not being able to recognize the ftp site. Probably a
DNS problem. Same was the case with Sigma. In the mornings, it was second only
to Zeenext, and at night, like ZeeNext, it couldn’t connect to a ftp site.

Mantra and Net4India had a similar story. In the morning and
afternoon, their performance was just about average but at night, they were both
able to double their transfer rates, but still coming nowhere near VSNL.

Dishnet was a fairly consistent performer, but its transfer
rates were not all that great, both for the morning and night sessions.

Pacific, Satyam, and MTNL didn’t perform too well in this
test. They all gave average throughputs throughout the day and the situation
didn’t change later at night. With Pacific and Mantra, we also faced the
problem of getting disconnected from the ftp site midway through the download.

So who had the right mix?

Well, if all you want is speed then VSNL is definitely the
right choice. But don’t depend on their helpdesk. Also, buying a VSNL account
is not exactly a bed of roses.

If you are looking for more hand holding, then Sampark is a
great choice. Accounts are delivered to your doorstep, helpdesks are always
there for help, and moreover, you get good connects throughout the day.

But VSNL had too much of a lead in transfer rates, and hence
is our ISP of choice in Delhi.

Ashish S with Sachin M@Delhi

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