Welcome Visitor:

So, you must have Internet access, right?

Yes. In the past year, many companies have sprung up to offer dialup internet access, and there are also a few cybercafes. The telecommunications network is being upgraded to digital everywhere in the city. However, all 'net access in Kazakhstan is by satellite, which means that bandwidth is very expensive and there's usually at least 300ms of latency between us and Europe or the US.

I'm particularly lucky in that in the office where I spend my time, we have an ADSL line, so we're constantly connected. However, the bandwidth limit on this line is 32kbps, and we pay about $300 USD per month for this line.

Yes, you did read that right. It's a DSL connection with a bandwidth cap SLOWER than a 56k modem, for three hundred dollars. This bandwidth amount, the lowest and cheapest available, isn't worth upgrading for the single reason that faster connections to the US and Europe simply aren't possible due to the congestion of outgoing satellite connections. In short, we could pay much more to get, say, a 512k line, but that would only get us a 512k connection to local sites in Kazakhstan. Connections to the external world would not rise much above the 10-15k we currently get.

In my apartment we have a line from a company called Academset. They are in the offices of the Kazakh Academy of Sciences, where they have highspeed lines to Nursat, the largest ISP in Kazakhstan. This company is reselling their excess capacity to local apartments by running thick coax lines over the rooftops and connecting them to hubs in crawlspaces, then running 10baseT lines into individual apartments. For this we pay $80 per month, and the speed is comparable to the ADSL lines, because again, the limiting factor is satellite bandwidth out of the country, and not the "last mile" to the customer. However, this line gets access through an NAT router in the Academy, and there are many security restrictions on their firewall, which, for instance, prevent me from playing Myth from my apartment.

UPDATE, June 2004

In late 2002 I was hired by a local ISP, so I had the equivalent of broadband at work, while still using Academset at home. In early 2003, I changed apartments and had to go back to using dialup.

In August 2003, that ISP provided me with a dedicated wireless connection at 32Kbps. However, I moved from that apartment and lost that access in March 2004, and I am once again using dialup.

UPDATE, January 2007

In late 2004, another company hired me that had 100 copper pairs wired to their premises from the local switch. We also had a 1Mbps connection from my previous employer. We installed new lines to the homes and apartments of the company partners, and bought four pairs of Zyxel DSL modems, to consolidate all the Internet traffic (and expense) in the office. It was basically a miniature ISP.

This situation continued from early 2005, when the modems were installed, until late in 2006, when we were unfortunately forced to sell those premises to land developers. However, in the meantime, the national telecoms operator has been aggressively rolling out DSL for consumers around the city at fairly reasonable prices, although it is still expensive compared to the US and elsewhere, and the speeds and traffic limits are still both quite low.

As of this writing, I am expecting 128Kbps DSL to be installed tomorrow.

UPDATE, November 2007

The national operator has made serious moves to promote DSL. We've now had 128Kbps symmetrical DSL with a 5Gb traffic limit for most of this year, some of that in our last apartment, some of that in the new one. Reliability in the new place, of both telephone and internet, has been a bit spotty, but seems to have settled down in the past week. Cost for the line runs about $36 a month, and the round-trip ping to the US is about 250ms, at best, with bursts up to 1500ms when things are bad.

This is a significant improvement over years past, when most of the bandwidth accessible to me was over satellite and the best ping I could hope for would be about 750ms. The national operator provisions some of its capacity through China Telecom fiber to Hong Kong, so that's the reason for the improvement.

UPDATE, November 2008

DSL prices have dropped to about $40 for 256Kbps and the traffic limits have largely been eliminated. I am back to work at the local ISP where we specialize in corporate clients and I'm working on new product rollout plans for next year.