Zain@Home.. here I come

1 Apr, '08

This is not an April Fool’s gig. This is for real. I’ve just come back from applying for a 2MB WiMax connection from Zain. Paid the required BD 20 for installation and they promise we should be hooked up and ready to go sometime next week.

Will Zain's WiMax offering fit the bill?Now considering that we are within 20 meters of the tower, I do hope that we are not in the dead-zone and that our reception will be good.

I’ve had no experience with WiMax before, and frankly, I waited for too long before making the decision to install it in the hope that Batelco will get better and they will see reason; alas, that doesn’t seem to be a reasonable thing to expect, especially as Batelco has been slapped with a reduced fine of BD100,000 for their efforts to steamroll 2Connect and refusing to give them the lines they applied for. Good for you 2Connect! I hope that other operators sock it to them too. About time they open their gates wide open and let cooperatition in.

Now, I don’t know what your views on WiMax are, but I know that one friend living in the outskirts of Manama has been suffering for some days now with a very flaky Zain@Home connection, and despite her repeated attempts to get it fixed, it is still down. All that Zain tech support is telling her is to switch-off/disconnect/connect/switch-on flow-chart thing and the connection is still down.

She noticed that condition apparently at a time when the auzzies had a temper tantrum and riddiculed the whole WiMax thing:

Operators and vendors in the Middle East say they are still have confidence in the technology, despite comments from an Australian operator that the technology has ‘failed miserably’

While both Motorola and Zain’s big-wigs were assuring their customers that WiMax is the best there is!

Regional telecoms giant Zain made their WiMAX service available in Bahrain in November 2007. Antoine Abou Khalil of Zain Corporate Communications shared similar feelings to Kirkady, saying: “It’s strange that he’s issuing these complaints about the technology as a whole. The technology today is better than it was 12 months ago. The new tech doesn’t have these problems.” [source]

Who’s to be believed? And is this whole thing yet another April Fool’s joke?

Rest assured that I shall share my experience about Zain@Home with you all.

Stay tuned.

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Comments (19)

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  1. ammaro says:

    they seem to have reduced the installation cost, which is good. as for how well it works, again, it really does depend on where you live. i have some people who’ve had excellent things to say about it, and some people who totally loathe it. since you’re so close to the tower, i really hope you get very reliable break-neck-speed internet, so fast that we get to read your new posts before you even write them. anyhow, keep us updated!

  2. Sam says:

    Mahmood,

    The minute its up and running – you gotta pay a visit to speedtest.net

    And please share your stats!

    I’ve got a slow Batelco ADSL connection BUT I have brilliant ping response times which I very much doubt Wimax or any wireless service can match. Big deal? Absolutely! Esp if you make use of video conferencing & VoIP which I do.

  3. Beck says:

    I got it here in W. Riffa and it’s fine at times, horrible in the weekends, speed’s at 1.7mb (on speedtest.net) just like a 2mb adsl but the threshold 6GB sucks

  4. Ibn says:

    Mahmood,

    WiMAX is from the IEEE 802.16 wireless standard. (The wireless internet connection you probably have in your home is IEEE 802.11 in contrast).

    Although WiMAX is spectrally efficient, it has HORRIBLE latency problems. This is why it has been considered a disaster in some areas. That is, its very bad with applications that need real-time throughput.

    -Ibn

  5. Loki says:

    I know someone with this service in Manama, it seems to be working fine for him.

    Overall, I haven’t heard of a single effective Wimax deployment. Also HSPDA may end up being the more logical evolution.

  6. nzm says:

    A report has just come out from the CEO of Australia’s Buzz Broadband where he claims that WiMAX has “failed miserably” and the technology is a “disaster”.

    Article: ITP.net

    Hopefully your experience will prove to be otherwise.

  7. Sam says:

    Also HSPDA may end up being the more logical evolution.

    Nah – Can’t see that happening. HSDPA is great when you need mobile access on the go in areas where you simply cant get access to the internert, but I don’t ever see it becoming an alternative to ADSL over your traditional landline which has a hell of a long way to go in this country. ADSL2+ (annex M) can push theoretical speeds of 24-Mbps download and 3.5-Mbps upload. I don’t think i’ll be around to see such speeds ever hit the shelves here.

    3G service are a rip off – I’ve tried & tested both Zain & Batelco’s offerings.

    Like Ibn was saying, latency is a big problem with wireless connectivity. I found that to be very true with 3G.

  8. AJ says:

    I do hope you did not sign a 1-year (or more) contract with them.

    Keep in mind the following:

    1. The further away you are from the tower, the higher the “round trip time”, but in any case, it’s not really wireless all the way, is it? Zain doesn’t connect to the Internet via Satellites, they go via fiber. It’s only the last mile that is wireless, which in theory, should add a minimal amount of milliseconds in delay. Practical application might be different, but this is the design anyway. Once your traffic goes past the masts back to Zain, it’s all wireline from there on.

    2. Zain is offering no incentive to move from Batelco to their services; sure I pay BD 60 a month at the moment, but what would I get if I transfered to Zain? I’ll tell you what I get:
    2.1 Lower threshold
    2.2 No integration with any bank for e-banking purposes
    2.3 Wireless “last mile” AND backhaul
    2.4 The same ridiculous 2 Mbps speed limit
    2.5 Limited product know-how for troubleshooting
    2.6 A whopping saving of BD 12 per month!
    2.7 Not as many outlets as Batelco in Bahrain

    3. Zain, in their divine wisdom, decided to put ALL of their subscribers on a private network as soon as they connect! So, for those of you who are hosting stuff on your computer, or even used to using remote desktop for remote access, forget about it! Unlike Batelco who assign a dynamic IP address to you, MTC will provide you with a private, non-routable, IP address. Why? I’m not sure I’m wise enough to ask why… and let’s not even talk about the security threats involved here.

    4. Batelco gave its users a discount of 50% on their bills due to the recent outages in international cables, did Zain do something similar? I haven’t heard if they did.

    5. Neither Batelco nor Zain care about the higher speed/threshold users, and that’s a fact. The majority of the market are low-speed users and here’s where we see the discounts (lightspeed anyone?). Once I find a company that caters to all types of customers I’ll consider moving, but for now, better the devil you know…

    My $0.02

  9. mahmood says:

    The only contract they have is 18 months!

    I appreciate the points you raised. I am at a point now – due to complete disregard of Batelco of its customers and particularly the bunch that I belong to, high users – I want to move to finally register my position with my feet.

    Yes I might suffer because of this but it’s an inconvenience that I shall bear – unhappily I grant you – for the time being until Batelco’s decision makers wake up to the fact that what they are doing is nothing less than hurting this country as a whole with their policies.

  10. Loki says:

    SAM,

    Batelco have already deployed MSANs in most (i think) of their exchanges as such they can already supply up to 20mb within 3km over copper (in theory) to a number of places. The bottleneck is neither the last mile nor the core network, its once you leave the island. i.e. the connection to the rest of the world.

    mobile telco’s are investing in HSPDA as an extension of existing mobile data services, to deploy a separate infrastructure to supply wimax seems a bit redundant. By and large “municipal wifi” based on wimax has been a failure.

  11. Sam says:

    Zain doesn’t connect to the Internet via Satellites, they go via fiber.

    Not entirely. Most, if not all their trunking is done through the airwaves. I don’t know if you’ve noticed but wherever you see a Zain base station, you will also see directional microwave dishes hosted on the very same base station that connects that particular base station to the rest of their network. Batelco’s base stations on the other hand trunk their data through their exsisting fiber optic rings which is why you wont see microwave dishes on Batelco base stations.

    I hate the way Zain don’t allow you to Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) to their network. Could you image Batelco saying your ONLY had a choice of using their own ADSL modem?

    he majority of the market are low-speed users and here’s where we see the discounts (lightspeed anyone?)

    Avoid lightspeed at all costs. Just picked up my Lightspeed termination form.

    Mahmood – Idea for your site. I think you should create a matrix of all the ISPs offering residential internet access in Bahrain with information like fees/speeds/setup costs/contact (yes or no) etc.

  12. Kiwi Nomad says:

    I hope you have better luck than us Mahmood. After signing up for Zain’s eGo mobile service last August (as Batelco couldn’t/wouldn’t provide a phone line, let alone ADSL) and getting pathetic connection speeds, if any connection at all, it stopped working in January from our home location in Muqabah. (The eGo worked OK in any other location in Bahrain we tried). We’ve been negotiating with Zain since Jan. for them to recognise that there is actually a problem with their eGo service and to get a refund. They finally promised to upgrade us to Zain@Home and assured us that this would overcome the connection problem, and installed it last Monday. So far, this doesn’t work either, and we’re still waiting for the technicians(?) to come back…

  13. JFE says:

    Mahmood,

    Please share your findings with us ASAP! My Batelco connection has been dropping in and out for 2 weeks now. It’s fine for an hour or so but then drops for 10-15 minutes. Its very annoying. Batelco have blamed everything from my profile on the line to my modem to the fact we use Skype to talk to our families OS.

    I’ve heard a few people in Al Qurayya have switched and they love it!

    JFE

  14. mahmood says:

    Rest assured that I shall JFE.

  15. Funaki says:

    AJ : Zain unlike batelco doesnt makes you go through a proxy server where every other server sees you as 193.188 (the address of Batelco Proxy). why would it be a big deal because when you go to sites that do stuff based on your ip 9 out of 10 times you will be restricted and wont be allowed to go ahead because you have the ip address that is shared as the rest of bahrain. Dont believe me try downloading something from rapidshare.com

    Having the websites see the direct ip of yours is much better in most of the cases.

    Secondly, as you mention that zain puts you in a private block of IP. that is not true. I am assigned a public ip address it does changes from time to time. and i am hosting a ftp server for my personal use and remote access both of them work like a charm.

    Mahmood : i was the first few to jump on Zain @ home bandwagon and my exprience with it has been nothing but splendid. I am currently in the manama area next to last chance i dont know how far the tower is from here but i get excellent speeds for browsing as well as downloading. Just few days ago the speed was slow but it got rectified in the end.

    over all my experiences with zain @ home have been really good. I did a review on my blog for zain @ home that you can find here http://mylifemyview.wordpress.com/2008/01/09/zain-home-first-impressions/

    My Speed test to a server in New York [URL=http://www.speedtest.net][IMG]http://www.speedtest.net/result/255446056.png[/IMG][/URL]

    On the west coast the ping is 280ms.

    Hope this has been helpful.

    Cheers

  16. voyer says:

    I think I am the ‘she’ Mahmood speaks of having Zain@home in Manama who happened to notice that Zain was down when the Aussie had his tantrum. Not really so important or life threatening, but in this age of media trivial pursuits, yes, Zain’s CEO and Motorola would have ended up with a lot of yellow yuck on their faces had they been in any other internet savvy country, shouting their mouths off when the system was physically out of order for a few days. With only Mahmood seemingly unafraid with no commercial gain to forfeit, he boldly goes. Great! I heard that the very privileged and oh so brown nosed English language newspaper of any literal value here, knew about the incident, but funny as it is saw no value in this mini scoop, especially when Zain was advertising full page incoherent , devoid of any creativity spreads at the time.
    After Zain apparently fixed the problem which no one in Zain wishes to discuss or give a reason for, I was still out of action and nothing we did could bring it back. Yeah, I know the passwords for setup and through, but nothing would work, so for another 5 days we were out of touch. (Liar, I still have my Batelco connection, which was randomly hacked and threw me over the credit limit before anyone found out). Anyway, the reason for the Wimax still not wanting to commit when all seemed fine, was simply another building had been built somewhere between us and the mast, in those 7 days. A quick ladder extension and WD40 to loosen the pole bolts and off we go to a higher place. It is now ok as such. But watch out all, because unless Zain puts their transmission mast up at least double their current height, we are all going to be heading for massive poles stretching to the heavens to see the current erections. ‘Bahrain’s concrete vision of the future’.
    Wimax is fine in many respects, but as a platform of choice in any other advanced town, where you have a hundred providers offering T1 lines and 8 megs downloads and 2 megs up; nah, it definitely needs more features to attract the punters. Wimax is pretty crappy with its inherent latency, but it has enormous potential and in ways not so obvious to all. Hopefully there are good things to come if Zain listens to the birdy (an insider who is a good friend of mine) and pushes out the boat. Stay tuned!

  17. mahmood says:

    Thank you voyer for the explanations. I am afraid that as of today, a full 15 days after submitting my application, we do not have a connection.

    The installers came on Sunday afternoon, put up the receiver on the wall and pointed it at Saar! The antenna next to our house is apparently NOT in service, that would explain why we don’t see a little red light on it any more. But the guy (contractor) did not finish the job just just left “enough wire” for my own electrician to come and route it through the conduits! The guy says that his fish-wire suddenly stops and doesn’t know what to do next.

    He left 3 other boxes containing a router, a telephone set and another connector thingy.

    I lodged a follow-up support request with Zain yesterday and they promise that they will get it sorted soon. Another guy did call last night to enquire about some details, and till now no progress.

    Doesn’t bode well…

  18. Akram Tamimi says:

    Super 3G/LTE will push the throughput further to 50/100 Mbps.

    It can replace ADSL, WiMax, and any other technology except FTTH of course 🙂

  19. nithin says:

    If any body has the update on the upload speed of the Zain@Home. Compared to Batelco the Upload capacity of the Zain@Home is really poor.

    Nithin

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