Jul 13 2012

Astana Internet Choices

Category: Internet Connections,KazakhstanChrisM @ 5:31 am

Recently a few people have asked me for advice about living in Astana, either because they are new to the area, or have not yet actually arrived. Some of the older posts (the key ones are linked to on the Kazakhstan 101 page) are still useful, but where prices have risen, or locally available technology has moved on, new advice is sometimes needed. So, without further ado, here are your choices if you want to access the internet in Astana. As ever, I’m happy to receive suggestions/corrections, so do please feel free to leave a comment below.

Megaline – The main ADSL internet company here in Astana. You will sometimes find that VISPs (virtual internet service providers) exist, where they take Megaline’s connection, and feed it out to a few blocks of flats, but I have not yet come across a true competing ISP. Compared to five years ago, the speed, price and reliability has improved greatly.

ID TV – I had originally thought this was a combined internet and TV package that was from a different company than Megaline. However, it turns out that ID TV is from Kazakhtelecom (the main telephone company here in Astana, who also provide Megaline’s ADSL services). The channel selection seems to be slightly wider than that offered by AlmaTV (assuming their website is up to date, as AlmaTV lost quite a few channels I liked recently), however there are some inconveniences, related to the delivery method. IPTV is used, so instead of a special wire (cable TV), normal aerial (standard TV, no DVB-T in Astana yet), or satellite dish (Hotbird, NTV Plus (though we are well out of the range of Astra and therefore UK Sky channels are impossible to receive conventionally here)), ID TV (the company, IPTV is the transmission method) uses your phone line. This means that you will probably see a slight dip in your internet download speeds and that changing channels apparently takes 10 seconds each time! It looks as though you choose from Megaline’s broadband packages if you don’t already have an internet connection set up, then select which TV channel package you want.

Internet TV Packages

There are other choices here in Astana, for example there was a WiMax system being trialled a few years ago, and I know of at least one business that uses this for internet access and voice over IP (telephone calls), as they have no land line. I will try and find out more about this, though it will not be for a couple of months at least.
If your internet access needs are more mobile, then a USB 3G Dongle could be what you need. You plug the device (with a SIM card in it) into your laptop, and use the mobile phone network to access the world wide web. As with Britain though (see this BBC article), coverage in Astana is not 100%, and even when 3G network coverage is displayed as available, the speeds can sometimes be closer to Edge, if not 2G!

Similar to this, but without the requirement for new hardware, is tethering your mobile phone to your laptop (basically using a USB lead, WiFi or bluetooth), and using your existing mobile phone account to access the internet on your computer. However, you do need to make sure your current choice of account does not charge a lot per Mb used, and it is probably worth checking whether your mobile phone company (KCell, Active, Beeline etc.) offers any bundles, where you pay for a fixed amount, that expires after a month.

Finally, should you find yourself without a mobile phone, dongle, or ADSL-enabled phone line, you could always go old school and use a dial up modem. The speed will make you weep, the phoneline will be engaged should anyone try and call you, but if all else fails those screeching tones, that indicate a handshake is taking place, can be a godsend.

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Oct 16 2008

UK Broadband Speeds

Category: Internet ConnectionsChrisM @ 5:38 am

Back when 2Mbit connections were the most a residential customer could aspire to, the broadband speed tests that were available were, in general, reliable. Of course, if the server that the test data was held on was over in America, then you could expect slight variance between reported speeds and your actual potential maximum throughput, and if the test data size was too small, you would need to shop around for larger data test schemes. However, as ADSL+ and then ADSL2 became available, some of the older tests, or less reliable servers meant that such tests could not be relied upon to give accurate results. Of course, you could find three or four different suppliers of tests, run each four times and then average the results, but most people don’t bother. Virgin Media has been complaining that those of their customers who complain about slow speeds were often led to false, or at least slightly inaccurate conclusions. So they are apparently teaming up with on such bandwidth test supplier to try and ensure future tests are more reliable. For now, with my 256Kbit/sec connection, I don’t think I need to worry about changing my bookmarked tests just yet 🙂

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May 23 2008

Tables Turned

Category: In The Media,Internet ConnectionsChrisM @ 10:11 am

Long term readers/’real life’ friends will remember that Irina and I used to live in a cottage out in Bourton on the Water, a real picture postcard village in the Cotswolds. At the time, there was no chance of getting ADSL at all, which led to us having two phone lines. One was for normal voice calls, and the other was permanently (24/7) connected to Freeserve on one of their 0808 numbers. Whilst this was never faster than 51.2 Kbps, it still gave me the possibility to leave the PC downloading all day and night, and traffic shaping never seemed to hit their dial up services. Anyway, according to a BBC report, the ratio of broadband:non-broadband customers in the country has swung so far that city dwellers are now statistically less likely to have a broadband connection than their rural brethren!
The section that particularly caught my attention was:

There has been a major drive to bring broadband to every corner of Scotland, partly to sustain the economies of isolated communities where many residents can now work from home.

I really think this sort of thinking should be bought to the attention of decision makers in this country…

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Dec 19 2007

Internet Reports

Category: In The Media,Internet Connections,Kazakhstan,PersonalChrisM @ 4:25 am

The ISP we now have our internet connection with is called Megaline. Unfortunately, since swapping to their service, everyday sees some downtime for connectivity. Even when all is apparently working, packets are often lost, and I can no longer as open as many simultaneous pages, without time outs occurring. That said, it is a lot cheaper, and although only 1/2 the speed, I do get an allowance of 10Gb/month before they throttle me down to 32Kbit/sec, from 128Kbit/sec.
Anyway, we first have a report on the UK’s lagginess (puns will stop now, sorry), when it comes to very fast internet connection availability. This is no great surprise really, given our history with BT’s (formerly part of the GPO) previous monopoly at nearly all stages of communications. Great investment will be needed to push beyond the current 24Mbps ceiling, and even that sort of connection is only really possibly if you live on top of your local exchange. Until we drop twisted pair copper lines as acceptable, the days of fibre optics into every home are a long way off, unless someone like Richard Branson decides that it is economically viable in areas when other Cable TV operators have avoided.
Globally Maximum Advertised Speeds For The Internet

On a more positive note, here we have an article detailing how broadband internet connectivity (even if it isn’t globally breath-takingly fast) has rapidly become the preferred speed, compared to just four years ago, when most people considered dial up speeds acceptable. No pretty table to illustrate the point this time, sorry.

Finally, on a semi-related matter, the BBC News site had details on how some European nation’s citizens are rejecting land lines altogether, in favour of mobile phones. Although this may sound surprising at first, if you take into account that some of the nations, that were unable to develop as quickly under USSR rule, never had high rates for phone lines into every house, and how competitive some mobile phone network companies are in these markets, to try and get, then keep loyal customers, you can begin to see why having no land line number is becoming more common in some areas. Whether these figures include those that only use phone lines for internet usage, and use mobiles for cheaper evening calls etc, I couldn’t ascertain.

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Sep 19 2007

Hope For UK With Next Gen Broadband?

Category: Internet ConnectionsChrisM @ 5:58 pm

Other than possibly the worst PR photo§ I have ever seen, a recent BBC article caught my attention.
Although Britain has reasonably good ADSL coverage, it took a long time, and BT (British Telecom) dragged their feet in some areas, a lot. As they previously had a virtual monopoly on the residential telecommunications industry (barring oddities such as Hull which have the Kingston company serving them), BT were loathe to invest a serious amount of money on fibre optics, for example, just to see other companies come in and profit from other’s investment.
This has left Brits lagging behind in post-ADSL technology, meaning even true 8Mbit connections are still rare to find. LLU (local loop unbundling) has gone some way to remedying this situation, but to ensure we are not left behind, something needs to be done soon.
Check out the story, and I’d be especially interested in hearing from readers who come from other countries as to what your local telecoms infrastructure is like.
Just don’t get me started on Kazakhstan. 128 or 256Kbit ? BROADband to the rest of the world!!!

§ I did check before making that comment – although he does seem to have under bite, the majority of his other publicity photos do not accentuate it so badly.

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Jul 17 2007

OECD Broadband Report

Category: Internet Connections,PersonalChrisM @ 6:40 pm

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has released a report on broadband prices & speeds in developed countries. The report states that users are receiving hugely varied standards and price structures, with a very slow take up in the use of fibre optics to replace the copper twisted-pair cabling still used in most country’s telephony systems.
Obviously those countries that had taken up fibre optics had the fastest speeds available, with Japan, Korea, Finland and Sweden offering 100Mbit connections in many areas.
Of the developed countries surveyed, Turkey was the most expensive, with pricing equivalent to $81 per Mbit per second! Compare this to just 22 cents in Japan, and you can start to see the disparity.
I have not yet figured out exactly how to calculate the prices quoted, but for comparison, our ISP here in Kazakhstan charges around $150 per month for a 256Kbit connection, or around $100 if you decide to download than 700Mb (per MONTH!)
When you check this against the Swedish price of $10.79 (the cheapest in the survey), or even the most expensive (Mexico) at just $52.36, which is 4 times quicker anyway, at 1Mbps.

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May 05 2007

I’ve Been Joost!

Category: Internet Connections,PersonalChrisM @ 6:08 pm

Owen from the PPP forums kindly sent me an invite for the Joost application, from the people that bought us Skype.
The idea behind Joost is to enable the transmission of full screen quality video, over the internet in real time.
Quite a lofty ideal, and the interface is quite well layed out. Unfortunately, in the few feeds I’ve selected so far, my little 256KBit connection hasn’t quite been fast enough to keep the stream from skipping, but one day I’ll get a 1Mbit unmetered connection over here, then I’ll be putting Joost to full use.
The main difference between Joost and ‘normal’ TV is that you can choose what to watch and when.
I’ll be posting more details after I’ve tested it a little further.

This post isn’t sponsored at all, I’ve just written it to say thanks to Owen for the invite needed to download the beta application, and to Skype for producing the application 🙂
Now all I need is for a decent broadband infrastructure to be created in this country, and I’m good to go 🙂

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Nov 22 2006

Found Some Useful Camcorder/Webcam Software

Category: PersonalChrisM @ 2:37 am

Bit of a niche product, but as I was transferring some video from my DV camcorder (a Panasonic NV-GS55 kindly given to us by in-laws), I found a program that can take any standard video input on your PC (webcam, DV cameras via firewire & TV cards etc.) and split it between different programs/instances of programs.

Uses?
If you have a broadband connection (and I mean a proper BROADband connection, not the 128Kbit they call broad over here), you could hold multiple video calls. Normally, the first person you setup a video call with will be the only person who can view your webcam.
If that doesn’t make any sense, don’t worry, you don’t need the software ;>

Anyway, the link ..
SplitCam - Video Clone Software
SplitCam – Freeware Video Clone Software

I’ve not yet tried it out, but will post back with my findings in a few days hopefully – need to get back to work now…

[edit]
OK, the program isn’t working for me yet, so I’ve submitted a support request at their forum. Fingers crossed it’ll be sorted soon.

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