by July 7, 2000 0 comments

Written by Anil Chopra and
Sandeep Saxena@Mumbai

Mumbai seems to be the city of ISPs. Originally, we started
out with 11 ISPs. After reaching there, we found two more. As we got along, we
again got a few more, taking the number to a whopping 17. This is the maximum
number of ISPs we checked out in any city. Besides these, there were some others
too, but they offered specialized services.

Help!

This was the most interesting part, where we didn’t wait to
see what time of the day (or night) it was. We just called up every ISP and
sprayed them with our flurry of questions. In case of Value Online, no one’s
available at the helpdesk after 7 pm.

We didn’t have any trouble with the helpdesks of most ISPs.
They were very cooperative, no matter what time of the day or night it was. The
ones we had trouble with were MTNL and VSNL. Initially, we couldn’t manage to
get through to MTNL’s helpdesk numbers. Once we got through, they were very
responsive. They also have a Website listing of all the numbers you could
possibly need for any sort of help.

At the VSNL helpdesk, whoever was at the other end wanted to
get it all over with fast. We had to repeat our query in Hindi after starting
off in English. The person then asked someone else in the background the same
question, and gave us an answer. Before we could ask our next question, the
receiver was already down at the other end.

The other one where we had trouble was Satyam. Satyam has a
long and tedious voicemail system that takes you through a long process of
punching keys, entering your STD code followed by your telephone number, and so
on. Our first attempt failed. On second attempt, they answered some questions,
and then gave us another number to call. We never got through to this number.

At Pacific Internet, we managed to get through on our second
attempt. In case of Mantra, it was close to impossible to get through their
numbers. The number we’d copied from their Website was apparently their sales
office number. We got the new numbers, but faced the same problem. And when we
finally got the ringing tone, no one picked up the call.

How easy is it to buy an account?

We encountered pretty tedious purchase processes for some of
the ISPs. Yes, we mean processes. They are that long-winded. For example, MTNL
has agents all over Mumbai, and the entire list is given on their Website.
However, you still have to fill up a form and deposit it at the MTNL office.
When we asked for 25 or 35 hour accounts, two of the agents said they don’t
have them. One of them mentioned that they don’t get any profits out of
selling these. They only keep the 100-hour or more accounts.

For getting a VSNL account, you still have to go to their
office, fill up a form and deposit the money. In both the cases, account
activation takes place later.

Unfortunately, some of the smaller ISPs in the city also have
a similar setup. Nanda Netcom for example doesn’t have any dealers anywhere.
You have to go to their office, fill up a form, deposit the fee, and then they
activate the account. There’s no starter CD either. They give you the
photocopy of instructions on how to connect. Our account didn’t take much time
to get activated though. In case of Value Online, however, it took a day for
them to activate our account.

In case of Sigma Online, we had to call them up to register.
Remember that this is the account that we couldn’t register at Bangalore. The
software registration wizard doesn’t let you do it automatically. You have to
give the serial number printed on the account you purchased, and they register
you. Unfortunately, after they registered us, we weren’t able to connect.
After many attempts and phone calls at the helpdesk, they gave us a temporary
account to use. This worked, and they finally set our account right after that.
Their software, once installed, is pretty useful. There’s a bar from where you
can connect to the Net, check your e-mail, etc. It automatically calls the
required Windows utilities for you.

Out of all the accounts, BSES Telecom was the easiest to
purchase. We made one phone call, and someone came over with the account after
one hour.

How easy is it to connect?

In the case of five ISPs, we managed to connect Internet at
the first attempt. These were RoltaNet, Mantra Online, bplnet, Value Online, and
ZeeNext. They all gave us a connect speed of more than 40 kbps.

In the case of VSNL, MTNL, NandaNet, and Pacific Internet, we
had a hard time getting through. With VSNL, we managed to connect four times out
of 14. Plus, we couldn’t connect speeds greater than 33.6 kbps. The same was
the case with NandaNet. For the remaining ISPs, we managed to get through
faster, and connect speeds were pretty good too.

Mumbai’s best

Overall, there seems to be a massive bandwidth crunch in
Mumbai. For most of the ISPs, we got pretty good connect speeds, which were
greater than 40 kbps. However, there wasn’t any throughput when we tried to
browse or download our test file. This happened no matter what time of the day
or night we tried.

Of all the ISPs, Satyam and Sigma Online provided the best
online experience. Satyam gave us the best transfer rates no matter what time we
connected. Sigma Online was also pretty easy to connect to, once we got
registered. They gave us excellent transfer rates in the night, with daytime
transfer rates also being very good. And their helpdesk was very cooperative at
all times.

Anil Chopra and
Sandeep Saxena@Mumbai

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