Not too long ago, I was at loggerheads with SLT. I had paid for an 8mbps line and I was getting just half of what I paid for. Most of my friends and day-to-day associates were in similar situations. SLT’s “legendary” (read: non-existent) customer service was doing its usual job of hideously confusing or wasting the time of all of us who tried to call and inquire as to why this was. I’m sure most of you have already gotten to this phase.
When I finally connected to an operator I was told, after a brief pause, that the speeds I was getting was perfectly normal. I demanded an explanation: I was quoted, politely this time, from the Fair Usage Policy and told that given the distance from the tower to my house, my speed was a fair chunk of the bandwidth I got. Apparently nothing more could be done from SLT’s end. In short, they threw the book at me.
So determined to find out whose fault this was, I sat down last weekend and tried to figure this out. The first thing I did was check the aforementioned Fair Usage Policy. This, contrary to popular belief, is not something SLT or any other operator handles – it’s dictated by the TRCSL. Which is good: if anyone remembers the days of monopolistic “512 kbps” internet, where you were lucky to get 15-20 Kbps, you’ll know exactly how bad it can get when a service provider gets to set the terms and conditions of use.
The TRCSL, on inquiry, informed me that service providers were required to give speeds of no less than 70% of the bandwidth my line is capable of. Now that was the catch, the fine print none of us are aware of. According to the TRCSL and my own research into this matter, you never really get the advertised 8Mbps, because the bandwidth of physical cable connections are dependent on a number of factors. Length is one. The further you are from the switch connecting to the network, the less bandwidth your line is capable of. The quality and dimensions of cable is another.
These first three factors can be explained by simple A/L physics, but then it gets more complicated. Your wiring also comes into play. Crappy modem? Inteference? It almost seems like the entire world is out to get your internet connection. And all of these, apparently, degrade your bandwidth.
As the TRCSL representative explained to me, the service provider is required to give only 70% of the bandwidth you are capable of receiving. Not the bandwidth advertised. That’s the fine print nobody tells you when you sign up.
So how do you check your actual bandwidth? There’s a tool developed by the TRCSL over on their site here. It’s Java-based and it threw to me a figure that suddenly made perfect sense. 70% of that – give or take a few KBps, that’s exactly what I get. SLT tacitly nods towards this issue on their web page under performance.
After listing the various causes that might affect your connection, they say, rather snidely;
[box_light]In some situations subscribers would not be able to get the maximum bandwidth as advertised in the package due to numerous technical reasons. In such situations maximum possible bandwidth would be provided to customers after conducting a technical evaluation test. However if the upper bandwidth exceeds the minimum permissible bandwidth which refers as the “minimum bandwidth” the said package would not be issued to customers. Instead subscribers would be provided with another suitable package which supports his or hers line conditions.[/box_light]
So clearly my bandwidth figure, on a happy day, fell into this neat loop, and I’m now stuck paying just for 3/5s of what I actually expected to get. Save yourself some trouble, check your bandwidth, and if it’s abysmally low compared to what you’re paying for, give SLT a call. One of my friends in Wattala did this, and they came over and rewired his line. I’m not sure if you’ll get the same quality of service, but it’s worth a try. See if you can switch your package to something more suitable to your bandwidth. If your pipe is getting only 3.5 Mbps, it’s no use paying for an 8 Mbps, is there?
Just to be safe, next time you buy an Internet connection in Sri Lanka, take your lawyer along.
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