Emtel is keeping up with innovation and has recently launched Airbox, a high-speed best-effort broadband service, or what the company calls “Fiber Through The Air” (FTTA).
The service comes at the time when Orange is quickly trying to cover the whole island with fiber and Bharat Telecom is trying to do the same thing to the central regions of Mauritius only.
Emtel is the last in and is hoping to be the first out with the most customers with their new service. The race to high-speed Internet for home users has truly begun…
What this gives you is high-speed Internet wirelessly, without going Orange’s way of deploying fiber everywhere i.e. “Fiber To The Home” (FTTH).
Below are Orange’s offers as at June 2015:
If we compare the two solutions, you get the pros and cons as compared to Orange:
- The service is immediately available in covered regions, which is around half the island. The northern, western and central regions of the island are mostly covered. Remember, you still need line of sight for this to work so even if covered you may not have the service. Check Emtel’s site.
- Prices are lower than Orange’s (capped) offers. For example, Orange 30 Mbps (150 GB capped) costs Rs. 1999 / month. Emtel Airbox is Rs. 1784/month (unlimited).
- Unlimited downloads. Unlike Orange’s offer, Airbox isn’t capped but it is still subject to Emtel’s Fair Use Policy, which you can find on their site. There are no limits like Orange where after downloading a certain amount, your speed gets decreased. The FUP does mention that your speed can be decreased if you violate the FUP and provides a list of possible violations including the usual download of copyrighted material, spamming, transmission/reception of illicit material among other things. Otherwise, the FUP says that if you use the service responsibly, network usage is not limited monthly. At least that part is clear.
- No wires / digging. The technology operates wirelessly. Emtel installs a dish on your house and you require line of sight to one of the 5 antennas currently deployed. Line of sight meaning you need unblocked straight-line access to the tower. If there’s a mountain in the middle, you’re not ok. Emtel will conduct a site survey before giving you the service to see if the installation can be done.
- You get the Wifi modem / router for free. I believe Orange will be charging for that? Not sure. No word on the make and model unfortunately. I’d be curious to know what it is. Probably a Huawei of some sort.
- You get telephony for free within some range of minutes. You can see the packages above and more info available on Emtel’s site. Calls are free to fixed phone lines in Mauritius, Rodrigues, Agalega for 60/120/180 minutes on the 10/20/30 Mbps package.
- You also get no rental fees for the line and free CLI (Caller Line Identification – shows the phone number of caller) for free.
- You get a free 1GB email address on Emtel’s 1010 service, if ever that interests you. The domain is quite nice and short: email@example.com.
- Installation’s free and according to Emtel, done within 5 days.
And now, the cons for there are still a few, although Orange doesn’t solve all of these:
- Not the whole island is covered. The east and south parts are mostly in the dark. Mountainous regions are in the dark. If you live in a valley, you’re in the dark.
- If you don’t pay by direct debit, the prices are Rs. 50 more than advertised per month. Not exactly a cons but you should still be aware of it.
- There is a minimum subscription of 12 months. If you cancel before 12 months, you pay the remaining price of your package for e.g. 10 Mbps, you cancel in 6 months, you pay Rs. 934 x 6 to Emtel to cancel.
EDIT (22/06/15): Yashvin pointed out that his Orange Fiber service is also bound by a 12-months contract.
- You need line-of-sight to get access to the service. If you don’t have it, no service. Or at least no guarantees.
- It’s a best-effort service. You may not get the speed advertised as it’s based on wireless. If it’s raining for e.g. you can get service degradation. Or if there’s a big tree between you and the antenna. Or a mountain. Or a house. Emtel is clear on this.
With Orange’s fiber, the speed is going to be guaranteed (I hope!).There is no guarantee of speed with Orange, although ICTA wants to act on it.
EDIT (22/06/15): Jochen comments that WiMAX is not affected by rain. According to my own knowledge, wireless systems are affected by weather conditions. Researching online did not give a final answer. Some studies claim that weather is not a problem while others noticed significant degradation of performance.
- No word on latency, which could be an issue for gamers. You don’t want to play online with high latency. We’re talking around 150ms max to be bearable. Anything beyond that is considered lag.
EDIT (22/06/15): According to __Sun__, ping to South Africa Dota 2 servers are around 120ms. That’s alright. We should be seeing more figures as people take the service. I will add any findings here.
- The Fair Usage Policy could be clearer and does not provide much details of what’s acceptable and what’s not. Also no mention on how it is going to “limit your usage” if you do violate some term. No word on the kind of monitoring that’s done. The warning is also not guaranteed.
- Nothing on the type of IP address that you get for example if it is public so you can host some game servers or something. You can’t use the service to host business-services by the way. See the FUP.
That’s about it I believe for the analysis of the service. For now, we wait and see what happens as the service gets deployed. More interestingly, we wait for Orange’s response. Hopefully the caps will go…
EDIT (22/06/15): There’s also word that CanalSat Mauritius will be offering Internet services soon, possibly by bundling the AirBox offer as part of their existing offerings. Waiting to see what happens.