Truth in advertising

Recently, my colleague and her family tried the SkyBroadband 15-day trial promo after a disappointing experience with their PLDT DSL account in January when, it turned out, that a male CSR, on the nth call, suggested trying out an ISP-supplied username-password combination which gave them instant connection as soon as these were entered.

Only then did the male CSR mention that PLDT DSL was “resetting” passwords. Unfortunately, it wasn’t clear why they did it without informing current subscribers about it. Prior to that, the standard answers from other CSRs were that the PLDT-issued HUWEI modems could have been out of service (read: old and malfunctioning and needed replacement but with additional charges) or that there could have been maintenance issues in the area.

Anyhow, my colleague’s dad suggested SkyBroadband  (the re-branded ZPDee cable internet). After all, they were Sky Cable subscribers for years. Besides, it has become a popular notion that cable internet is supposedly faster and more reliable than DSL.

skybroadband-spash2

A week and a half ago, both out of desperation and because they were told that the free 15-days SkyBroadband promo trial was within a limited time or they would have to wait for connection to be scheduled if they did not confirm in two days, they finally called to go for a trial connection.

Skeptical as I have always been with promos that promise heaven and earth – or something near that – and aware of the fact that internet in the Philippines is quirky at best depending on connection and area, I joked that they could be treated with real fast connection within the 15-day trial period only to slow down or drop after the normal subscription and billing actually started.

Some broadband experience

My colleague and I did have cable internet once some years ago at the studio we maintained at the heart of Quezon City with the old BellTel (belltel.ph) which we switched to from Sky Internet. I believe we had what was then the entry-level iCable package at a whooping 64kbps + cable channel “always on” combo which was fast, even at that time, true. That we only needed to switch the computer on and be online compared to Sky Internet’s dial-up connection was a great time saver for us. We were on a roll! The connection was fast for our PIII and Pentium IV PCs then, in fact, that trying to catch up with the latest anti-virus upgrades and patches became a futile exercise in itself.

A few months since connecting through BellTel and two logged in visits by their technicians, we were having connection problems (the cable modem, among other things) and, not even a year into the service, CSR was difficult to reach for anything technically related. Looking back, it may also have been that we were the only one in our building on BellTel (only the second on the street we were located at, according to the technicians), our internet ports too vulnerable, our hardware slowed by all sorts of attacks (a big ‘maybe’ on this one), etc., etc. which summed up the frustrating cycle of connecting-calling CSR-calling our PC technician who couldn’t trouble shoot the broadband modem and Windows settings, ad infinitum, that we decided to drop BellTel for yet another ISP (Mindgate).

It wasn’t that BellTel did not adhere to its speed claims. Our small design studio of 5 was not close to being an enterprise employed with an army of technicians nor did we own industrial-strength anti-virus programs I believe were needed to combat vulnerable Windows ports and such (we only had the boxed McAffee consumer version which was regularly updated online).

In other words, it could have been the combination of being just one of two BellTel customers in a laid-back, casual Quezon City district, far from the buzzling commercial districts of Ortigas and Makati which were really BellTel’s target + the cable internet technology too advanced for our technician (and many Windows settings controlled by the ISP’s) at the time, and our PCs not prepared to handle the bursting 64kbps speed cable internet offered, that we regrettably had to cut the fun for our peace of mind. I believe it wasn’t BellTel’s entire fault, nor can I accuse them, nearly 6 years later, of false advertising.

The Test

I was on the phone with my colleague when the SkyBroadband cable guys were over at her place to install the connection on the last week of January. It was the start of their 15-day SkyBroadband trial.

So it seemed that the switch satisfied their internet needs since, as I never much heard of complains or rants. Anyhow, she and her family use the internet for communications and research and other more “idle stuff” than torrenting, viewing videos or online games.

I was over at her place yesterday, Monday, and needed to go online, so she shared her LAN cable which we directly connected it to the office-issued 1st-gen MBP I was on. A few minutes before that, we were experiencing an excruciatingly slow internet connection on another computer.

When I confirmed that the internet connection was already the SkyBroadband package and no longer the PLDT DSL connection, I was excited to check just how fast cable internet is now, and more excited to experience SkyBroadband’s advertised cable internet speed I’d been reading on banners along the stretch of EDSA, Katipunan and Commonwealth Avenues.

So we fired up Test.my and SpeakEasy, two speed test sites on my bookmarks bar. By the way, no one else was online but the MBP on that lazy Monday afternoon.

I chose the Dual Test (upload/download) on Test.my and chose Austin on SpeakEasy before sampling the vegetarian pesto mid-afternoon snack serve us. Test.my has a post to show the average test time depending on the connection one has, e.g. 0-x seconds if on cable internet, 1-x seconds on a typical DSL, etc.

5 minutes on and half a dish of pesto done, Test.my was 25% into the first test using 97kb of data, while SpeakEasy was still trying to contact the Austin site.

Anyhow, the results below will show just how fast SkyBroadband was on the afternoon of 2 March 2009 from Test.my (Monday, 2 March 2009, 4:46 pm PHI):

To add insult to injury, it said this about the connection:

“Ouch, are you on dial-up or something? Your connection scored 0.5/5 stars…”


When I got home 5 hours later, I tested our SmartBro connection for comparison but logged on to the Linksys DHCPTable page to see how many of us were on the shared connection before doing the test. Six of us were online: 2 PC laptops, 1 Asus Eee, two IPs without ID’s, one of them my cousin’s expander, I believe, and probably another cousin’s phone, and myself or a total of 6 from different areas in the compound all connected OTA at about 9 pm. Good, I thought. At least that should give a fair reading. My location was farthest from the router and with only 2 Airport signal bars on.

The result:

Ok, the deal here is that the comparison tests between my connection and SkyBroadband earlier in the afternoon were done hours apart from 2 different locations but not more than 3 kms from each other.

I called my colleague to ask how their connection was doing at the time I was doing the test on mine, and she said that her sister, just 3 minutes or less before my call, was complaining about the slowness of the connection. By the way, they do not have a wifi router, so everyone connects directly via LAN like I did earlier at their place in the afternoon.

I read to my colleague what my test result was and how it compared to theirs in the simplest way I could, and she concluded that their dad would be most unhappy about it if he heard it. Well, who would be, right?

The stretch of EDSA and most thoroughfares in Metro Manila is awash with banners announcing all sorts of products and claims from breast augmentation to low service rates.

For many internet-dependent citizens like ourselves, the competition between ISP rates, features and add-ons is far too good to be missed. Prices are dropping like crazy.

Factors

Location is among the top factors that affect connection. For instance, I was told by a café owner on Katipunan Ave.-White Plains that SmartBro is not advisable owing to the billboard banners structures surrounding his place that gets in the line of sight of the canopy. They were advised to either install a pole higher than any of the ultra-large, storeys-high tarpaulin billboard structures or go for lined connections instead which, really, leaves them no choice but to pick among the other DSL or cable ISPs.

We, on the other hand, are perfectly OK with the three-year SmartBro connection at home. Sure there were days when the connection just fails at the moment when it was most needed, but they were few and short moments. In the three years that we’ve been on SmartBro, there were just two occasions when we totally couldn’t log on and those were because, according to the technicians, two structures were built somewhere that came in between the canopy and the base station line of sight. They needed to reposition the canopy on those occasions.

There are several other factors that affect connectivity and, while cable internet connection is supposedly fasted than DSL, cable internet bandwidth is shared by other subscribers in one’s area. (REF: DSL vs. Cable) I am not sure, though, if this information is told the prospective subscriber, if all prospective subscribers are aware of it, or if one is even aware of the number of households in one’s immediate vicinity who are on the same service provider for that matter. (In my area, it is easy to spot those on SmartBro because the canopy is visible from the rooftops. I can count two others from where I sit as I write this).

So, in the case of my colleague’s household, the promised speed of 1.5mbps (plan P999) hasn’t been experienced thus far. Will the advertised speed vs. cost be ever true? SkyBroadband, or other advertisers for that matter, may not intend to mislead but may play to the general public’s hunger for connectivity and communication giving many the raw deal.


UPDATE, 16 Mar 09, 3:47pm
Another opportunity at testing my friend’s SkyDSL connection today:
share2-qnp8k2xszdualyesq2m0dnr4ek6
Definitely a whole world of difference from the result above; even the upload/download SpeakEasy test was this afternoon via the Dallas, TX server:
Download Speed: 1244 kbps (155.5 KB/sec transfer rate)
Upload Speed: 452 kbps (56.5 KB/sec transfer rate)

However, I was told that this speed is not consistent and, in fact, internet connection was on and off earlier in the day.

Advertisements

6 Comments

Filed under Broadband connection, community, DSL, internet, internet activity, Mac, Manila, Philippines, SkyBroadband, SmartBro, Technology

6 responses to “Truth in advertising

  1. Truth in ads is long time gone.
    Btw, are you paying Smartbro 1,390p a month instead of the said 1,000p?

  2. Hi pochp,

    Thanks for the comment. We are on the Plan P999 package and get billed P999.00/month.

  3. So that means I’m being scammed ha?

  4. Pochp,

    You could try to email NTC (ospac@ntc.gov.ph) for complaints.

    During one of those days we couldn’t connect, we emailed NTC on 10 Nov 07 , copy-furnished SmartBro (customercare@smart.com.ph), after a frustrating day-and-a-half’s call to SmartBro CSR. (We all know how hard it is to call CSR to complain.)

    On 11 Nov 07, we got an email reply from SmartBro and was scheduled for service immediately. This was the first incident in which it was discovered that new buildings were constructed in higher areas that came in the line of sight of our canopy and SmartBro’s base station.

    Since your issue seems to be related to billing, it would be best to inquire about it from them as we have not had issues with charges as far as I know.

    By the way, we are still sticking with SmartBro on the basic package because it has been reliable so far, even with almost all of us online at the same time.

    This post is really more an observation and based on the very recent SkyBroadband/SmartBro tests and experiences I had vis-a-vis the overwhelming ISP ads that have cropped up recently.

    I could have made a third comparison for this post to include BayanDSL through a test over at my sister’s in the Kamuning area but I wasn’t able to. So far, the BayanDSL connection I’ve tried over at her place hadn’t been a pleasurable experience either.

    Anyhow, I hope your complaint works out well for you. Good luck.

  5. Thanks a lot for your time MD.
    Smartbro and NTC should be prepared when I see them because I prefer complaining face to face. I smell something amoy isda.
    Mabuhay ka MD.

  6. what i like about cable internet is that it is almost immune to electrical noise which always degrades DSL lines ‘:”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s