Tuesday, March 26, 2013

[In Review] PTCL Broadband

PTCL is Pakistan's biggest provider of data services. Their broadband reach spans the complete country and they are an indomitable force in ISPs with over 1 million subscribers nationwide. Despite this, they come under fire numerous times due to their lackluster customer services and rickety infrastructure.

Installation was a hassle. I had to wait for nearly 1.5 week before the installation guy came and that too after tons of phone calls to the customer service representative. Apparently, there is zero coordination between the organization - every-time I called them they said a man was on the way.

Quality Metrics:

The speed of my connection is fairly good for a PTCL connection. Then again this might be due to the fiber availability in my area and my connection's proximity to ONU (gray boxes on the roadside with a PTCL logo on them). I normally get around 490 kbps+ for direct download and 98 kbps+ for upload. Top speeds in torrents remain the same, however they are prone to inexplicable drops but recover soon afterwards. You might need some tweaking to get to those speeds because an unoptimized P2P connection won't take you beyond 250 kbps. If you haven't forwarded a port for your torrent client then it is even worse - you will get abysmal download speeds (less than 15kbps) but superlative upload speeds (greater than or close to 100 kbps). On the other hand, the ping remains pretty excellent at between 30-50 ms within the country. (There was no good PingTest server close to my location.)

I used to experience a lot of downtime with PTCL. The connection sometimes suddenly goes down without any
A PTCL customer should
get used to this symbol.
 reason. I found that most of these connection drops are related to PTCL's shitty and sluggish DNS servers. Changing my default DNS servers to OpenDNS ( & fixed almost all downtime problems but still every now and then I get a "No Internet Access" logo.

Device quality:
I have the standard-issue FiberHome AN 1020-25 modem-cum-router. The device is pretty good and its WiFi signal strength is quite awesome. The coverage are is greater than my TP-Link WR740N router which impressed me.

Customer service:
PTCL's customer service is very shoddy. It seems like their is no coherence among the different levels of the organization and in general it feels like they care little about us customers. Complaints aren't resolved until you go down to your respective exchange or utilize the influence of some higher authority. Unlike Wateen, their selfcare portal is more like a framework than something functional. It has never worked for me however I have read that it was functional for some period in 2011. With the new transfer caps in effect, there is no way to check your bandwidth usage apart from calling 1236. Two years and they still can't fix a damn portal - speaks volume about PTCL's commitment to customer satisfaction.
The PTCL portal is as rudimentary as portals get. No stats or data except for account info are accessible.

PTCL's unlimited packages from 1 mbps to 8 mbps are not unlimited in the true sense of the word. A 300 GB download+upload limit is applicable on all such connections. Exceeding this limit will incur a penalty of Rs. 5000. This fair usage limit is justifiable for low bandwidth connections like 1-2 mbps but slapping this on high-speed internet beyond 4 mbps is unwarranted. The PTCL people should at least increment it with the increasing download speed.

The Bottom Line:
PTCL's speeds vary across the consumer spectrum plus their customer service isn't all that great. So, I would recommend that before getting rid of your previous connection do a test run of PTCL. Your experience in the first week will tell you how they will shape-up for you. If you are acquiring broadband for the first time then it is advisable to ask around your neighborhood about PTCL's standard of service in your area.
All in all, PTCL will turn out great for a few but worst for many. It is, however, fairly good for me. I know many would disagree but I am giving them 4/5.

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