Tuesday, January 18, 2005

MTNL Broadband experience

An "experience" email from a forum I'm on. For those who don't know, the incumbent PSU telco, MTNL serves only Mumbai and Delhi, while BSNL (it's sister concern) serves the rest of the places in India.

I had earlier decided to hold onto my Airtel connection and figure out what to do to the BSNL broadband service I had applied for earlier. Maybe I should just try and find out what the BSNL folks do intend to do - it should be some fun :)

This morning I went to my local telephone exchange in Bombay to apply for the new broadband (MTNL has branded it TriBand) ADSL facility. Initially I had planned to apply even before the services were launched, but with my wide-ranging experience with MTNL I knew that local officials usually have no clue about what corporate ad campaigns claim.

So, 4 days after the much hyped launch I land up at the Quick Customer Service Centre of my exchange. Of course, past experience has shown that the only true word in that impressive sounding title is the word 'centre'--it is neither quick, nor is there any customer service, but that's another story.

The lady at the desk didn't have much of clue and after a long search managed to give me the form. I filled up the form (fairly short and impressive by MTNL standards) and waited to submit it back. Then started the usual MTNL shenanigans--the chap there told me I needed to get a photocopy of the form while submitting it.

I patiently trudged outside, realised that the nearest photocopy shop was a good 10 mins walk away, but anyway did the needful. Got it back and now another lady scanned the form for 5 minutes, then scanned the photocopy for another 5 (as if it would be any different) and then sagely told me that the service still wasn't available at my exchange.

She started telling me that I should visit another nearby exchange, but another employee who overheard stopped her and told her that forms for specific areas would only be accepted at the local exchange. He said they would take the form and keep it on a waiting list. According to him, it would take a "few months" for MTNL to start the service in my exchange. He added that only 3 MTNL exchanges in Mumbai currently offered the service [incidentally, the same ones where they've been offering the service for a year now, on a 'trial basis']

So much for MTNL's TriBand! The sad truth seems to be that they have just 'announced' the service. It will take months before any connection is actually provided. All those news reports of private service providers getting worried are baseless--with MTNL's service standards, the private crowd have nothing to fear. All that MTNL is currently providing is forms for the service, with the actual service no where in sight. And this after announcing all over that the service is completely operational.

Incidentally, my telephone exchange is one of the largest in Bombay and in Central Bombay (Sion), just a few kilometres from MTNL's Bombay HQ. I can understand if one of the small exchanges in the distant suburbs don't have a clue yet, but when one of Bombay's biggest exchanges doesn't have a clue, it shows the real truth behind tall claims.

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