Airtel Broadband remains one of the largest private sector internet service provider in the country. I have been their customer for many years now. And I have recommended their service to friends and family for most of that duration as well.
First few years on Airtel were amazing especially compared to my experience on other ISPs like Sify Broadband. Sify incidentally has not improved at all and consumers today face the same problems I used to face back in the early 2000s.
As for Airtel? Things changed when they introduced a fair usage policy on their connection few years ago.
None of their packages today are purely unlimited in nature. There is a fixed quota in all plans. You get the advertised speeds till this limit and after that your connection is downgraded to 256kbps. This was the incidentally the minimum speed defined by the Indian government on a connection to be called broadband.
By the way, Indian government has already announced the new definition of broadband which is supposed to be implemented this year. It is supposed to be 512kbps now but the ruling is not being enforced. ISPs around the country are still downgrading speeds on their internet plans to 256kbps meeting the bare minimum standards set by the government.
One of the major criticisms I have for airtel broadband is that the best reasonable plan they have on offer today has a fair usage limit of 150GB. I noticed that they have a new plan offering 175GB right now but the pricing is absurd…
We have been asking the company to launch plans with higher capacity for a long time. Instead of offering better packages, they keep on launching plans with more speeds with higher premium but with similar data limits.
The alternative we asked was the ability to buy additional bandwidth so that the user has the option to extend the FUP limit during his billing cycle. Airtel recently introduced this feature with the branding of SmartBytes.
However, what was to become a consumer friendly initiative has been turned into a scam by the company on their customers.
There are two major problems with SmartBytes…
The first one is pricing. Currently, they are charging between Rs. 30-100 per GB of bandwidth based on how much additional bandwidth you are purchasing. Plans available range from 1GB to 50GB. Pricing is same for all their consumers. It does not matter what your original plan is. So a consumer on a 3GB FUP limit can buy extra bandwidth for the same price that is charged to another customer on a 150GB FUP limit.
This is absurd.
I am on their 150GB plan that currently costs me 2099 plus taxes. They have recently increased the prices which means I would be paying around 2250 plus taxes now. This means that I am paying around 15 rupees per GB of data approximately right now.
Asking me to pay 2-7 times this price to get additional bandwidth without offering a larger package in the first place does not seem very fair to me. I cannot purchase a 200/250/300GB plan at 4mbps at reasonable additional charges. The best offer available to me is to pay Rs. 1500 for 50GB extra.
It almost looks like that airtel has created an artificial shortage of bandwidth on their plans with the sole aim of pushing consumers to buy additional bandwidth through their SmartBytes plans. They even redirect all their users to the SmartBytes promotion page once they cross 80% of usage. And continue to randomly redirect them till they hit the 100% mark. There is no option to disable it!
— IndiaBroadbandForum (@broadbandforum) August 12, 2012
This tactic alone is good enough to make the last 20% of your allotted bandwidth useless. Your downloads are interrupted. Your blog and forum posts are lost. Good luck doing any financial transaction during this period. Airtel would just simply redirect you to their SmartBytes promo page.
Airtel has been marketing about their 2mbps plans a lot these days. And a lot of people are tempted by the cheaper plans that comes with as little as 3-20GB of data. At speeds of 2-4mbps, most users finish up this allotted bandwidth in a matter of days and are downgraded to 256kbps.
Who has the patience to use the internet at 1/8th of the original speed after FUP is reached? So what do they do? They buy additional bandwidth at premium prices.
The second major problem with SmartBytes is that the additional bandwidth has to be consumed in the same billing period.
I cannot for example buy 50GB of bandwidth and use it in the next billing cycle. Another strategy to push consumers to buy smaller packages which are sold at a premium (Rs. 100 per GB!).
The best deal on offer as I mentioned above is 50GB for Rs. 1500…
You can actually get yourself a second connection from the company for this price with more bandwidth.
I understand that airtel is not running a charity. But they are not playing the game fairly either. Torrents are throttled during the day time. I actually pay for a VPN service allowing me to download torrents during the day time at regular speeds.
Airtel also has blocked some harmless domains without any reason… I have complained about them several times, but they remain blocked even today.
They also charge different prices for same data at different speeds. It makes sense if you charge more for data. It also makes sense if you charge more for speed. But charging a premium for faster speeds while delivering the same amount of data? Absurd.
So, what I would like them to deliver?
Charge me a monthly rental for maintenance. Let me buy bandwidth packs as per my requirements. Let them have a reasonable validity (more on larger plans, less on smaller plans). Let me use the connection at the maximum speed their network supports.
I pay per GB of data transfer. They make profit on every GB of data purchased by me. I get to opt for my a plan that meets my requirement. Let me buy packages of 1/2/5TB at Rs.10/GB and let me use them as per my requirement. You get your monthly rental. You make a tidy profit on EVERY GB consumed by me. The more I consume, the more money you make! Remove all blocks, remove all throttling.
Set a new standard in broadband delivery in the country!
This is a reasonable request from a humble customer which is still going to be massively profitable for the company. It’s that simple!
PS: Also, airtel recently made headlines on the internet when a senior management guy talked about how online services are not sharing their profits with ISPs which enable them to flourish! Probably the most absurd thing I have heard in a long time.