Friday, August 24, 2012

A Talk With an Etisalat Rep and Some DC HSPA+ Perspective

I’m not entirely sure I should call Abdul a rep but let’s just say right off the bat that rep is purely a term that I have given him. And like I mentioned during the live stream, I would relate most of the stuff I spoke to him about. It’s not a lot but it was insightful although there’s still an empty spot I need to fill by giving a call to the Etisalat hotline. Shame on me for not doing my research. First things first,

A quick recap of DC HSPA+

At the time of writing this post I’ve had the chance to be exposed to two presentations by Etisalat on the same topic, tested the new connection in more than one scenario, two locations and I think that makes it a little fair to give a small commentary and summary on what this is all about. Essentially, by allowing two simulataneous connections to originate from the same source the speed that one can achieve gets doubled. Both the practical and the theoretical speeds. But no one cares about the theoretical speeds right? Caveat though, there are three requirements that need to be fulfilled to achieve the new speeds. First up is the dual carrier compatible device. Second, is an ISP with the infrastructure to provide the speeds without choking the network. And finally is the capability of the servers you are contacting (ex: YouTube’s) to serve you at the max speed that the device is capable of.

The Rationale

When speaking with Abdul I was curious as to how they would be marketing this package. Let’s face it. Broadband is good enough to stream videos without a problem. YouTube videos at 720p and above can give issues but up to 480p is fine and honestly, that’s really good enough usually for most fail + cat videos. Even for the olympics, 360p was absolutely fine for a 21 inch screen. So why would most people need double the network speed at quite possibly more than double the price?

The first answer that came through was that this was being targeted as a family package kind of thing. This was in fact reinforced during the presentation at Refresh Colombo when the presenter mentioned that families would be able to share this connection without experiencing a drop in quality of their individual experiences. This also made sense with the fact that in the slides and the promotions the Etisalat groups were carrying around DC HSPA+ compatible MiFi units.

But that gave room to the question of corporate packages. Corporates don’t seem to be amongst the main target groups for this kind of thing based on what I understood since they are more based on the fixed line connections. There is in my opinion another avenue for this tech in corporates which is the small (like <10 people) businesses starting up these days. Connections like this would be ideal for ad hoc free lance partners to have fast internet without being burdened by fixed line issues. Of course, I think I’m stating the obvious here but I just want to open it up for discussion.

Pricing & Concluding Thoughts

When technology isn’t being geared towards the individual you have to imagine that it isn’t going to be cheap either. After all, it’s for the group and therefore the per individual cost may stay the same. Based on that, I’m guessing since these packages are probably aimed at groups of 3 people and more the price should be roughly 2.5x that of any comparable package. The equipment should also be about 3-6x more expensive. The question though is whether or not it’s worth it. If the internet works as advertised, I’m inclined to say it is based on how much data is included under each tier. Looking at what Etisalat has right now, the Rs. 1,500 package gives a user 12gb before requiring extra payment for each Mb (20 cents per Mb). SLT gives a user 25gb  at 8Mbps for that amount. To get to 25GB you’d have to pay an extra Rs. 2662.40 to Etisalat under the current connection. Add that to your SLT bill and you would be Rs. 700 away from the Web Pro package that gives 60GB at 8Mbps.

Speed does matter, but with speed and plans to create family oriented packages I think Etisalat would have to choose to get rid of their existing packages and tailor some new ones since all that added speed is going to amount to people completing their quotas really really fast. 12GB is honestly nothing at all. My smartphone usage is 25% of that per month usually so one can imagine what my standard internet usage is like. And as for SLT’s quality of service, beyond the FUD you see on the internet I’ve actually been hearing good things about their newer packages which means that in a battle for pricing I’d still not go with Etisalat. Of course one could say this is Apples and Oranges but given that it’s a family package oriented thing I don’t think the fact that I’m comparing fixed line vs mobile broadband really comes into play here.

The one other concern I do have of course is coverage. I had a chance to play with an Etisalat DC HSPA+ connection at Refresh Colombo yesterday and the maximum I could pull from it was 0.3 Mbps!! That’s ****!! But to be fair we had some crazy rain but then again the rain had died down pretty much by that time so I don’t see how that really works. After all, my dialog dongle was clocking 2Mbps before I knocked it out of the USB slot thereby ruining the rest of my test.

So there you have it. A full evaluation of the Etisalat DC HSPA+ ‘initiative’. In summary, the speeds are real when they do work, the applications for individuals apart from journalists are minimal enough to not make the jump and the charges that could surround this are also a little doubtful BUT I will not make a final call till I call the hotline and hear what they have to say. So, there will be an update to this post but for now this is it.

1 comment:

  1. yes, 12GB is not enough at all, at least with this current speed. Actually more faster you browse, more data you need. You will reach 12GB in no time and later struggle with the huge bill you are getting afterwards. Also as you said, SLT is not a solution for me, I need my connection to be portable at all times. If they are increasing the speed, they need to increase data caps as well. If not browsing with limited speed (at least 2mbps like Dialog or Hutch) is better for your pocket