I am not alone in being extremely concerned over Dialog Telekom’s reprehensible lies about its wireless broadband quality of service. Perhaps in response to Mobitel’s announcement earlier this month of HSPA+ wireless broadband trials, Dialog’s Darley Road office, amongst others, now sport banners suggesting that the company offers HSPA+ at 28.8Mbps.
The Daily Mirror report on the Mobitel HSPA+ trials notes that HSPA+ “… is capable of delivering downlink speeds of up to 28 Mbps.” Emphasis mine. On the other hand, Dialog’s posters and advertising explicitly mention HSPA+ speeds at 28.8Mbps. At used in this way denotes a particular point or segment on a scale. For example, driving at 50kmph means that you are not driving at 49kmph or 51kmph, or at an average of 30kmph. When Dialog promises HSPA+ at 28.8Mbps, this is precisely what a customer must then expect, all the time.
This is, unsurprisingly, not the case even in their trials currently showcased at their Darley Road office. Even on the two Dell laptops connected to their HSPA+ test signal, throughput at the time I was there never exceeded around 16.3Mbps (the laptop was using a download manager to get two large files, in separate locations, outside Dialog’s domain). Worse, the Dialog representative openly said that speeds of 28.8Mbps were not achievable in the real world. When I then pointed to the significant divide between what the Dialog poster propped next to us promised and what the customer would experience, the response I got was that upgrading the network to HSPA+ would benefit the entire customer base who would experience better throughput overall. The essential fallacy of the company’s advertising was simply not acknowledged. I also asked whether Dialog as part of its HSPA+ rollout, was going to guarantee a minimum throughput, to which the answer was no.
This is not the first time Dialog Telekom has attempted to beguile customers through misleading advertising. My own experience with the company in the past suggests marketing strategies significantly anchored to misinformation, tellingly acknowledged by its own employees. Furthermore, independent think-tank Lirneasia has repeatedly exposed the great divide between promise and reality when it comes to wireless broadband from Sri Lankan telcos. My own office has three Dialog HSPA accounts and the network throughput on all of them even in metropolitan Colombo is pathetic. Repeated calls to Dialog were unable to resolve the pissant throughput that mirrors the experience of this blogger in 2008 and this blogger in 2009.
As Prof. Rohan Samarajiva from Lirneasia has noted in the past, “… all mobile operators [engage] in hype”. Rohan also avers that “UPTO is a weasel word. It is accurate even if all they give is 1 Kbps”. Significant user dissatisfaction with the blatant lies of leading Sri Lankan telcos are evident on the web. This endemic lying is not unique to Sri Lanka. Telcos in the United Kingdom were in 2008 found to be clearly at fault for deceiving customers over broadband speeds.
Yet given the absence of an Advertising Standards Authority in Sri Lanka that inter alia, holds telecoms companies responsible for misinformation, how can we ensure that the likes of Dialog Telekom and Mobitel are held accountable for the deception they continue to employ so blatantly?