It’s finally Friday night, school finished for the week, and everyone is anxious to spend the night doing something they enjoy and relaxing at home. Someone comes bursting out of their bedroom, “Who is downloading something? Is someone streaming videos? Can everyone get off the internet!”. This scene occurs often at the Bryson home in New Delhi. The internet has been more of a lifeline to us since leaving the United States than ever before yet has brought some of the most frustrating moments and reminders of where we now live — a land much different than we once knew.
In order to help Hailey feel a little of home we set up a slingbox at one of Tyler’s siblings home. Friday night and Saturday are Hailey’s moments of feeling like she can get a taste of home by viewing a little American TV. For Thomas and Conner, their free time activities are definitely limited here (they would say that is an understatement!). As a result, they find the ability to spend leisure time playing video games, Xbox or just trying to download a show a necessity to feel a little normal here. Well, someone coming from the United States, never having lived in a place like India, might have a difficult time comprehending why the frustration?! Well let me explain why the frustration coming from Thomas as he storms out of his room on Friday night.
The world’s average MBPS (megabits per second) is 15. Our San Clemente home’s MBPS was about 25. Well, our home in New Delhi has a whopping 1.8 MBPS! Yes, you read that right… a big 1.8. That rating is a grade “D” for India and an “F-” for the world. We have spent quite a bit of time and energy with our internet provider, Airtel trying to improve our situation. When we first moved in we had one router installed as well as one booster. Well, we have found that it is hard to go anywhere in our home except the one room where the router is located and where the booster is plugged in to get internet access. So, after spending much time with the landlord’s electrician (who by the way did the installation of the wiring when the building was built but doesn’t even know how to check the internet on a computer to see if it is wired properly), and the Airtel people, the only solution we have come up with is adding a second router and a second booster. I wish I could say it has vastly improved our situation here but I just remind myself that it is what it is going to be here in India.
To order a second router and booster and have it installed through Airtel, you have one of their employees come to your home. They ask for copies of nearly everything — passport, visa, proof of your contract with the landlord, your proof of employment, and several passport sized pictures along with the cash for the installation. Then the order goes into the company’s queue and one gets 8-10 different contractors knocking on your door wanting to do the installation so they can get their piece of the pie. Through all of this Airtel interaction we learned that there is one block in Vasant Vihar (another expat neighborhood near ours) that Airtel has wired to receive 6 MBPS. Looking backwards, that would have seriously been a place we would have pursued further had we known. So there is no wonder why sometimes our boys are heading into the School’s library on a Saturday to spend a few hours because they have 20 MBPS — a huge improvement. Many parents during the week also hang out there for the same reason.
These serve 2 Xboxes, 5 Surfaces, and 3 computers.
When it comes to phone speed, there is no 4G here, only 3G is available and we get 4.8 MBPS on our smartphones. In India, a smartphone is the most common tool used to access the internet. This year 60 million smartphones will be purchased but only 10 million PCs. In India, most smart phones cost under $120 whereas in the US it costs over $300. One of the things we really prefer here is that you purchase the phone and then pick your provider with absolutely no service contracts involved. Many of the more average and poorer Indians will purchase a smartphone but have no data plan, they just access the internet through WiFi.
So patience is required here in the Bryson household — the internet is not the same yet it has become more precious to us than ever. Let’s just say that every country we’ve traveled to this past year and when we do return this summer to the United States, that faster bandwidth is truly treasured and appreciated more than ever.