Sunday, November 21, 2010

Tikona WiBro

I was on the lookout for an internet connection in Chennai. I recently moved to Chennai due to a job transfer and was missing the Home Unlimited Dataone connection at home. I wanted something that would get me connected quick and wouldn't burn a hole in my wallet. Unlimited data transfer at reliable speeds (even 512 kbps would suffice, if it was reliable) was my requirement

All the wired plans required an investment on a modem or a monthly rental payout. As the duration of my stay in Chennai was not guaranteed, I was not interested in the outright purchase of a modem/router. I was therefore also looking for options other than the major contenders. I zeroed in on two - BSNL's EVDO based portable connection and Tikona's Wibro.

BSNL's EVDO was portable, offered free roaming outside the home circle and offered upto 2.4 Mbps with unlimited data transfer. The tariff - a mere Rs 750 (dirt cheap when compared to the private operators' offerings - Reliance NetConnect and Tata Photon Plus) and a purchase price of Rs 2500 for the modem. The catch? The network was unreliable, and therefore portability was not practicable. The speeds also depended (due to EVDO's inherent nature) on the distance from the basestation and the number of users accessing the network. With some compromises, this seemed real value for money.

That was until I chanced upon Tikona's Wibro. The internet (forums, review sites etc.) was flooded with reviews against this provider. They had issues galore: cheats masquerading as technicians who would pocket money and never turn up, poor/no connectivity, poor speeds/ ping times and pathetic plans. But on looking up their website, I gathered that they had introduced new plans very recently and were also offering " pay after installation". Their unlimited plans were really tempting for what they were charging. Unlimited data transfer at 512kbps at Rs 599 per month was better than what any operator offered. And the deal clincher was the installation charge of Rs 500, all inclusive (modem, cable all included). A wifi router would cost an additional Rs 75 but I didn't need one.

So I called up the customer care and fixed up a visit by their technician. They asked for 48 hours time and gave me an 8pm- 9pm slot as per my request (I don't know of any other operators who serve you at that slot). The next evening some guy from Tikona called to ask if they could pick up the necessary papers – some proofs and a filled in subscription form. They were a day early, but I had the papers ready. The guy came and collected the papers and informed that the technician would come the day after to provide the connection and that I should hand over to payment cheque to him after testing the connection.

The next day, the technician turned up sharp at 8 pm and installed the Ruckus Mediaplex device on my terrace. A CAT 5 cable was brought to my room and connected to my laptop. All these in about 15 minutes! This device on the terrace is a repeater kind of device which just extends the range of the wireless gateway on the roof top of a nearby house. If I was close enough to that house, I could have probably got a wifi connection gratis! He tested the connection, gave me some instructions and left. I would be getting my access credentials the next day after a verification call. The next day I got the call at about 12 pm and the password mailed to me by 4pm. I was very eager to test the connection as loads of people had complained of poor connectivity when Tikona's technicians were not around!

As soon as I got home, I checked the connection. I did not get the full speed as promised, but it was not bad either.  I was getting  400kbps + down and 240 kbps + up and a ping time of 65 ms on an average. I had a working "broadband connection" in 3 days! Over the last two weeks this has been consistent with hardly any downtime.

This connection works on the unlicensed wireless spectrum (the same one used by cordless phones and other retail wireless devices). For a wireless connection the performance has been more than satisfactory.  The ease with which I got the connection and the value for money that it provides makes it worth a try for any one with similar needs as I had.

A warning for "online gamers" and heavy users of online storage sites: Wireless connections inherently have poor ping times and can have interruptions (even if for a few seconds) due to interferance, loss of line of sight etc. Therefore gaming might not be smooth due to unsatisfactory ping times and downloading large files with no resume support may be an issue as well. So choose wisely according to your needs!

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