Getting a decent internet connection in Pakistan is just about impossible – see my ‘past’:http://ko.offroadpakistan.com/pakistan/2003_09/worldcall_4_month_review.html ‘experiences’:http://ko.offroadpakistan.com/pakistan/2004_09/worldcall_review_update.html with ‘Worldcall’:http://go4b.net as a shining example. So news of Cybernet starting up home dsl at affordable rates came as a great relief – finally after long last a professional company was entering the slightly-faster-than-dialup arena! But in Pakistan however, nothing comes easy – so, this here post chronicles my attempt to acquire Cybernet home dsl… read on for the gory details:
*Oct 30* After hearing from a friend that Cybernet had started
offering home DSL services, I rang them up to get the details.
64K …Rs 1570 or $26
128K …Rs 2270 or $37
256K …Rs 3770 or $62
Setup: Rs. 6500 including installation and modem.
They say this bandwith is shared between 4 users. It is uncapped, I
specifically asked them about this. 64K will give 8kbps downloads,
128k 16kbps and 256 32kbps.
p. I emailed them a number of technical questions about the sevice:
bq.. Please send details about your Home DSL service. Specifically:
1) Area of coverage in Karachi
2) Advantages v.s WorldCall cable internet – Why should I switch?
4) Bandwidth caps – Is there a download limit?
5) Do you provide any Value added services, like web space for users,
or faster local speeds, gaming servers etc.? If not now, are there any
plans to introduce any such services in the future?
6) Size of email account?
7) if my phone line has problems, do u arrange for PTCL to have it
fixed? Is there an extra charge?
8) Do you have any QOS gurantees?
9) In the case of a DSL disruption, do u provide a backup dialup account?
10) VOIP – do you block voice over ip services like net2phone?
11) Latency – what response times will I get from international servers?
12) Upload speeds – will they be same as download speeds?
13) Support – does cybernet have support via email?
What packages do you offer for corporate use? Please also answer the
above questions for corporate DSL.
p. *Nov 1:* Went to a cybernet office and signed up for the home dsl service. Filled out all the forms – to be precise, there were four of them, including one meant for corporates.
*Nov 3:* No contact from cybernet so far. They did take down
four different means of contacting me – it would be nice to hear a
progress report, or even to find out if they are actually doing
something with the four forms I’ve filled out. It’s been five days
since I sent the above email to three different Cybernet addresses and got back three different auto replies. My current ISP at home,
WorldCall, hasn’t replied to any of the emails I’ve sent them over the past 2 years, but I expect better of Cybernet.
*Nov 4:* Talked to Cybernet on the phone. They have started crunching
the paperwork. There were 4 forms, so I guess it will take some time.
They called back to confirm the phone number to check for DSL.
*Nov 6:* No reply from cybernet yet to my emails. That is a
dissapointment – I was expecting better. They’ve had the weekend and a full working week to reply, so I assume it’s been delegated to the
dustbin. I have found out from ZD that Cybernet is planning to offer
256kbps ADSL at Rs. 1200 early next year.
*Nov 13:* This is the last working day before Eid. Cybernet had said
they would have the conenction up and running by Eid. I called
Cybernet in the morning at 9:50am but could not actually talk to
anyone who knew about their home DSL services. Left a message, but no
one called back. Will now check with them after Eid, but having given
a date, they shold have called/emailed/faxed/texted when they couldn’t make it and given a new time.
*Nov 18:* Nothing yet… but then during Ramzan this country shuts down and only wakes up for iftar.
*Nov 19:* They’ve given Saturday as the time now.
*Nov 22:* No news from Cybernet – this is really not on. A halfway
professional company would at least inform the customer about
unforseen delays. I haven’t received any reply to my emails to them
yet – none whatsoever beyond the autoreplier. Lets see what tomorrow brings…
*Nov 24*: Finally got a call from Cybernet – they apologized for the delay, and said the dsl link should be up by the end of the week. No email reply yet to my queries.
*Nov 28*: Someone from Cybernet came to check the telephone line. It didn’t inspire too much faith that the ‘technical specialist’ who had come to check the phone line didn’t know what a ‘pabx’:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PABX was and couldn’t find the incoming telephone line despite the manual for the pabx being right next to it. _(I was at work)_ Came home early to point out the right wire. While I guess it is ok to not want to fiddle with these high tech gadets like exhanges _(and cordless phones perhaps?)_ it is not ok that the person was ready to check the telephone extension for dsl connectivity. DSL technology works over contiguous copper. Therefore, users must not be behind a PABX or use Wireless Local Loop etc to obtain phone service. The suprising thing is that Cybernet has been providing corporate dsl services for some time now, so I’m sure they must encouter a pabx now and then out there in the corporate jungle.
Anyways, the end result was that the phone line passed the test. I think anyone looking for reliable internet needs to get two internet connections connected to something like ‘this’:http://www.xincom.com/. Once prices get cheaper for dsl, wireless, cable etc. that should be feasible.
*Nov 29:* …
*Nov 30:* So it turns out that the phone line is not up to the mark – the dsl modem is not getting a ‘good connection’.
*Dec 1:* More trickery with the phone lines. I think this will take a while.
*Dec 4:* It is taking a while, but at my end now. The lineman (two different ones) say that the fault lies within the house wiring. So the wiring needs to be changed. The moral of the data is that dsl is a prude – those digital bits turn down lines acceptable to humans…
-I already feel sorry for all those companies planning a mass consumer dsl rollout- well not really, but they will get unfairly blamed for problems which should lie within PTCL’s jurisdiction.
*Dec 8:* Having no internet at home is quite peaceful. Read a book.
*Dec 9:* Bought 250 feet of good/best quality telephone wire. Lets see what that does.
*Dec 13*: Completely rewired all internal wiring all the way to the pole outside. The telephone line is crystal clear for voice, but DSL still doesn’t work. Next suggestion: get the wiring changed all the way to the exhange! Aye curamba… this dsl stuff is painfull!
*Dec 14-16:* Found out that having two routers routing is not good. While I had the same setup before, after much googling it seems that dsl modems don’t play friendly with routers attached to them.
*Dec 18:* Took just a few minutes to switch over the dsl modem to bridged mode (well cybernet did all that) – I just changed the settings on the router. It seems to be working fine now.
*Dec 18 to Dec 28:* The Internet hasn’t worked for ten days now. It worked worked fine on the 18th, but stopped working sometime during the night. Finally complained to Cybernet yesterday.
*Dec 28:* The internet is restored – haven’t had time to check it yet. It seems they had messed up something at their end, as all the settings at my end are exactly the same as before.
*Dec 29 to Jan 9:* All issues seem to be sorted now. The internet has been working beautifully. An email I sent to someone asking about Cybernet’s DSL service:
bq.. I’ve been using Cybernet DSL 256kbps for about 10 days now – and it’s amazing. Works well, etc. Forget free, I wouldn’t use WordCall unless they paid me a nontrivial amount.
As for the cost, I don’t know yet. As you must have read in the papers recently, broadband prices have dropped by 50%, and so has line rent on DSL connections. They have told me that most likely it will be Rs. 1000-1200 for 256kbps – which is a pretty good price. It should already be available all over Karachi.
Their customer support (so far) is excellent, and higly knowledgable. I had my DSL modem set up in bridged mode – I don’t think any ISP here gives that kind of service. (or they charge extra). I had a few problems with the service initially, but that turned out to be PTCL cutting the line. That will happen occasionally, as when they are doing work at the exchange it can disrupt the DSL connection, but the cybernet people are in contact with lineman and other PTCL employees through which they get it fixed pretty fast. With Worldcall all their problems stemmed from the fact that they didn’t understand the basics of networking and computers ( I know because I went and chewed out some of their top technical people -twice- thrice – it is a really sad place – despite my knowing practically nothing about networking I still knew more basics than them).
p. *Jan 10 to April 7:* No problems whatsoever. Perhaps it’s the fact they have hardly any customers, but there hasn’t been a single glitch in the service for four months now.
Finally, I can listen to streaming radio with no problems – as long as the stream is under 48K. The ‘BBC’:http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio/ and ‘NPR’:http://npr.org have tons of radio online, including archives of past shows. On the flip side, streaming video doesn’t work. There is another issue with the connection: If I am downloading a large file, it sometimes stops partway, but if I use a download manager then downloads work just fine at about 28 kilobytes/sec.
*See ‘Internet connectivity in Pakistan’:http://ko.offroadpakistan.com/pakistan/2005_01/internet_connectivity_in_pakistan.html for my ongong review of internet connectivity options in Karachi.*
For up to date information on DSL, please see the “forums”:/forums.