by July 7, 2000 0 comments

On reaching Pune, we found that telephone exchanges were going digital. So, most helpdesk and few dial-up numbers had changed. We had to
depend on the change number enquiry-1952-to get the new numbers. We were in
Pune for three days, and could see ISP accounts being sold in gift stores,
computer stores, and cyber cafés.

One account that we needed to buy was Weikfield, a local ISP.
The minimum account costs Rs 1,750 for 100 hours with 25 hours free, which was
still quite steep. To buy an account, you call them up and give them your
address. A marketing representative is visit you and explain the schemes. If you
wish to buy, he’ll collect your payment. Then, a technical person will visit
you and install the account at your place. Quite a lot of work for the ISP, but
at least you’re saved the tedium of doing it yourself.

Help!

Dishnet and Satyam had the best helpdesks of the lot-technically
sound and fast to respond. Satyam even has a toll-free number. The next best was
Weikfield. They were also the only ones could who explain the concept of
Internet telephony in detail, gave us a big list of sites that allow it, and
could even tell us how to install, register and use Internet telephony software.
And all this without our even asking for it.

VSNL at Pune turned out to be the Internet police. When we
tried to find out whether Internet telephony was allowed, they said that it was
illegal and that they were blocking accounts if they caught people doing it. And
now that we’d asked about it, they wanted to know our username, so that they
could block our account. Their actual words were “If you give me your
username, we’ll block it”. Some helpdesk this.

At Mantra, no one picked up the telephone at the helpdesk,
even after multiple tries. Finally, we called Mantra’s Pune administrative
office (we got this number from their Website, using another ISP’s account).
This number was picked up in two rings and support was provided from there (they
also promised to “report” the helpdesk for not answering, when we
complained about that). But what happens if you face a problem while
registering?

We were not able to access Manipal Data Control’s services.
Finally, when we called up the helpdesk, we were told that their dial-up lines
were down and would be up in a couple of hours. About three hours later, when we
called to check again, we were asked to call back later as the person who
checked the lines had gone down.

While connecting to bplnet, we got an error message saying
that our username or password was incorrect. The helpdesk was prompt in telling
us to change our login name to “username@blr”, as we’d bought the
account in Bangalore.

Connection and data transfer

Mantra, Dishnet, and bplnet connected the first time in all
five attempts. VSNL and Weikfield gave all sorts of problems like disconnects,
rings at the other end with no connects, and line busy and error messages.
Weikfield took 12 tries to connect five times while VSNL took eight tries.

With Manipal and Sigma, we couldn’t connect at all over the
three days of testing, due to what were called telephone line problems. To get
five connects to Satyam, we had to dial nine times. We got the line busy signal
once and the other three times, there was no response even after multiple rings.

When it came to data transfer, Mantra was the clear winner.
It just zipped the data through. But for one rather slow transfer, Mantra would
have averaged above 4 kbps during our tests. Satyam was second best, while VSNL
was just bearable. bplnet, Weikfield and Dishnet were really slow.

And the winner is…

The leader in Pune, when it comes to transfer rates, is
Mantra Online. Connecting was also a breeze. However, its helpdesk in Pune, like
in many other cities, was just not accessible. But the administrative office did
help out. So, Mantra Online the winner in Pune, followed by Satyam.

Sandeep Saxena@Pune

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