Is MTN the worst internet service provider in Knysna?
I live in the town of Knysna (pop. 80 000). Although we’re small, we’re not off the beaten path. We’re one of South Africa’s most loved tourist destinations. The main highway, the N2, which runs for 2000km on the east coast, travels through our town centre. I live 1km from town centre, on a hill i.e. reception should be awesome. It isn’t…not anymore.
Being an entertainment agent during a recession is one of the worst jobs one could have i.e. there is no business. It’s the reason why i was painfully using my Nokia Xpress Music cellphone as a modem. That pain wasn’t the cellphone’s fault. I’d gotten it after being mugged 2 and a half years ago and was thankful for having a connection at all. I need it. After all, i’m internet prolific. I blog a lot. When it appeared that i was to gain business doing more community projects, getting a better internet connection became a must so i started comparing local stories about the 2 main networks in South Africa, Vodacom and MTN.
I could not find a single person using MTN internet with their prepaid sim card. Everyone i met had fallen prey to Vodacom’s special that offered a “free” USB modem and 350mb per month. I state “prey” because all of them were experiencing major problems with intermittent connections. I discovered this for myself when trying to assist a neighbour. That left MTN as the most viable option…or so i thought. I’ve been on the MTN network since the beginning, through contracts and then damn-expensive-prepaid when times got hard. I even, in the early days, worked at a call centre servicing customer problems. In a way, i was glad to stay with my lifelong network. What an idiot i was.
Firstly, a great crime committed by network operators is to force the naive South African market into contracts that utilize modems that only work with their brand i.e. if you move into an area where your previous service provider’s reception is dodgy, you cannot use the same modem if you switch to another network’s card. It’s reminiscent of the awful 2 year contracts that milked the blood out of your wallet whilst technology bypassed you every 6 months. Not wanting to be a victim and then complainer, i opted to spend double the amount of money on a modem from Kloppers which promised not only to be faster but work with any sim card. Freedom became my Victory USB modem.
I like my opinions to be backed by reason. My landlord was complaining how bad his Vodacom connection was so i used that as an opportunity to test my modem. I tested his Vodacom versus my MTN sim card in the same computer. Vodacom only attracted a 60% signal whilst MTN’s was at 100%. The top speed gained by both was 1.5mbps but Vodacom’s would keep timing out. The speed should have been faster for both but owing to the “slowness” of my Nokia history, i was overall very chuffed with my choice. Over the next month, anytime internet speed was touched on in conversation, i applauded MTN and derided Vodacom. Shame on me!
At a later stage, for a few days, i had no connection. Several calls to the MTN “helpers” was futile. I even had one operator blame my fancy modem. It made no sense and felt like he was “passing the buck” instead of doing his job (i found another person’s experience online where they’d also experienced the same). Then my connection was suddenly back. Obviously MTN’s mistake yet as the days passed by, my internet journeys left their horrid service in the past…at least it did until May 16 when my rollercoaster through Hell, courtesy of MTN, began.
My internet speed dropped from 1.5mbps to 0.02-0.07. Try working at 2% of the previous speed. That’s slower than dial-up when Telkom first started internet in South Africa. Just before this period, i’d decided to help people around me. This involved making 3 websites for no profit. The first dilemma was that without any warning, MTN unlimited 24hr data bundle became a lie. After only 150mb of data had been used, i received an annoying message saying that my “courtesy” amount had been used up and i’d be throttled to 128kbps (kbps not mbps). Instead, i dropped down to the previously mentioned range of 0.02-0.07mbps. Making those websites, with pages continuously timing out, was a nightmare! Obviously, the unlimited-data-bundle-that-was-severely-limited was no longer an option. I bought a 2gig data package for the unreasonable price of R395 and was hoping to return to a zesty speed. That never happened!
I began several exasperating calls to several departments almost 3 weeks ago. The first “exasperation” is the multitude of options you’re given when you dial in. Dial 1 for this, 2 for that, 3million for that etc. Self-help service is not gong to help me if it doesn’t not include informative messages describing the current situation, substantiated by reasoning, in Knysna. It feels as if the purpose of the Help line is to make you give up in frustration. But i’m a persistent bugger so i loaded myself with coffee and entered the bullshit minefield that is MTN.
I discovered that there was a problem with transmission in one of 2 MTN towers in Knysna. I was told that when that happens, voice calls get priority, not data. They promised it would be fixed soon even though i queried how a help centre was suppose to help if the technicians fail to log exactly what the problem is so that a get-fixed-by-date can be estimated. I later asked for this to be an official complaint but with no one returning to me about it, it never happened. During this period i’ve had several reference numbers and lost some when i accidentally through a piece of paper away. Nevertheless, some of them were 2782135, 2790502 and 202797496. During subsequent calls, i discovered that the first 2 had been cleared on different dates, 2 days apart. How can one problem be cleared twice? And if one problem can be cleared twice, then how am i suppose to believe an operator now when i get told that there is no more problem. If that absurdity is true, then why hasn’t MTN figured out my problem but kept me grovelling for 3 weeks.
With no respect at all, FUCK YOU, MTN! Fuck the operators too. Some names i have written down include Thembi, Tumisha and Constantia. At one stage this week, i gave up being polite and threatened an operator that i would write an article on MTN ineptitude if he didn’t get his supervisor to contact me – he didn’t! I’m also frustrated with supervisor David Msiba because he seemed like he’d be my first daylight and promised to have a techie contact me – that never happened. I spoke to Georgina on Thursday. She seemed lovely. She was honest in saying that her shift was about to end and truly seemed sincere in saying that her supervisor (think it was Patricia M.) would call me back soon. Furthermore, Georgina said that she could see that my problem had been escalated but she was unable to call up my reference numbers for my sim and never understood why not. Her supervisor never phoned!
In case i was to be told that it was “my modem” again, i did a Vodacom versus MTN broadband speed test. The results speak for themselves below but it is important to note that this was an extremely odd speed for Vodacom (my landlord had told me that he’d experienced problems with Vodacom this morning):
Most recently today, i got hold of Kagiso in Tech (173 ext 5). Admiration for him. He’s got a calming voice and his identification of the problem seems viable. He says that he thinks that my “unlimited” data package never expired and thus i remain at this ridiculously low speed. He also couldn’t find my reference numbers although found others involving a Chester and an Andrea (possibly one of the supervisors who never returned to me). I was glad that the good Georgina vibe was true because her logging was found too. It’s possible that through all the transfers i was never in the correct department. Also, not all departments can pick up the others references (silly!). A downside is that after 28 minutes on the line, not all with him, we got cut off. That’s when I wrote the beginnings of this paragraph. I got hold of another operator in Tech who emailed Kigiso who phoned me back within 10 minutes. And after that, the other operator phoned to ensure that Kigiso had gotten hold of me. Service, finally! One department has at least got it’s act together. Thank you.
To take a step backward (sideways?), even if this is the problem, is it alright for MTN’s unlimited bundle to deliver a speed such as 2kbps after you’ve reached the limited 150mb threshhold? Work that out as data versus costs and MTN’s unlimited bundle is freakishly expensive. I’m not at all against businesses earning a profit but i do believe that there has to be a point where the profits of a few should not be allowed to hold back a country’s development.
Back to the topic. Kigiso smsed me his email and a new reference number – 3923881. He had to get hold of another department to sort this problem…but i hoped that i was nearing the end of this nightmare.
My business websites may not receive much traffic in this age of websites dying after social media attack but my selfish little blog, where i chat about music, my loves and hates, women, jokes and tsunamis, had over 50 000 pages visited the past 3 months. I placed this rant here. If Kigiso sorts the problem, i will skip my original plan which was to post several articles on Hellopeter and every other site i could find. When MTN and Knysna were mentioned online i wanted my warning to appear in the search engines.
I can’t tell you to head to their main opposition, Vodacom. If Vodacom can’t hold a constant signal, then they’re going to hell longer than MTN…but at least they can keep one another company for a while. If anything, the Knysna Municipality should be taking on these companies, demanding better service for all.
I don’t believe in luck yet the only way to end this blog is to ask you to “hold thumbs for me”…
Update: June 6, Day 21 of hating MTN – 5 days after the above was written and 21 days since my MTN problem began. I have phoned the Tech department twice more. I emailed Kigiso this blog too. No fucking response. I hate you MTN!
Update #2: Jun 13, Day 28 of hating MTN – After more pain in the form of more operators, a supervisor (thanks for calling me, Neville) and the boss of the supervisors who never called me back (MTN’s Duty Manager, Sharlene Prinsloo), my connection was restored to glory early this evening. Will i receive a call apologizing? Will i receive reparations? Will MTN respond on Hellopeter?