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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Mar 04 2009

Swansea House For Rent

Category: PersonalChrisM @ 6:23 pm

Available Early May

Three bedrooms, large living room, GCH and a multi-level rear garden that backs onto a hillside.
Modern terraced house, quiet area with own car parking space. Close to the centre of Swansea, with easy access to the M4.

£465 per month, with one month’s rent & deposit required. Professional(s) preferred, no DSS.

Contact SwanseaHouseRent@gmail.com for any queries.

A satellite dish is currently pointed at the Hotbird satellites. Simply attach a receiver to view these channels – most languages covered.

A map of the local area…

View Larger Map

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Nov 18 2007

The Beginning Of The End…

Category: PersonalChrisM @ 11:39 pm

For analogue TV broadcasts in Britain. Cumbria (well Whitehaven to be exact) has ceased using precious bandwidth by transmitting BBC1, BBC2, ITV, Channel 4, and ‘Five’, from now on, you will need a method of watching digital signals. The choices come down to through your aerial (newer TVs can automatically decode digital channels, older tellys require a STB (set top box), a satellite dish (HUGH market domination by the Sky company in the UK), or cable (with Telewest/NTL etc.). Unless you choose cable, you can still choose to pay nothing each month, though Sky will obviously try and upsell you to a subscription package.
So why the switchover? There are a few reasons, one of the major ones being that digital transmissions require less bandwidth per channel. Why should you care? With analogue gone, you can fit in more channels within the same frequency range than before. (I don’t have the frequencies to hand, but they are normally scaled as 21-69 when you tune your TV). Unfortunately, from the Freeview channels I saw in Britain, this switch to digital transmissions has actually resulted in some pretty poor quality video, but nowhere near as bad as some of the channels here in Kazakhstan.
Why do I care? I like TVs, and I used to sell and repair them as a job. Why should you care? Well I am assuming you do, as you are still reading this post 🙂 Seriously, this sort of switchover will most probably eventually arrive in your country, so the next time you buy a new TV set, it makes sense to make sure it can decode digital TV without the requirement for an external tuner. Our TV (see various posts from April) can do this, however Kazakhstan obviously does not have digital transmissions just yet.

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May 05 2007

Satellite TV Has Returned

Category: Kazakhstan,PersonalChrisM @ 12:33 pm

As you might remember, we recently had high winds, which blew our satellite dish on the roof off-target again. Luckily, our satellite guys came round this morning, and pointed it back at the Hotbird sats.
Rubber Smiley
I had previously asked Irina if we could maybe concrete the dish into position, as we’ve had these problems before. I found out this morning why that isn’t necessarily a good solution; the guys had just finished replacing a large dish that had been concreted into position. The reason? The dish had actually broken in the high winds – the stresses and strains placed upon it by the wind had no relief available by simply moving the dish, so the whole structure buckled down. Given the choice between buying a new dish after each heavy wind, and simply waiting for the guys to re-point it, I think we know the best solution.
The guys themselves are very friendly, and didn’t even charge us to sort it all out. One part I’m still confused over is the signal amplifier they connected inline with the co-ax cable. Any sort of electronic amplifier must, by definition, be active, not passive, but there is no PSU for this little adapter. I know you can have 12/13.8V DC on a sat co-ax, provided by the decoder, but I checked the menu settings, and the voltage appears to be off right now – 0 volts!
Whatever the reason for it working, I’m glad, the signal quality stats have improved, and one of the channels that previously wasn’t watchable, even when the dish was pointed correctly, now works 🙂 .

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May 04 2007

Dust Storm

Category: Kazakh Driving,Kazakhstan,Personal,Pictures,WeatherChrisM @ 1:37 am

Wednesday turned out to be quite windy.
One minor, short term effect was that a lot of dust from the surrounding desert around Astana was blown into the city.
As a comparison, I’ve included a shot from last year…
Taken From Flat Window Drive In Theatre
This is basically how it looked early Wednesday morning – nice and clear, and the temperature was around the same as your average British summertime.
Two hours later, this was the scene…
Dust Storm
There has been no treatment to the second photo, it was that dark and murky, in the space of a few hours!
I wouldn’t have fancied driving about in it, especially as no one seemed to slow down, despite the distinct decrease in visibility.

One slightly longer-term effect is that our satellite dish on the roof appears to have been blown over, so there is no TV to keep me sane during the day.

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