Here I attempt to answer an age old question – is there any halfway decent internet connectivity option in Karachi?
_Updated July 29, 2005_
to cut a long story short, here are my recommendations:
*1) CyberDSL* – see ‘here for my impressions’:http://ko.offroadpakistan.com/pakistan/2004_11/cybernet_home_dsl_diary.html (It’s the only affordable DSL provider I know of). More companies are starting up, but so far I haven’t heard about them.
*2) Dialup* – ‘Cybernet’:http://www.cyber.net.pk, ‘Fascom’:http://fascom.com and ‘Supernet’:http://www.super.net.pk are the best dialup ISP’s. See ‘Cybernet HiSpeed’:http://www.cyber.net.pk/cyberhispeed/ – it’s a good example of dialup done right.
*3) ISDN* :: Isdn used to be at #2 on the list, but it really doesn’t belong here. There are no affordable 24/7 packages on ISDN, nor is it broadband. Any place one can get ISDN, a DSL connection will also be available, so don’t bother with ISDN.
*4) GOCDMA* – For those with bad/noisy telepone lines this is the best option besides cable internet. Sadly, Telecard has not implemented this feature properly, and it is closer to fraudulent advertising than a usable internet connection.
h4. New Entrants
_new services starting up_
* “Connect2B”:http://www.connect2b.net :: A new cable internet provider. I haven’t heard anything about this yet. Their website doesn’t work properly in Firefox. They are using WorldCall’s fibreoptic network, which is a big negative.
_January 27, 2005_ PTCL has halved internet bandwidth rates. A number of ISP’s had been sitting on the sidelines waiting to introduce home DSL packages at affordable rates. Hopefully this will lead to more competition and lower prices. Most importantly, the line rent ISP’s have to pay for DSL has gone down to Rs. 250 from the former 750. I hope the above recommendations will be changing soon to reflect this…
h4. overview of the above recommendations
*1) CyberDSL:* The best home internet service I’ve used _(or heard of)_ so far. Other ISP’s also offer decent DSL services, better even, but they are all priced for the corporate market. See ‘my earlier post on DSL’:http://ko.offroadpakistan.com/pakistan/2003_09/dsl_let_the_game_begin.html – I wrote that in Sep 2003, and sadly enough DSL is still at the same stage still.
*2) ISDN*: Shahriyar’s experience with ISDN:
bq. i have recently converted my telephone to ISDN line. the conversion took a week and costed me 431.00 Rs. they also give you the ISDN modem costing 12,000 Rs for free. you have to belive this. after getting the ISDN line working i got ISDN loose hours from Supernet for 1100Rs (50 hours). the internet is blazing fast. at 64k the download speed is 7-8K/sec while at 128k the speed is 14-16k/sec.
The bad thing about ISDN is that it is limited to 128kbps. See ‘PTCLs page on ISDN’:http://www.ptcl.com.pk/isdn_bri.html, and ‘Supernets website’:http://www.super.net.pk. ISDN is expensive as you pay per hour – so it’s not for people looking for a 24/7 connection.
*3) Dialup:* The good old standby. The majority of the country will be on dialup for a long long time. The good thing about dialup is that by now the better ISP’s have mastered it.
*4) GOCDMA:* Telecard recently launched a ‘CDMA’:http://www.gocdma.com.pk/ service in Pakistan. As I posted earlier, and according to Telecard themselves, expect 30-60kbps speeds. GOCDMA _(that’s a really crap name)_ is currently running on the ‘CDMA2000’:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CDMA2000 1x standard, which has a maximum therotical bandwidth of 300kbps, but in reality falls far short. It is targeted more towards voice services, as it has six times the capacity of GSM or TDMA systems, and it is fast enough for cell phone access to the internet, but definitly not suitable as a primary internet connection. They are also engaging in false advertising – CDMA2000 1X is *not* 3G – as I’ve seen plastered on their advertisements in all the major newspapers. In the US and Europe CDMA2000 1X networks give 40kbps to 70kbps speeds, so the same network running in Pakistani can’t be expected to be magically faster here. Of course, once they further upgrade their network to CDMA2000 1X EV-DO then megabit speeds will be possible, but since they have just started their service I don’t see them upgrading their network anytime soon. Zahid’s take on the GOCDMA service:
bq. ….u will get maximum of 10Kbytes, and normally around 3-4 KBytes, with timeouts and disconnects after every few minutes.
Mobilink is also starting up their GPRS/EDGE network soon, which should give similar speeds to the GOCDMA internet phone – that is if they ever manage to fix their GSM network, which doesn’t work most of the time. If they can implement GPRS/EDGE properly it will be be faster than Telecard’s GOCDMA service, but going on Mobilink’s track record this is highly unlikely.
At the moment a fixed internet connection is the only way to go – I am a big fan of wireless internet as PTCL is really unreliable and I would rather not use their phone lines, but the current wireless options just can’t compete with dsl or even cable internet. For emailing and light web browsing GOCDMA is good enough – but then so is a modem.
h4. avoid at all costs
1) WorldCall – see ‘here’:http://ko.offroadpakistan.com/pakistan/2003_09/worldcall_4_month_review.html and ‘here’:http://ko.offroadpakistan.com/pakistan/2004_09/worldcall_review_update.html for my experiences.
2) All other Cable internet operators. These are just too sad to write about. There are very few good ones – I haven’t heard of any yet – so it’s unlikely they’ll be in your area.
3) the thousand and one fly-by-night ISPS offering a gazallion hours for 20-100 rupees. Most are just not worth it.
Why all this angst about internet connectivity? It’s the 21’s century, and yet so many people still do not understand what is arguably the most important invention of the last century – the internet. See ‘this’:http://ko.offroadpakistan.com/computing/2004_12/an_open_letter_to_all_pakistani_isps.html.
*It’s not just the speed with broadband*, when pages load in milliseconds instead of minutes than people start using it more and more… which in turn leads to the justification for the high speed internet. Forget about the hordes of teenages downloading porn and tv shows, once normal people start using broadband they realize how much more than just faster speed, the faster speed means.
While you might not NEED the speed of high speed Internet, you admit you want the convenience of always on service. Once the broadband is there, it will be used – *a concept which Pakistani ISP’s seem completely unable to grasp.*
As of this writing, _(Feb 2005)_ despite our last Prime Minister, the sainted Mr. Jamali flying around the world attending IT conferences of all things and the government issuing broadband policies and devoting lots of time and money to making big noises about broadband this and internet that, *there is no affordable internet connection available in this country*. Nothing whatsoever.
One of the problems is that Pakistani consumers are willing to tolerate the crappiest services known to man. The biggest mobile phone company in this country is a prime example, as are most ISPs in this country, as well as the local car manufacturers… the list is depressingly long.
The one good thing about internet services are that it is relatively easier to switch. There is no telephone number to worry about, and most home users can tolerate the 1-2 days it might take to switch ISPs. The government is totally useless – just imagine the service the ‘worst mobile phone company known to man’:http://www.mobilinkgsm.com/ would scramble to provide if the PTA stopped using threats and outright blackmail to get them to improve, and instead uttered the magic words ‘number portablity’:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Telephone_number_portability. New upcoming telephone providers would jump up and down with joy and pay all costs plus the necessary bribes for setting up such a system. Instead we have a govt. uttering endless empty threats while consumers get shafted.
Internet services have been non existent in this country for too long, and now that they are finally starting up they seem to be heading the same direction as our current cellular companies. As consumers, about the only, and the most powerfull thing we can do is to vote with our wallets.
This quote from ‘Om Malik’:http://www.gigaom.com/2005/02/23/indian-broadband-battles-continue/ sums up the Pakistani broadband situation quite well: _(just replace India with Pakistan)_
bq. I find that most Indian companies are offering metered broadband access, treating bandwidth like a scarce commodity. That is a bone headed move only thought up by bureaucrats who are used to playing the scarcity game. Growing up there, getting a phone connection was so hard and often involved baksheesh. That mentality prevails. These boneheads should realize that in order to stay competitive Indians need to have as much speed as they can get for the lowest possible price. Look at Koreans, and Chinese.
Shakir Husain sums up Pakistan’s telecom industry. His analysis applies to the ISP industry also, except for the fact that it’s in a shabbier state consumer wise than even the mobile phone industry.
bq.. Today is a brilliant day for me as I get to deprive my (at the time of print ex) cellular service provider of my hard earned money. Ladies and gentlemen, I just voted with my wallet. Mistreated, overcharged, ripped off, treated without an ounce of respect, and utterly exasperated; we, the customers, get to hit back for the first time. I have personally waited for about two years to dump my existing cellular company.
.. Why didn’t I switch services, friends asked me? To tell you the truth, I, like thousands of others, didn’t really have much of an option; as most companies provided the same level of technology and service.
…I feel I’ve put in my time with thousands of other customers; bearing the dropped calls, the static, the no service, the bad service, and the ulcers. I watched from the sidelines as these very same companies that were shamelessly providing substandard services to their customers spent millions of rupees on branding, debranding, rebranding, launches, events, and goodness knows what. What about the basic service/product seethed the customers.
…So even though we don’t have a democratic system to get rid of incompetent rulers and officials, today we are seeing a wave of commercial democratisation, greater choices, and the ability to vote with our wallets, and pay back the fat cats who haven’t delivered the goods to us.
>> “Shakir Husain: The customer strikes back”:http://www.jang.com.pk/thenews/mar2005-daily/16-03-2005/oped/o4.htm
p. There are a few good ISP’s in Pakistan, but they unfortunately aren’t targeting the consumer market. The govt. is no help either. In India:
bq. Any download speed which is at 256 kbps or more alone can be termed as broadband service. Therefore, the telecom operators should not mislead the consumers by making such advertisements or adopt any marketing tactics, which would defeat the very purpose of broadband services, the release said.
The broadband policy *defines the broadband connectivity as an always-on-minimum� download speed of 256 kbps.* The government has strictly warned the telecom operators who indulge in marketing or posing to provide broadband services at download speeds of 64 kbps and 128 kbps to refrain from such activities…these types of services will not come under the category of broadband services.
>> ‘Minimum 256 kbps for broadband, insists DoT’:http://www.financialexpress.com/fe_full_story.php?content_id=85531
256kbps is an internationally accepted as the minumum speed which can be considered broadband. In this country we have ISP’s advertising 64 and 128kbps as ‘broadband’ with the whole hearted approval of our so called regulatory authorities. Thumbing it’s nose at the rest of the world, the govt. has redefined broadband as 128kbps and above in its ‘broadband policy’:http://ispak.org/docs/Broadband%20Policy%20for%20Pakistan%202004.pdf. Who knows, next they might redefine the Pakistani litre as half that of the international litre to make life easier for the oil companies.
h4. related links
* ‘BusinessWeek – Pakistan: Birth Of A Telecom Revolution’:http://www.businessweek.com/print/magazine/content/05_05/b3918096.htm?chan=mz
* ‘An open letter to all Pakistani ISPs’:http://ko.offroadpakistan.com/computing/2004_12/an_open_letter_to_all_pakistani_isps.html
* “south-asian.com”:http://www.google.com/search?q=site%3Awww.the-south-asian.com%20pakistan%20broadband has a number of very informative articles on the telcom/broadband industries in Pakistan. All the articles are worth reading, though some are a bit dated now.
* “Pakistan’s broadband policy”:http://ispak.org/docs/Broadband%20Policy%20for%20Pakistan%202004.pdf :: recommended reading.
* ‘Internet links in Pakistan’:http://ko.offroadpakistan.com/pakistan/2005_07/internet_links_in_pakistan.html
_this page is updated about once a month. The recommendations are current as of the date below, and will change over time. Please use the ‘forums here’:/forums for discussion of internet services in this country._