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September 19, 2007

All hot Air, but who’s to Tel?

Filed under: GPRS,MacBook,Nokia,QoS,Sony Ericsson,Toshiba — Vickram Crishna @ 6:04 pm

This item is about the travails of connected travel, ie, the real world difficulties of getting broadband on mobile phones. It is specific to Airtel in India, but to a large extent, similar problems are reported from other GSM users, and regrettably (because it leaves no other choice open) CDMA users as well. The difficulties reported appear superficially to be technical, but it doesn’t need much of a hard look to see they are as much organisational.

The emails below speak for themselves, but to save busy people the trouble of reading them, here’s a brief introduction.

The sender is a friend, an Airtel customer like myself, who has opted for the GPRS service so that he can browse freely while traveling. The service has always been unreliable, but for the last two months completely absent. He has complained frequently, he tells me, and has been assured that he had issues with his laptop (Toshiba) or with his smartphone (Nokia). Lately, he began to suspect that someone was being a little economical with the truth.

I had also toyed with the idea of accessing the Airtel GPRS service from my MacBook, when someone gave me an old Sony Ericsson smartphone, which had Bluetooth, which therefore makes for quite a handy combination.

In theory.

The GPRS worked painlessly, but only on the phone, not the laptop. I rang the helpline, and was asked to download some drivers from a site, which turned out to be some clever programmer’s solution for Sony Ericsson phones.

Whatever works, I figured.

This didn’t.

I disconnected the GPRS, deciding that the Airtel technical service people were probably unaware about ways of dealing correctly with Apple Macs (I have kind of got used to that, with several different third party gadgets).

Then Ricky told me about his problems. Mainstream laptop, mainstream phone! I thought to myself, if it is happening to him, maybe the problem doesn’t relate to enduser devices at all, but rather to server settings.

Update (early October, 2007):

A different tech came from Airtel, and (it took 2 hours) reset the Sony Ericsson phone. He downloaded modem settings from some site (clearly different from the one I had tried in May), and finally succeeded in getting the service up and running.

Hurrah! To me, this means some possibility of being able to check and reply to my mail when I travel in India (as the tech guy told me, it works abroad as well, but given roaming costs, this is not an option I am ever likely to want to experience).

How good is it? I don’t have a network bandwidth analyser, but it is fast enough to allow me https access to GMail. I will publish soon some of the key learnings that we have had at the india-gii mailing list, where comments on connectivity using mobile cellular phones as modems have been discussed several times, and more intensely following the first posting of this blog item.

Update (late September, 2007):

The engineers came over to the house, determined to check the network quality and blame it for the problems. However, I wasn’t having any, because my need is for the data service when I travel, not when I am in Mumbai and in the house.

After two hours of wrestling with the phone modem, it finally occurred to the guy that I have not kept the service on since May. Unfortunately, by the time he realised this, he had managed to do something that kept the phone modem from dialing at all. When he activated GPRS, the laptop could not dial through the phone, although the phone by itself still accesses the Web.

So now the phone is more or less disabled from acting as a data channel device for me. The form factor of the P910 is really not very comfortable for checking mail or anything, as far as I am concerned, so I am very unlikely to use it, except perhaps in some emergency. As I told a friend, maybe one day the iPhone will work in this sector, and maybe I will have the $$$ to afford it.

Otherwise I will have to buy a Nokia. I am sure there is no technical reason that only Nokia phones work on this service, just because the data service equipment is supplied and maintained by Nokia. Oh my goodness, no, who could ever be so suspicious?

Here is Ricky’s latest chapter in his saga. He is still unable to get the full data service working, no Gmail, and no large (>50kb) file transfers. What is disturbing is not what you read below, but in some of the things that remain unwritten: for instance, calls from the Airtel office that claim that the engineers are satisfied that the problem is solved. Ricky now takes written visit reports from the tech guys (who otherwise maintain that they are not expected to give customers any acknowldgement at all).
Here’s the current situation, as of Sept 19, 2007.

Mr Puri’s office called Ricky two days ago to threaten him with some unspecified legal proceedings. Ricky called up head honcho Manoj Kohli’s office in Delhi and bawled them out (Mr Puri’s office refused to give him the numbers, but they are apparently listed on the company website).

Mr Talwar, who heads the Airtel operation in Mumbai, called him back immediately and promised action.

Yesterday, Mr Shetty, who apparently heads technical customer support here, came over to Bandra to see Ricky’s setup and resolve the issue. He called me too (I was not in Bandra), and assured me that he will get my laptop connected with GPRS using the Sony Ericsson phone.

Tomorrow. I just got a call from Mr Parikal of tech support, who confirmed his colleague will visit.

I hope so.

Enjoy reading on.

———- Forwarded message ———-
Date: Sep 12, 2007 10:31 AM
Subject: Fwd: Total disruption of GPRS data services provided by AIRTEL.
To: binu.puri@airtel.in

Dear Mr. Puri,
I refer to our telephonic conversation on 10.9.2007, whereby you assured me that the problems faced by me with the Data services would be resolved within 24 hours.
Please note that the problems faced by me, have not been resolved.
M Ralhan

———- Forwarded message ———-
Date: Sep 10, 2007 11:13 AM
Subject: Fwd: Total disruption of GPRS data services provided by AIRTEL.
To: binu.puri@airtel.in

Mr. Binu Puri, Manager legal, Mumbai, Bharti Airtel Ltd.
Dear Mr. Puri,
With reference to your telephone call regarding the problems faced by me with AIRTEL GPRS data services, as per your request, I am forwarding you email sent to the Appellate Officer, Airtel, Mumbai and Delhi, for your reference.
M Ralhan

———- Forwarded message ———-
Date: Sep 10, 2007 10:08 AM
Subject: Total disruption of GPRS data services provided by AIRTEL.
To: appellate.mumbai@airtel.in, appellate.del@airtel.in
Cc: ceo.direct@airtel.in, Nodalofficer.mumbai@airtel.in


Munesh Ralhan

Regarding: Total disruption of GPRS data services provided by AIRTEL.

AIRTEL Mobile Numbers xxxxx 45607 & xxxxx 74259

Dear Sirs,

I write to you further to my email dated 30.8.2007 addressed to you regarding the problems faced by me with Airtel GPRS data services. Attached please find following emails sent to and received by AIRTEL, which are self explanatory.

1. Email dated 1.9.2007 sent to CEO, Bharti Airtel Ltd., attached with:-

a) email dated 28.8.2007 sent to the Nodal Officer, Customer Care & Sr. Relationship Manager of Bharti Airtel Ltd regarding visit of the engineer and test conducted on 25.8.2007 and observations made.

b) email dated 21.8.2007 sent to the Nodal Officer, Customer Care & Sr. Relationship Manager of Bharti Airtel Ltd.

c) email dated 6.8.2007 sent to Sr. Relationship Manager, Bharti Airtel Ltd., with

d) email dated 1.8.2007 received from the Sr Engineer, Data Services, Technical Support, Bharti Airtel Ltd. regarding test conducted on 1.8.2007 and observations made.

Till date I have received no reply from the CEO, Bharti Airtel Ltd. or the Nodal Officer, Bharti Airtel Ltd.

2. Email dated 8.9.2007 received from the Sr. Relationship Manager of Bharti Airtel Ltd regarding visit of the engineers to conduct test again.

3. Email dated 8.9.2007 received from the Engineer, Data Services, Technical Support, Bharti Airtel Ltd. regarding test conducted on 8.9.2007 and observations made.

Prior to the visit/report of the Sr Engineer, Data Services, Technical Support on 1.8.2007, I was continuously misinformed for more than a month that the Data services are working fine and the issues are with my Toshiba Laptop. HCL/Toshiba after doing complete tests and reformatting my laptop concluded that there is no problem with my laptop and the internet problems faced by me was due to Airtel.

Thereafter on my insisting, the Sr Engineer, Data Services, Technical Support, was sent to conduct a test on their laptop to prove to me if the Data services are working and his report/email dated 1.8.2007, clarified that the problems are with Airtel Network. Tests were again conducted by Airtel engineers on 25.8.2007 & 8.9.2007, proving that there is total disruption of GPRS data services due to some major Network issues of Airtel. The problems faced by me for the Data services are in Bombay, Pune & Delhi. I have been informed by many friends who are using Airtel data services that they are also facing similar issues/problems.

I expect immediate action and restoration of full data services on my mobile numbers, for use with the laptop, by Bharti Airtel Ltd., without prejudice to my right to further claims on account of disrupted data services for several months.

Kind regards

Munesh Ralhan

Attached: emails as above

Subject: Total disruption of GPRS data services provided by AIRTEL.

To: appellate.mumbai@airtel.in, appellate.del@airtel.in

Cc: ceo.direct@airtel.in, Nodalofficer.mumbai@airtel.in

Dear Vickram,
With reference to the discussion we had regarding the AIRTEL GPRS data services and your similar experience of the problems, I am forwarding you email sent to the Appellate Officer, Airtel, Mumbai and Delhi for your reference.
M Ralhan

(The following paragraphs are the detailed emails sent to and from Airtel and Mr Ralhan before he reached the stage of communicating with the legal office)


Email dated 1.9.2007 sent to CEO, Bharti Airtel Ltd. after exhausting all efforts to solve the GPRS data service issues.

Date: Sep 1, 2007 2:31 PM
Subject: Fwd: xxxxx74259 & xxxxx45607
To: ceo.direct@airtel.in
Cc: Nodalofficer.mumbai@airtel.in, kamal.sharma@airtel.in

Dear Sir,

I write to you after exhausting all efforts in rectifying the problems faced by me on my above mentioned numbers. Attached please find emails which are self explanatory.

I would appreciate if you would kindly look into the issues and revert if and when the problems faced by me would be resolved.

Kind Regards

M Ralhan
———- Forwarded message ———-
Date: Aug 28, 2007 10:48 PM
Subject: xxxxx74259 & xxxxx45607
To: kamal.sharma@airtel.in

Cc: Nodalofficer.mumbai@airtel.in, 121@airtelindia.com

Dear Mr. Sharma,

I refer to the visit of your network engineer Mr. Santosh Sawant on 25.8.2007 at my Bandra residence, arranged by you to again test and report the problems being faced by me. The test conducted by the engineer again reiterated the problems faced by me which was reported by your engineer Mr. Vikrant by his email on 1, 8.2007. With reference to your telephone call today that the network issues have been rectified, upon connecting to the Internet, I find the problems still persists.

It is quite obvious that Airtel is not capable in solving the problems faced by me. There seems to be major issues with the Airtel Network which needs to be rectified. I would appreciate if you stop conning your customers. Many of my friends who are also using Airtel data services are facing similar problems.

I again request you to revert with the telephone number and email address of your CEO. This issue must end.

M Ralhan

———- Forwarded message ———-
Date: Aug 21, 2007 11:27 AM
Subject: Fwd: GPRS & MY AIRTEL issue of Mr Rahlan
To: kamal.sharma@airtel.in
Cc: vikrant.j@airtel.blackberry.com , Nodalofficer.mumbai@airtel.in, 121@airtelindia.com

Dear Sirs,

Regarding: Mobile Nos. xxxxx 74259 & xxxxx 45607

There is a limit to a customer’s patience with regard to service provided by Airtel and the repeated false assurances rendered by Airtel that the problems are being rectified.

I again request you to kindly provide the services as contracted within the next 24 hrs or I shall be forced to take the services of another service provider at the cost of Airtel, which please note.

Please also give me the email address of the CEO, Customer care head and Technical head of Airtel.


Munesh Ralhan

———- Forwarded message ———-
Date: Aug 6, 2007 12:27 PM
Subject: Re: GPRS & MY AIRTEL issue of Mr Rahlan
To: Vikrant
Cc: kamal.sharma@airtel.in

Dear Mr. Sharma,

I would appreciate if you would be truthful as to – if and when Airtel can rectify the problems faced by me. I have been complaining to you since months of the intermittent working of your data services.



On 8/1/07, Vikrant wrote:

As per your request I visited Mr Rahlans residence at Bandra-West.Tested the GPRS connectivity on my Laptop for about 3 to 4 hours. Following are the observations of the test :-
– The connectivity was working but slow compared to normal connection speed.
– The GSM network was also found to be fluctuating frequently,in between 30 to 80 %.
– The most major issue is the upload speed. Outgoing emails are a problem because of this. Have tried sending outgoing mails from various sites like gmail, yahoo etc but wasn’t able to get through. Even a email with a size of 400 kb doesn’t go through.So the issue needs to be addressed to the network department for rectification.
-The issue was observed on both of their numbers one Mumbai number and other Delhi number.
– Also when he contacted the customer, he was forwarded to the technical help cust care, & the information he received was that his service for using internet on laptop is not activated.
– Also he is having a problem in registering for the MY AIRTEL service for managing his Airtel Mumbai number account. while registering he gets a message as his number cannot be register for the services. And Mr Rahlan wants to avail this service as soon as possible & needs a resolution of the issue.

Sr Engineer
Data Services
Technical Support
Bharti Airtel Ltd


Email dated 8.9.2007 received from Sr. Relationship Manager, Bharti Airtel Ltd. Informing visit of Airtel engineers.
From: Kamal.Sharma@airtel.in
Date: Sep 8, 2007 10:09 AM
Subject: GPRS related
Dear Sir,
This is with regards to the GPRS problem which you are facing at your
The engineer Santosh ( Network) and Siddharth ( GPRS engineer) shall be
visiting your residence today morning for the same.
Thank you very much for the cooperation.
Kamal Sharma.
Sr. Relationship Manager.
Bharti Airtel Ltd.
M: +91 98920 49653
E: kamal.sharma@airtel.in


Email dated 8.9.2007 received from Airtel engineers regarding the GPRS TEST conducted and observations made.

From: Siddharth mujumdar
Date: Sep 8, 2007 12:16 PM
Subject: xxxxx45607/xxxxx74259
To: kamal.sharma@airtel.in
hi kamal

As per your instruction that the problem faced by Mr.Ralhan on the numbers xxxxx45607 and xxxxx74259 have been resolved, I have visited Mr.Ralhan house at bandra-west along with Santosh Sawant (technical network team) for GPRS connectivity and to test the issue on the numbers of Mr.Ralhan for data services , the following test was conducted on Mr.Ralhan’s machine with both the above mentioned numbers and also same tested on our machine with my number xxxxx45595 . the following observations are of the test conducted

1) the connectivity was working but it was very slow as per normal speed

2) the issue with outgoing mail , we tried sending mail from various sites with normal 50kb attachment from Mr. Ralhan.s and also our laptop it was unable to send.

3) due to network issue the network is fluctuating and due to speed the even downloading and normal browsing speed is a problem.

4) even while normal browsing it continuously gets disconnected

the above was tested on the data card , motorola A780 , nokia 9300 , nokia 3230 with bluetooth and data cable. The problems are observed in all.

as above mentioned issue is due to server problems and we are unable to resolve this.



data services



  1. Dear Bloggers,
    you were a great help, i got the numbers of some people at airtel who could make a difference.
    Spoke to one Mr.Kamal Sharma who has acted promptly in helping.

    Comment by Ramendra Vasishth — October 19, 2007 @ 7:58 am | Reply

  2. For as basic a service as wireless Internet being offered via a USB Modem, I have faced an ordeal in repeated telephone calls and reminders to no avail.

    Earlier, while trying for a regular broadband connection, all dealings with Sify, BSNL and others fell through as they insisted on sending a dealer’s employee and I insisted on proper identification documents.

    Both Reliance and Tata Indicom have been advertising very visibly about their new wireless Internet service, where all you need is to buy their USB modem (in case of Tata also load a Tata SIM)and plug it into your PC or laptop with no need of any driver, etc and bingo, you’re on the net! They offer a no-obligations demonstration. I thus asked for a demo and offerred to buy the connection if it worked well at my place.

    However after repeated calls and repeatedly sympathetic “Sir, I would feel the same if I were you too. This time certainly you’ll have a no-obligations demo within next 24 hours” assurances, it seems there is no stock since the month of July or August. Here is the status, after scores of calls since.

    The Reliance NetConnect service first called to say they were only asked to pick up application documents, not demonstrate. Then on ‘next ping,’they said it would be advisable to buy the connection first and I would get a USB Modem in three days, which I could return if it didn’t work, with deductions which were nit clear. Another ping later, they offered to bring a Reliance phone to my residence so that I could be ‘convinced about the signal’ but without connecting the phone to the Net!

    In case of Tata Indicom, after n calls and similiar assurances,it seems there is only one demo piece, with one employee and he is in New Bombay. He called to “explain the various plans” that I already knew from the call centre. He then offerred to sell me a connection but was furious when I told him that I was promised a no-obligations demo first!

    Further, both companies gave me contact numbers of their effective re-sellers but no names. When I called, I just got an answering machine mesage to leave my number, with no identification. In case of reliance however, I was able to walk into a Reliance Web World centre and get reasonable attention and information, but no delivery committment.

    Forget about the man-hours I wasted along with talktime and all that – look at their advertising and man-hour costs thrown on a non-existant service!

    Comment by udit c — October 26, 2007 @ 1:07 pm | Reply

  3. hey there Mr. CEO [menon] i would like to thanks and assure you for the service you people have provided to us. And i assure you asnow that airtel is facing the crises and in time of problem, i withstand with the airtel
    Jai ho AIRTEL KI

    Comment by salman — August 11, 2008 @ 8:07 pm | Reply

  4. Tata is one of the biggest companies in existence. Do they normally make offers they can’t support? Are they in breach of false advertising laws (like ones found in some other countries)? What about the other companies? Is there no obligation to supply what they offer in a timely manner or do they cover themselves with clauses that show the whole offer is simply a ploy to bring in the vulnerable and credulous?

    Comment by Alan Harmony — March 7, 2009 @ 1:57 am | Reply

  5. To Airtel Management (Hyderabad/India whomver it may concern),

    Incident Reference Number: F582110987

    I have been a customer of Airtel from 2007 and I posses two cell numbers and one internet connection from Airtel. I was in US and I returned to India on Monday 2nd November ’09. I paid all the bills in time till now in and even I was in US, hoping that when I will land in India , I can avail the Airtel service.


    Immediately after I land, I tried to call my family and I saw my service has been barred for one cell number – the one I was carrying with me though I have a credit balance of more than 2000 INR in my account. I called customer care to know the reason for which my services were barred. I spoke to a customer rep and she told that I needed to submit some documents to them. Submission of the documents has been made a mandate by the Indian Government in some audit. I asked her how Airtel tried to inform me that I needed to submit these documents. She said that Airtel has sent an SMS to me at end of November. I asked the rep to escalate the call to her manager and I spoke to a lady called Lakshmi/Vijay Lakshmi. I was utterly surprised after speaking to her. I asked her:

    Did Airtel check whether I received the SMS or not? She said no. OK I can assume that Airtel does not have that much of updated technology to check that may be?!
    Airtel sends me junk and promotional postal mails and emails, so why could not Airtel send me a mail this time with real important information. She could not answer.
    I asked her that I had another number with Airtel. Why could not they call at that number? She was unable to find my other number, though I get bills for both the numbers together!
    If Airtel does not have necessary documents for which they can stop providing services, how was it possible that Airtel needed documents for one number and not the other one which I have – why was the service stopped for only one number and not the other one? She could not answer.
    While she told that Airtel did not have to do anything and the government department itself has barred the number (I never believed this), I asked her to give the name of the government department and she told that she cannot give that number to me.
    Though I heard an apology for each and every question I asked, I did not hear any plan to resolve this situation. So I asked her to escalate further from whom I can really get a resolution, and she said that her manager is going to call me back within 9:30 AM. In spite of the jet lag, I waited till 3:00 PM to get a call, but never received one. OK, so I understand Airtel operates more like a government office than a private office.


    I called 121 again and I asked for Lakshmi. This lady was unavailable at that point of time. I asked for any responsible person with whom I could talk to. The call was escalated as usual. Now I was speaking to a person called Rajkumar and his number is 9949623202. I repeated the story and he told me that he will enquire with the necessary Airtel department and will get back to me. When he called me back (at least he had the courtesy to give a call back), he said that the service will be reactivated within 2 hours. It was noon by that time and I asked specifically whether the issue will be resolved within 2:00 PM or not. He assured that it will be. He requested me to submit the documents within Tuesday or Wednesday.


    My cell phone is still inactive. Since I did not have my address proof ready and I needed to get that from my HR department of my organization (I am not from Hyderabad and do not have any other address proof), I asked the pick up person to come on Wednesday. I handed over all documents asked for – passport copy, photo and HR declaration of address proof to the pickup person. I signed in a form also. Believe me; the form required the same information which Airtel already has. All information in the form has been submitted with the same documents to Airtel every time I took a number/bought a cell service from Airtel.


    My cell phone is still inactive. I called Rajkumar, and he did not pickup the phone. I am sure he deliberately refused to talk as I got his phone busy for at least 5 times and the phone kept on ringing for at least 4 times. I called 121 again. This time I talked to a rep whom I requested to escalate immediately. The call got escalated to a lady named G Kranti. I repeated the same old story and wanted a timeline as I have submitted all documents. She was unable to give a timeline and said that it depends on the backend department and she will not be able to help me out here!!! Also in the incident history that Airtel maintains, Rajkumar did not write anything about activation within Tuesday 2:00 PM!!!

    I got a call back from the pickup person and he needed my Landlord’s name. So I assume the documents really did not reach the so called “backend department”!

    I really wanted to know:

    Most importantly: WHEN CAN I GET MY SERVICE REACTIVATED? A day, a week, a month, a year, a decade … when?
    Is it my fault that in spite of submitting all information to Airtel before, still I need to resubmit?
    Why one of the number was barred and the other was not. So am I to assume the other number will also be barred in near future and I need to go through all this again?
    Please let me know as I NEED my cell phone to work properly. Incident Reference Number: F582110987.

    An aggravated Airtel customer

    Comment by S Dutta — November 27, 2009 @ 9:11 am | Reply

  6. for any kinds of settings plz visit http://rohankandwal.com/airtel-gprs-and-airtel-live-settings/

    Comment by Rohan Kandwal — February 6, 2011 @ 1:17 pm | Reply

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