Year In Review: Connectivity

This is part of a series of posts on some of the products I have used and come to love/hate through the year.

About five months ago, I switched to Tata Indicom Wimax. Having previously used their data card, I was very apprehensive about signing up for it. But, having moved to working from a home office, reliable connectivity was a major requirement for me, which, my provider at that time, MTNL, was not. They had fiber cuts due to employees being on strike, horrific network latency and many other problems. At one point we had no connectivity for about three days and that is where I decided to draw the line.

I had heard good things about Tata Indicom Wimax from Surinder who had been using the service for a while by then. I would have gladly gone with Airtel, but they don't service the block that I live in, which is astonishing because this is bang in the middle of South Delhi and for some strange reason they have not bothered to cover this particular block. And it is not like there is no demand for broadband here. I know of three other customers for the Wimax service in the same block and there are many more on the crappy local cable internet service.

Surprisingly, Indicom's customer service is pretty decent. My request was processed quite quickly and even though the local franchisee made a hash of it later (usual problems with Indian Slow Time), that too was resolved quickly. The only requirement for Wimax to work is to have a good line of sight to a nearby tower of the company. So, it is essential that you have permissions to install the antenna on the terrace of your house and to run the cable down into your residence from there.

In crowded areas getting the signal right can take a bit of time, but once that is done you just have to sign up with their customer portal and you are good to go. All the basic plans come with a private IP that can be easily converted to a public IP by paying Rs 200 more. I chose the Infinity 384 plan, which is one of those somewhat-unlimited plans. There is no dialer software required for the service, but it does require you to renew your session at the customer portal every 7-hours or so. It should not be too hard to write a script to get around this, but I've not felt the need for it.

The Positives

1. Stable and reliable: I've not had a single instance of downtime with the service in about five months now. The speeds are consistently good and I easily get 40 KBps average on downloads easily.

2. Reasonable FUP. The combined (up/down) traffic limit for a month on my plan is 70 GB. Even with heavy downloads, my usage maxes out at 30 GB, leaving me with plenty of room to spare.

3. Online Payments: I can pay the bills online. Which is very important for a lazy ass like me.

4. The customer portal: Apparently it has been redone ever since I joined up. But it gives very good usage statistics and breakdowns.

The Negatives

1. The session logouts after the 7-hour limit. It is irritating initially and probably flouts the 'always-on' requirement for broadband, but I have made my peace with it for the stability I've had with the service.

2. The unit can take a while (~10 minutes) to get back on to the network after a power disruption. It is a good idea to buy a low capacity UPS just for this.