In Bangalore, ask anyone which is the best broadband service and they will have only one answer: Airtel Broadband.
- Fast activation: Activation takes only 2-3 days from the day you fill up the application form and make the payment. Very unlike BSNL!
- Minimal downtime: Downtime is very minimal and they inform you in advance through SMS when they are going to take the network down for maintenance. Also, the maintenance windows are usually between 12 AM to 3 AM when most of us would be sleeping.
- Excellent customer care: Customer care is very good and prompt at handling cases. I once raised a ticket on the Airtel website as my home network was constantly flapping after I shifted to a new residence. I got a phone call from the field engineer within an hour! In another half an hour he was at my house and traced the problem down to faulty DNS settings in my laptop.Even for other issues like change in bill plan, shifting the connection, etc. their response is quick and resolution is done within the promised time.
- Consistently good speeds: With Airtel, you get what you’re promised. I’ve never had problems such as websites opening slowly, slow downloads and so on. The speed is fast (sometimes faster than your plan promises) and is consistent. Download speeds are incredible too.
- Choice of wired or Wi-Fi modem: They give you a choice of wired modem or Wi-Fi modem (both Beetel ones). Again, you can choose whether you wish to purchase the modem outright or pay a monthly rental. I heard the rental for Wi-Fi modem was Rs. 99/- per month but with some plans it seems to be free. The normal wired modem is certainly free with all plans. For outright purchase, the Wi-Fi modem costs Rs. 1850/- as per their website.Of course, I finally went in for a Linksys WAG200G Wi-Fi modem because it has much more configuration and security options and its signal quality is far superior to that of Beetel’s modems (and also because I got it for cheap since I work for Cisco). Its setup program has built-in settings for Airtel and BSNL, so setting it up for my Airtel DSL connection was a cakewalk!
- Full-featured website: Many things such as request for bill plan change, bill payments, checking usage, etc. can be done through your account via their website. You also have a Feedback option for support tickets you’ve raised, so you can complain if a ticket was closed without resolving the issue. They also call me up after a ticket is closed to verify that the issue has been satisfactorily resolved.
- Landline facility: Being a DSL connection, you get an Airtel landline with the modem too. Most broadband tariff plans give you 1-2 hours of free local talktime, which is an added attraction. It has all the features of BSNL landlines such as Caller Line Identification (CLI), outgoing call locking (you can set a security code to lock/unlock outgoing calls by dialling 123-xxxx-xxxx where xxxx is a 4-digit numeric code, and then lock or unlock all outgoing calls by dialling 124-xxxx-4 or 124-xxxx-0 respectively), morning alarm, call waiting, call forwarding, etc.
I really can’t think of any serious downsides, but here are some:
- No free CLI facility: The CLI facility should be free, as is the case with BSNL.
- Internet usage: Slightly non-intuitive method of getting usage details for Internet (data transfer in MBs), unlike BSNL DataOne which is very transparent. To check the broadband usage for Airtel, you need to create an account on the Airtel website and get your landline number added there by submitting a form for the same at the nearest Airtel Relationship Center. Once that happens, you will see an entry each for your landline and broadband in your account. Now, go to the ‘Account Information’ section and click on the link for your broadband connection. Once inside, click on ‘View unbilled details’ link. This will show you the total data transfer details in terms of MBs and units (1 unit = 10 KB). You can modify the ‘from’ and ‘to’ dates to see the details over a period of time.
- Limited coverage: Unlike BSNL, which has been around for ages, Airtel has started its service relatively recently, so there are still areas in Bangalore where they haven’t laid their cables yet. If you happen to be unlucky enough to be in such an area, you can try BSNL DataOne (takes ages to get a DSL connection) or worse, Tata Indicom, Reliance or Hathway.
- Limited DSL ports: In every area, they have a limited number of ports (one port is needed for every broadband subscriber). If they have no free ports in your area, you can’t get a connection from them and you just have to wait for someone else to give up their connection, or for them to increase their ports there.
So get Airtel Broadband if you can and enjoy surfing!