Fiberlink: Probably the best internet service provider in Pakistan

In my view, the condition and quality of internet connectivity in Pakistan is an under-discussed topic. All of us might have heard a great deal about how Pakistan wants to be a big contributor in IT industry and how we are moving into a digital era. But despite all these claims, internet services remain below par in our country. Although the introduction of 3G/4G services has improved coverage and services a bit, but let’s not forget that the most used ISP in Pakistan, PTCL, is still a nightmare for many users.

Most 3G/4G services provide highly capped data packages which are not really suitable for anything other can casual browsing, social networking and maybe watching some light videos.

From people working in content creation industry to students looking to learn something online, everyone needs a fast and reliable internet connection to perform well. A connection capped at 10-20 GB is doesn’t cut for most moderate to heavy users. This is where these 3G/4G users turn to the next available option, PTCL.

The curse of PTCL and other services



The thing about PTCL is that it rules over a barren land. There is no one to challenge it. Owing to lack of competition, PTCL usually set the rules it deems appropriate for its business. Which means providing substandard service to customers because the customers don’t have any option to fall back. A majority of customers are on 4Mbps download and 1Mbps upload while paying PKR 2000 for it. How can these customers complain when they have nowhere else to go?!

Admittedly, a popularity of 3G/4G services has been a wake-up sign for PTCL and has resulted in lower package prices by the industry leader, but its services are still nowhere near what other, developed, countries are accustomed to.

Here the service Fiberlink comes in, which will be the subject of my review.

So what exactly is Fiberlink?



Fiberlink is actually not a new name in the industry. It has been providing services to corporate customers for a while now. But it has only just recently started providing residential connections. It uses end to end fiber optic network to provide amazing speeds at low pings.

Fiberlink promises a Fiber to the Home (FTTH) connection. Meaning that the fiber actually comes inside your home and connects to the modem, rather than to some transmission box installed by the ISP which then uses a copper wire to connect to your home. This should result in exceptionally low latency and a connection with no worries of attenuation and interference.

Now, like almost everything in this world, Fiberlink is not perfect. It has its ups and downs just like any other service.

Availability



Before I go further in the article and discuss its merits and demerits, you need to know that Fiberlink is currently not available in a lot of areas. It is only available in parts of Karachi, Lahore, and Faisalabad. You can go to their Facebook page and drop them a message to see if they cover your area. If the answer is yes, you are in luck and can proceed with the rest of the article.

Package list and installation cost



Before talking about how the connection performs in real life, let’s talk about how much will the connection cost you to get it up and running.

Fiberlink offers different prices for different areas (only for areas in Karachi I think). So there are two tariffs currently implemented by Fiberlink, one for DHA and one for other areas. A brief overview of the charges is:

For DHA




  • 8 Mbps

    • PKR 1,800 Monthly

    • PKR 18,000 Yearly



  • 15 Mbps

    • PKR 2,500 Monthly

    • PKR 25,000 Yearly



  • 35 Mbps

    • PKR 3,000 Monthly

    • PKR 30,000 Yearly



  • 100 Mbps

    • PKR 4,000 Monthly

    • PKR 40,000 Yearly





Rest of the areas




  • 8 Mbps

    • PKR 1,500 Monthly

    • PKR 14,000 Yearly



  • 15 Mbps

    • PKR 2,000 Monthly

    • PKR 18,000 Yearly



  • 35 Mbps

    • PKR 2,500 Monthly

    • PKR 25,000 Yearly



  • 100 Mbps

    • PKR 4,000 Monthly

    • PKR 40,000 Yearly





Users will also have to pay a PKR 5,000 installation fee (PKR 7,000 for DHA) if they choose the monthly package. There is no installation fee if you decide to go for yearly payment method. The package speed also doubles from 2:30 in the night to 10:30 in the morning. So if you opt for a 35 Mbps connection, you will get 70 Mbps from 2:30 AM to 10:30 AM.

Installation process



So this part of the Fiberlink experience is one of the most frustrating things I have had to go through. It’s kind of like the ultimate battle in a game, by winning which you ultimately gain all the rewards and happiness you previously thought were impossible to achieve. The difficult thing, however, is to buckle up, be patient and actually go through the ordeal.

As you can see from different online forums, Fiberlink does take a lot of time to install. The situation is a little better in Karachi but in Lahore, they will most definitely take more than a month to install your connection. They give a lot of different explanations for this like equipment has to be brought from Karachi, registration of new connections etc. But the fact of the matter is that you will have to wait quite a while before your connection gets up and running. Now there are a few things you can do like calling them again and again, or complaining about it on their helpline, but mileage of these methods vary from person to person.

Equipment Fiberlink installs



Remember the PKR 5,000 that they asked earlier as installation fee? In that fee, they offer a simple GPON ONU (of an unknown manufacturer with the Fiberlink logo plastered on top). The device is not capable of working as a wireless access point. So you will have to buy a separate router to connect more than one devices to the network. They also cover the cost of the fiber from their nearest ONT box to your home in the aforementioned installation fee.

Let’s talk some numbers



Enough chit chat about the installation and yada yada, you are probably waiting to know how the connection holds up to their claim of providing unprecedented speeds in Pakistan. Before going further with the discussion about speed and other factors, let me first share a couple of speed tests with you.

To test the connection, I opted for a 35 Mbps connection instead of going straight for the maximum available speed. I chose this package because it is the perfect balance of speed and price, and most people would probably pick this option over others. So the first test is the 35 Mbps speed that I usually get on this connection.



I should probably tell you here that this is not the best case scenario that I have shared above. This is the speed that I always get when my link is up. To further sweeten the pot, the speed is also doubled from 2:30 AM to 10:30 AM.



I have done a lot of speed tests since I have gotten this connection installed and you can see all of them by following this link.

What this translates into real life scenarios is that I get mostly 4-4.5 MBps speed while downloading both directly and via BitTorrent. Although Fiberlink provides synchronous upload and download speeds, I haven’t been able to hit more than 1.5 MBps while uploading a file to any one of the services that I use.

Performance of connection



Download and upload speeds have been surprisingly consistent in the time that I have used this connection. I don’t game a lot so I apologize in advance for any wrong statement, but pings have also been pretty good from what I can tell. I can, however, confirm that YouTube and Netflix streaming works like a charm on the connection.

There is a factor of peak hours (from about 6 PM to 11 PM) which was not an issue in the early days of connection but has been showing its ugly side for the past few days. Other than that, there is no issue in streaming 4K footage on YouTube (yep you read that right, 4K). Netflix streams on 1080p smoothly (It just doesn’t hit UHD by itself no matter what I try).

Everything isn’t so rosy after all



Now that you and I both have stopped drooling at the speeds Fiberlink is offering, there are some issues which you need to be aware of before you pick up the phone and order their connection.

First of all, as I mentioned earlier, it is not available in many parts of Lahore, Karachi, and Faisalabad, let alone other cities. And even if you manage to relocate to an area where they provide services, they take way too long to install the connection. 40-45 days to install a connection, during which there is no clear indication from them, is a very poor method of dealing with customers.

Woes before installation could have been forgotten if the customer support after the connection is installed is commendable. Now I won’t say their customer support infrastructure is the worst, it actually is quite decent. You can easily ask a question or register a complaint using the WhatsApp number they provide after they complete deployment of connection. But in the past few weeks, there were a number of incidents which forced me to rethink their customer and infrastructure support. This brings me to my next complaint with Fiberlink — disconnections.

Despite all the benefits, a major issue of fiber optic cable is that it is too fragile. Now to their credit, Fiberlink has managed to get most of their fiber infrastructure to go underground to protect it from any kind of harm. But, unfortunately, in my area, they are still struggling to get permission by the government to dig up some portion of ground to bury the fiber. Due to one reason or another, they haven’t been able to do so.

This has resulted in a number of disconnections in the past month due to simple reasons such as LESCO employees mistakenly damaging the wire during their maintenance work. Whenever that has happened, Fiberlink team has taken more than a day to fix the issue and I have spent a lot of time complaining again and again to them to fix the issue. At every single complaint, I got the same empty reassurance of maintenance team being dispatched to my location.

Obviously, if your area already has the fiber running underground, you will probably not face these issues. But it is better to keep this in mind if your livelihood depends on a stable internet connection.

In the end…



Fiberlink is quite an interesting internet service provider. When it works, it is the best internet connection I have ever witnessed in Pakistan (not a very high standard, but still). But when circumstances are not in your favor or some electricity guy decides to lay waste to your fiber connection, you might have to spend a few days without your beloved internet connection.

If Fiberlink is available in your area, and they have completed underground wiring, I wholeheartedly implore you to explore this option instead of cursing some other notorious providers.

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