Reasons Why Globe Telecom’s WiMax Sucks

On the 13th I wrote a blog post about Globe services.  I tried to keep the tone neutral, to be fair.  We’ve been having some problems with them, but I wanted to give them a fair chance to get their shit together so the post was mostly just about what they offer in terms of Internet services.  However, every single day we seem to have an issue with Globe and their response is less than adequate, even for a provider in a 3rd world country.

Globe Sucks

To put it simply, Globe sucks.  I hope their offices burn to the ground, but only after I’ve left the country or someone may see this and come looking for me.  Today I’ll talk about why Globe’s WiMax sucks.  Tomorrow I’ll talk about how their mobile and customer service sucks.

Globe’s WiMax Rip-Off

My biggest issue right now is with Globe’s WiMax service.

We had two choices when we signed up.  We could either pay 795 PHP per month for a 512 kbits/s plan, or pay 995 PHP per month for a 1 MB/s (~1024 kbit/s) plan.  We figured it was worth the extra 200 pesos for double the speed so we went with the higher plan.

WiMax is high speed broadband, or so they claim, and for a while it was fantastic.  When it was first installed, the morons put it on the side of the house, under the eaves, so the signal was bad.  When we finally got it installed correctly on the roof and our signal strength went from 36% to 100%, it was like I was in the US somewhere.  Well, ok not that great, but it was close.  Everything was fast and download speeds were reasonable at 100 kbits/s, on average, meeting the rate quoted in our plan.

So here’s the fucked up part.  Everything went to crap after we had the service for about two weeks.  On the 8th, our connection speed dropped from 1 MB/s to 300 kbits/s.  Now, just to make sure you understand, that’s 1/3 of what it should be, and is lower than the lower tier plan, which is supposed to be 512 kbits/s.  So, we’re paying for a higher tier plan and can’t even get the connection speed of the lower tier plan.  What kind of sense does that make?  I’ve contacted their customer support numerous times, in numerous ways, to try to get this fixed, but the answers are getting increasingly stupid and I think we’re just being screwed.

Twitter

Globe has a Twitter account, @talk2Globe, and I figured why not give it a shot?  It’s easier to communicate in type when you’re talking to someone that has trouble understanding English, which is the impression I have of Globe CSRs after having dealt with them many times previously.  Either that or they’re trained to make conversations intentionally more difficult than they have to be  So, the day after the connection slowed down, I DMed their Globe account with the details of our problem.

The following day I received these DMs from Globe:

So, I messaged them back letting them know I’d checked all of those things before messaging them and that the problem was ongoing.

They replied with this:

That’s a reasonable request, so I went ahead and used Speed Test and sent them the results.

SpeedTest1 SpeedTest2
SpeedTest3

As you can see from the results, the speed seems to be fairly well capped at .30 Mb/s down, or about 300 kbits/s.  That’s constant.  It’s still this way now, as of the 21st (keep in mind the times on the Speed Tests are in GMT, not local Philippines time):

If this problem were due to network congestion, it wouldn’t stay capped at 300 kbits/s ALL THE TIME, would it?  At some point, our connection would meet the 1 MB/s plan we’re signed up for, but ever since the 8th that’s not the case.

I sent links to these Speed Test results to Globe via DM.  This was their response:

This is the first time I heard Globe say that 300 kbits/s is an acceptable speed for their WiMax, and while that might be completely fine if I had the 512 kbs/s plan, I expect more from them when I have the 1 MB/s plan.  I expect at least more than I would get from the tier below me.  Common sense tells you that 1 MB/s is the maximum, but not the speed you’ll get all the time.  Common sense also tells you that you should get 1 MB/s at least most of the time.  Unfortunately, I’m not getting it, period.  Ever.  I can’t even break 512 kbits/s.
So, I let the Globe guy know his response wasn’t satisfactory, because there’s no way we’d be getting 1 MB/s speeds consistently and then suddenly be completely capped at 300 kbits/s.

We hope you understand.

Ya. I do understand buddy, but I’m not going to let your company keep screwing me.

I resolved to call the hotline, lodge my complaint again and also lodge a complaint against this Twitter imbecile.

Call to the 211 Customer Service Hotline #1

Right after sending my DM replies to Globe’s Twitter account, I called the hotline.  I explained the problem to the CSR and he walked me through their standard trouble shooting techniques.  Then he got smart and had me access the modem’s information page.  He had me read off some numbers on the page and told me that one of them, either the ‘RSSI’ or ‘CINR Reuse’, he didn’t specify which, wasn’t within acceptable limits.  Right on.  So then I told him about how inept their Twitter CSR is, and asked him why the guy wasn’t trained to find the same things that he did.

Then we agreed that he’d send out some technicians to look at my set up and figure out what the problem is.  These technicians showed up on time the following day (the 12th) and checked everything out.  They looked at the figures on the modem’s info page, ran some speed tests, and then told me that the problem is with the tower that our modem connects to.  They said they’d submit the report and have it checked out.

Call to the 211 Customer Service Hotline #2

On the 14th I called back and asked what was going on since our service hadn’t improved.  I was told that the tower in our area would be serviced on the 16th and to just monitor our connection speed.  We were told to be sure to call back if nothing improved, but then, despite the fact that there was a verified problem, she also reminded me that 300 kbits/s is “an acceptable speed for WiMax.”  I told her we had a perfectly good 1 MB/s connection until it suddenly dropped off, that it was a verified problem, and that I expected my regular speed to return to 1 MB/s since I knew it was possible, and it’s what we are paying for.

Call to the 211 Customer Service Hotline #3

I kept an eye on the connection speed and nothing happened.  It stayed slow and steady at 300 kbits/s.  On the 19th I called back again, asking what the problem was and when I could expect my connection to return to the speed we’re paying for.  That’s when I had to argue again about the supposed acceptability of 300 kbits/s for WiMax speed.

I asked them how it was possible for us to have 1 MB/s speeds for two weeks and then for it to suddenly drop off and stay capped at 300 kbits/s.  I asked why I would pay for a 1 MB/s plan when they couldn’t even offer the speed for the lower tier plan.  The moron couldn’t seem to understand the concept, so I had to make it really simple for him.  I asked him:

“If you went to the gas station and paid for 10 liters of gas and they only gave you 3, would that be ok with you?  Would that be acceptable?”

The analogy isn’t quite right, but it’s close enough.

I’m sure the person on the other end of the line finally got what I was talking about, but instead of agreeing with me, he just went back to quoting company rhetoric about 300 kbits/s being acceptable for WiMax.  Do they really think we’re going to pay 995 PHP per month when they can’t even give us the level of service that people paying 795 PHP per month are getting?  It’s not an issue of it occasionally being 300 kbits/s.  It’s ALWAYS 300 kbits/s.

The call ended with them assuring me they’d send someone out to look at our connection again.  Those people were supposed to show up yesterday, but didn’t.  They called at 6:30 PM to tell us how deeply sorry they were and that they’d come today instead (Saturday, the 21st).  Thanks a lot.  I’m glad I wanted to sit around the house all day Saturday waiting for them after doing the exact same thing on Friday.

My Theory

It’s really possible that there’s something wrong with the tower, considering the response from the 1st call about there being something wrong with the RSSI or CINR Reuse figures, and they’re just too inept to figure out how to fix it.  Or it could be that they know what’s wrong with it but won’t spend the money to repair it.  Neither would surprise me, but it’s still not acceptable.

However, I think there might be another reason for it.  I think Globe did this on purpose so they could accommodate more customers using that same tower, without upgrading their hardware.  Since we got our WiMax set up, I’ve seen other Globe antennae popping up in the neighborhood.  From a greedy, ‘fuck-the-customers-let’s-make-money’ perspective, it makes perfect sense.  What doesn’t make sense is that my connection would be perfectly good and then suddenly drop off, never to rise above 300 kbits/s again.  If my connection regularly hit 1 MB/s but sometimes slowed down to 300 kbits/s, I would understand.  That’s definitely network congestion and I can live with that.  What I can’t live with is that either my connection is being forcibly limited at so low a speed that it’s in the next lower tier of service, or they’re too stupid to figure out how to fix their own hardware.

However, I’m not going to just stand around and get screwed.  One of two things is going to happen:  they’re either going to fix my connection and get it back where it should be or they’re going to shift us down to the lower plan.  We’re not going to pay for what we’re not getting.  It’s just too bad we’re locked into a contract.

In the meantime, I’m going to make sure to cost them as much money as possible by constantly calling their tech-support line and constantly having house visits by their technicians.  I’m also going to start visiting other people in the neighborhood to see what kinds of speeds they’re getting on their connections.  If their speeds are being capped too, then that’s all the more ammunition I can use to blast out their corrupt business practices on my blog.

Menstrual Bread

Once again, I seem to have found something in Filipino culture related to menstruation.  First it was washing your face with menstrual blood, and now it’s a food product.  The bread in the picture below is commonly known as pan de regla, or pan de mens(truation), because it resembles a used sanitary napkin, chock full of red gobby goodness.

DSC05400

This type of bread can be found in nearly any bakery in the country.  It’s a poor man’s bread that can be purchased for very cheap prices due to the way it’s made.  In the Filipino spirit of not letting anything go to waste, bakeries recycle unsold products into a sort of pudding, which is then sweetened and used as a bread filling.  The filling gets its bright red hue from food coloring and while you can sometimes find it in other colors, red is the most common.

The taste is ok.  I’m not exactly amazed by it, but I suppose you can’t expect much from what amounts to days old bread smeared in between layers of fresh bread.

Globe Telecom Internet Services: Better Than Nothing, Usually

When my wife and I moved to the Philippines we were fully expecting to not have Internet, except for at Internet cafes, until we moved to Manila.  My in-law’s house is way up in a mountain valley.  There aren’t even phone lines here.  So, we were thrilled to find out that we did in fact have options for Internet service, though the only carrier with coverage in our area is Globe Telecom.  Globe offers two types of service here, Globe Tattoo USB broadband and Globe WiMax.

We’ve used both.  We’ve also spent quite a bit of time talking to Globe Customer Service reps about quality issues, and while I’m still happy we have Internet service out here in the boonies, I figured I’d write this blog post to let people know what they can expect and what they might be getting themselves into when they sign up with Globe.

Globe Tattoo Prepaid USB Internet Service

Globe Tattoo USB Sticks

When we first arrived, this was the option that was recommended to us.  We weren’t even aware of the WiMax option until much later and we were both using one of these USB sticks for our Internet access.  These things are convenient and portable.  You can take them with you and plug them into your laptop for access anywhere Globe has coverage.  They work ‘out of the box’ with both Windows and Mac OSX and with a little extra work you can even get them working on Ubuntu Linux, though with less features.  When you first plug the stick in, you’ll be prompted to install a software package that will allow you to connect to the network, monitor your usage and even send and receive SMS from your laptop (at standard rates).

The Internet service rate is really affordable, at 5 PHP (0.11 USD) for 15 minutes.  That’s great if you only want to use the Internet for an hour or so a day.  You could wind up saving by using it, rather than having a subscription plan.  You can also get deals like 24 hours of service for 50 PHP (1.10 USD) or 5 days of service for 220 PHP (4.85 USD), which is a discount on the regular rate.

The problem with the Globe Tattoo USD Internet service is the network itself.  From what I read there are very few areas where it works well, and more often than not you won’t be reaching the 2 MB/s advertised speed.  There are times when the service doesn’t work at all.  It will let you connect, and debit 5 PHP from your account, but it won’t actually connect to the Internet.  There was one instance where I signed up for the 24 hour access service, but was only able to effectively use the Internet for an hour and a half.  The fallback to that is that you can call Globe’s help line and if you complain enough, get the amount refunded to your account.  It’s a lot of hassle though.

Globe WiMax

Globe Broadband WiMax Modem

Globe WiMax is broadband Internet access, but without wires.  It works pretty much the same way any broadband Internet service does.  The set-up is just a bit different.  It typically comes in two parts, a white modem that looks like a lamp shade or blender and an external antenna that’s mounted to the outside of your house.  You can get the modem to work with a wireless router so more than one laptop can share the connection.  When my wife and I found out about the WiMax service we immediately switched to it.  Both of us like to surf the Internet, so it made sense for us to just use WiMax.  More often than not we were both signing up for 24 hour access on the Tattoo USB sticks, so we were paying more than what the WiMax costs.

Globe WiMax comes in different packages.  You can either get the Internet only 512 kb/s plan for 795 PHP (17.52), the Internet only 1 MB/s plan for 995 PHP (21.92 USD), or a 1 MB/s plan that comes with a phone line for 1295 PHP (28.53 USD) per month.  Those prices aren’t too bad at all, even on local wages.  We picked the 1 MB/s Internet only plan.

Where Globe WiMax fails is in the network, again.  Since it doesn’t use wires and relies on a broadcasted signal, any time the weather gets a little rough, your signal quality will suffer.  Sometimes storms will knock the service out entirely for more than a day.  Other times it just goes down for no discernible reason.  Right now we’re having a problem with the service speed and I’ve been working on getting that fixed for about 5 days.  The problem is with the servicing tower in our area.  My speed started capping at 300 kb/s this past Sunday and I can’t get better than that since, even though I was reaching 1 MB/s or more regularly before that.

Globe Customer Service

Globe’s customer service isn’t necessarily bad, but it’s annoying and disorganized.  Here are some problems we’ve had:

When we first decided we wanted to get WiMax we went to the Globe office at SM Taytay, or maybe it’s in the mall that’s connected by a closed bridge.  We were told that the company would check to see if service was available in our area and they would call us back.  They never called back, even though we waited for about two weeks.  We wound up running into a contracted employee of Globe, a licensed distributor, that hooked us up.

We arranged to have our service installed two days after our application was approved.  The day before our installation date we went to Manila.  While we were in Manila thinking about what to have for a late lunch, Globe installers called us and asked us why we weren’t home.  We had to argue with them about what an appointment means and wound up leaving Manila (and not eating til much later) to make sure we got our service and they didn’t just leave and not ever come back.

Our service was installed at about 4 PM. That night the service went down at 11 PM.  I called the next morning to complain at about 6 AM and, luckily, repairmen were going to be in the area that day so they stopped by.  Right when they came in the door the service came back up.  The problem was with the tower and another crew had repaired it.

The next day another group of Globe employees showed up to install our service.

Two days later another group of Globe employees showed up to repair our service.

A few days after that I got tired of the bad signal quality and unreliable nature of the connection and called to have it checked out.  When the repairmen showed up, they said the antenna should be mounted on the roof so it can get better signal, not on the side of the house under the eaves where the original installers put it.

I discovered that if you don’t have a certain amount of prepaid credits on your phone, you can’t call Globe’s free help hotline.

Last Sunday my service suddenly dropped down to 300 kb/s max download speed, instead of the usual 1 MB/s.  Because my phone was low and I was too lazy to go get it topped up, I tried out contacting Globe via their Twitter account.  After dragging the conversation on for a few days, the Globe employee finally told me: “Btw the 300 kbps result of the speed test that you have submitted is an acceptable speed for wimax, … We hope you understand. Thanks.”  My problem with this is that I have the 1 MB/s plan, not the 512 kb/s plan. If I had the 512 kb/s plan I wouldn’t care, because that IS fairly acceptable.  However, my minimum speed should at least be higher than the speed of the lower tier, or what the hell am I paying more for?  And common sense should tell you that the speed wouldn’t just suddenly drop off and cap at 300 kb/s like that for no reason.  There had to be a problem.  So, I contacted Globe via the 211 help hotline and gave the rep some information from the modem admin panel.  He said that one of the figures wasn’t within acceptable limits and sent technicians, which in turn said the problem is with the tower, which is what I told the Globe guy on Twitter to start with.  I’m still waiting for them to fix whatever the problem is.

 

Like I said initially, I’m glad we have service at all way out here, but if a company is going to offer service, could they at least do it correctly?  Can they meet their own service standard by doing installations properly and properly diagnose problems and then fix them?  Can they not send multiple crews to do the same job? Can they train the person running their Twitter account properly?  And why do I have to have more than 1 PHP in prepaid load to call their free hotline?  It’s free!

Our Cats Have Adjusted to the Philippines

For any of you that have been following my blog for a while you’ll know that I have cats and that they’re very much a part of the family.  We had cats the entire time we lived in Singapore and while some of them passed away due to illness or accident, we love them and didn’t want to leave them behind when we moved to the Philippines.  Getting our 3 ‘babies’ here from Singapore was a real pain in he ass, and a costly one too, but it’s been rewarding and it’s great to see that they’ve adjusted well to their new environment.

Things didn’t go quite as planned.  We’re staying at my in-law’s place temporarily and there are other cats here.  They haven’t had shots, they’re aggressive and they’re dirty.  We don’t want our relatively pampered cats to mix with them because we don’t want them getting sick or injured.  The area of the house we’re staying in is sort of a mini-suite.  It has its own bathroom and mini-kitchen along with a bedroom, so it’s spacious enough I suppose.  We’re keeping our cats isolated from the others in our area.  They don’t seem to mind too much, though I think they wish they had more room to play.  Eventually, we’ll be moving to a place in Manila where they’ll be able to roam the whole house, once we get window screens installed.

DSC05357 DSC05360 DSC05372

Thumper, the black cat, seems the least concerned with her change of location.  Even though she’s got sort of a weird, gimpy way of walking due to a birth defect she always seems to be the most confident, even after moving to another country.  She also seems to be the least concerned with the other cats in the house.  Marble, the one in the middle, is busy being fat.  When we first adopted her she was pretty skinny but now she spends most of her time laying around doing nothing and when it’s feeding time she tries to push the other cats out of the way to eat their food before eating hers.  That’s a problem because she’s gaining weight rapidly and the other two cats are going hungry.  I’m thinking about putting her in a cat carrier during feeding time to make sure everyone gets their fair share.  Dapper is still the big sissy she always was, but as long as she has a blanket to hide under at night she’s ok.

One of the weirdest things these cats do now is that they like to chase and eat bugs.  In Singapore, even though there were no window screens, we rarely found a bug or flying insect indoors.  There was one incident with a gecko in the room, but that’s about it.  Here, there are always moths and beetles flying around and all three cats find them incredibly fascinating.  They chase them around and when they manage to catch one, they gobble it up like it’s candy.  Kinda gross, but it doesn’t seem to be making them sick, so I’ll let them do what they want.

They also compete for the platform at the top of their scratch post / gym, because it gives a view out the window.  Things outside are a lot more lively here than in Singapore and they want to be able to watch.  They can sometimes see and hear chickens, other cats, dogs, children playing and people hanging out in the street.

I’m glad to see how well they’ve adjusted and that they’re having a good time.  I hope they’ll be just as quick to adapt the next time we make an international move.  Hm.  That reminds me, it’s almost time for them to get more shots!

For more information on importing cats to the Philippines from Singapore, click here.

The Use of Garlic in Philippines Superstitions

As in the West, the use of garlic plays a prominent role in Filipino superstitions.  Filipinos have always been very superstitious and many continue to believe in their validity now.  I recently saw a neighboring family removing branches from the trees around their house because they thought a manananggal was hiding there at night, preying on the family.

A few days ago I saw a braid of garlic in the store and my wife started telling me about how some Filipinos believe it’s useful against manananggal, so I decided to look up as much information as I could about the use of garlic in Filipino superstitions.  It turns out that it’s mostly used as a preventative measure, as a ward against the manananggal, aswang and tiyanak.

DSC05371

Manananggal and Aswang

The manananggal is the Filipino version of a vampire and an aswang is much the same, except that unlike the manananggal, it can’t fly.  The terms aswang and manananggal are often used interchangeably, though some distinctive characteristics of an aswang are that it can also use witchcraft and may be an eater of the dead, replacing cadavers with banana tree trunks.

To prevent an aswang or manananggal from entering your house, it’s recommended that you place braided cloves of garlic and salt at all entry points, such as the windows and doorsteps.  Oddly enough, it’s believed that the odor of burning rubber will serve a similar purpose, but garlic is much easier to come by and more practical than burning tires every night.

A person that believes they may become a victim of these creatures should carry crushed garlic or a mixture of crushed garlic and salt wherever they go.  The smell will prevent the aswang and manananggal from being able to track them.  This is probably effective if you want to prevent anyone from standing too close to you, especially on extremely hot days.

In the event that you’ve seen a manananggal and you want to ‘kill’ it, you have to roam about in the village or surrounding woods, searching for its lower half.  The manananggal’s upper body separates from the lower body when it grows wings to fly about, searching for prey.  When you find the lower half of the body, you should set a trap, usually made of heavy ropes and then sprinkle the lower half of the manananggal with salt, ash and garlic.  This will cause the creature a great deal of pain and the upper portion will return to see what’s going on.  When it does, it can either be killed or have the curse removed by shoving a pint of salt down it’s throat, which will make it vomit up the evil, egg-shaped stone that carries the manananggal’s spirit, freeing the human from its influence.  The stone should be vomited directly into a fire.  If anyone else touches it, they risk being possessed by the manananggal.

Tiyanak

The tiyanak, a creature that can take on the form of a newborn baby to attract victims, can also be repelled by garlic along with a rosary.  Another method of driving it off is to turn your shirt inside out, which supposedly entertains it enough to let you go.  Tiyanaks are believed to be born from the corpses of babies whose mothers died while they were still in the womb.  A modern derivative is that they are the souls of aborted fetuses returned to terrorize and take vengeance on those that denied them life.