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The trouble one goes through using Airtel Kenya's "3.75 G"


I've been hearing good things about Airtel's 3G network, that the speeds are good. I had also gotten tired of subscribing to Orange's Fair Usage Policy, where you purportedly get some unlimited Internet too, but you mostly get the policy.

Having misplaced my Airtel line, which happened to be my first ever mobile line, I decided to head off in search of one. I easily got a line at KSh. 30, which came loaded with KSh. 20 airtime. But that was the last easy thing I would do on Airtel.

Airtel 3.75 G users? Image: http://www.enidhi.net
Next, I got KSh. 3,000 of Airtel airtime. Being just before Christmas, this was me forfeiting half a goat and Christmas festivities for half my extended family.

I then proceeded to purchase Airtel 30 day unlimited Internet at about 8:30 pm.

I then discovered that I could not connect to the Internet, whichever settings I tried to use. Turns out that Airtel lines, just like Celtel and Zain lines, do not come provisioned with Internet.

One would think a simple call to customer care should sort you out. Of course, Airtel been the lesser congested network, you call to the customer care centre gets connected on the first try. Well, an hour later, I was still in line waiting for my call to be picked. And as you guessed it, my call might have been recorded for quality purposes.

Eventually, the call was picked, and I got Internet settings sent in a message to my phone. Again, I got no Internet.

Calling customer care again, and it was 45 minutes before my call was picked again. You know the drill here - take the line out of your phone, step back 10 metres away from it, wait for five minutes and then insert it and restart your phone. Nothing.

At about 11.30 pm. customer care picked my fifth attempt to call them, and again promised that they had fixed my line. That didn't work either.

I gave up at this point, and decided to call it a night.

The following morning, I called customer care again, and this time round, my line was actually provisioned, and connected to the Internet.

The 3.75 G experience 
Then it dawned on me that I could only get EDGE and not 3G. Taking a walk around the neighbourhood, and it was not until the next neighbourhood that signs of 3G did appear.

See, the problem with EDGE is that most calls are made over the 2G to 2.75G band. Mobile networks give priority to voice calls, which occupy more channels, meaning the Internet users on the remaining channels will not get to enjoy EDGE to the full.

Getting back to my place, I found out that I could get a 3G signal if I placed my device on the far corner of my house, close to the roof. This I did, and wired an extension to the corner, to ensure the device was powered on.

The Internet speeds were good, as my friends had said they would be. However, the connection would fluctuate on and off, with fractions of a minute with no connectivity. The speeds were good though.

The following day, however, I did not have Internet till evening, where it returned in its on and off form.

Next day, Airtel's 3.75 G was even more on and off, with longer off periods. Come next day and the connection was back to normal, and by normal, I mean connectivity with on -off periods.

The pattern has then repeated till several days ago. Speeds during the day remarkably slowed down, and picked up at night. Connectivity did remain on and off.

Well, while Airtel's unlimited Internet isn't as irritating as Orange Kenya's Fair Usage Policy, it still does have a long way to go from the 3, before it gets to the .75 . With only Airtel and Orange offering Unlimited Internet, Airtel does remain the lesser evil, but be warned.

Before subscribing to Airtel's unlimited, purchase the 50 MB bundle and check if you have good coverage and connectivity where you intend to use it,





Comments

Eryk Ellys said…
I've used Airtel's Internet on my smartphone. The on-and-off fluctuations were just so annoying. It was so frustrating, especially since I can be so impatient sometimes. If I had to choose between either Airtel's Unlimited internet or Orange's Unlimited Internet, I'm not sure which I'd choose. Perhaps using a modem for unlimited internet is better. However that comes with different costs and other expenses, usually high. I guess it depends on the place where one is & time when one often uses the internet (and maybe even the type of modem used)

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