Netflix in Pakistan

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I visited the US in 2014 and had the pleasure of staying with a good friend who had moved to New Jersey from Lahore a few years back. Being a self-styled critic of one’s binge watching setup/apparatus I immediately took account of all that my host and America had to offer. After fiddling with the ‘spread’ for a few hours I quickly came to the conclusion that the variety of content that Netflix offered was the best of the lot.

I had heard of Netflix before. It started out as a DVD rental delivery service which became an online streaming website after the advent of sites such as Hulu and BBC Player. However, Netflix quickly established itself as the leader in online streaming services with its variety, arrangement of content and most importantly the price. Paying $11.99 a month through any Pakistani credit card, you have unlimited streaming access to your very own Netflix account with up to four users who can avail the facility.

After returning to Lahore I realised that I would somehow have to bypass the technical/regional limitations that Netflix had in Pakistan and many other countries. I found a way pretty soon through some basic “Googling”. Deceive the machinery to get access! I changed my internet connection’s DNS (domain name system) settings to make it think that my location was somewhere in the US or anywhere else where Netflix was legally operating.

It was, however, a short-lived thrill. I had to juggle between different DNS settings while maintaining a stable Wi-Fi speed that complemented a decent Netflix platform. I tried a WD box that offered a USB extension, a 2nd generation Apple TV, and my laptop with a Zenmate proxy. I gave up after paying for a lot of bandwidth that resulted in unlimited high resolution expensive content. The purpose of Netflix was to be able to view it at a decent buffering speed on the TV in the lounge. That never happened for me, not consistently at least. I suspended my account after a while as I was still accruing charges without using it.

I have been a hardcore torrent downloader for many years. I have a library of around 4 TB consisting mostly of compressed 1080p and 720p Blu-ray movies and a variety of TV shows in lower resolution of 480p and below. It has taken me over five years to compile this library and it was no easy task. Torrent downloading can get quite frustrating. Slow download speeds, low or zero seeders for those old shows or single episodes. There is also the problem with investment in hardware. Storage can be expensive, a decent processor can cost a pretty penny and of course buying all that bandwidth and speed is not cheap either. Then there is the constant danger of losing all that hard earned data in a matter of seconds. I have dropped my passport hard disk many a times and have had to retrieve lost data on several occasions due to a corrupted hard disk partition. Organising all the content and making it easily accessible over multiple platforms is another headache altogether.

Last week, Netflix became legally operational in over 130 countries including Pakistan. I have since activated my account and in the past three days have watched at least 12 to 15 hours of quality TV on Netflix between work and other obligations. It is partly the reason why this article is appearing today rather than Sunday. Other people have been less optimistic and more critical. One of the major concerns is that the quality of internet in Pakistan will not compliment the streaming service. I beg to differ. I tried out three different connections. The first was a 4MB PTCL broadband connection. For some reason that didn’t work and I got the same error message as I did when Netflix wasn’t operational here. I then connected my PTCL 3G EVO Wingle. It worked and the speed was decent. There were no significant buffering pauses but the resolution wasn’t all that great due to lack of speed. Another issue is that the volume is only 20 GB which is easily used up before the end of the month when you use any video streaming service on a daily basis. PTCL only resets that volume after one whole month, not mid-way. Lastly, I tried the latest from ZONG. Their 4G LTE enabled dongle. I had a winner. Not only did it buffer well, the resolution was for the most part very good. The volume is sufficient for Netflix purposes as well. For an initial 6,000 rupees and subsequently a monthly 3,800 rupees, you can get up to 100GB volume and 4G LTE speed. A speed test showed around 20 to 26 Mbps.

As of 2011 Netflix has also started producing original programming and it has not disappointed. Starting with ‘House of Cards’ to ‘Orange Is the New Black’ and the brilliantly dark and action packed ‘Daredevil’ last year, they have delivered a variety of excellent binge watch worthy shows. The best part about these shows is that all ten episodes are released in one go. Their original documentaries are quite good as well. Their latest offering ‘Making a Murderer’ is exceptional to say the least. Consisting of 10, one-hour episodes, you will be hooked from episode one, guaranteed. The best part about Netflix is the personalised nature of the user friendly interface. It will make suggestions according to your viewing pattern and choice of show. You can pick up where you left off at any movie or episode which eliminates that irritating practice of manually keeping track of where you pressed the stop button.

Of course, Netflix is not a comprehensive library of all the movies and TV shows in the world. You will have to download the odd torrent here and there, especially when it comes to movies. But there still is a lot to look forward to. They are constantly updating their library with old stuff and original new stuff. Recently, the entire ‘Friends’ series became available and any ‘Friends’ fan knows you can’t watch any ‘Friends’ episode once, seasons 9 and 10 being an exception. Given the current cutthroat competition between internet service providers and telecom companies, speed and volumes are only going to increase and prices will come down. Coverage has also improved and will keep on improving. In a couple of months, Mobilink will become 4G capable and has already launched its own 3G Wi-Fi device. So things are looking up. In my opinion, spending that initial 6,000 rupees on a ZONG dongle followed by a monthly 3,800 rupees plus 10 dollars for Netflix is worth it. It’s not just about the content; it’s the whole experience that makes it so attractive. Unfortunately, in Pakistan such things can often be short-lived, YouTube being a case in point. Let’s just hope Netflix doesn’t meet the same fate. Until then, Enjoy!.

14 COMMENTS

  1. Dear Editor or Author of this Article,

    Nice… But kindly Google the real technical meaning of ‘Netflix and Chill’… Even if Netflix will last here, that part will definitely bring about a rebellion lol

  2. how do u get to see house of cards? i love it but unfortunately that's not available in the catalogue unless i use VPN.

  3. The Numbers Recaps is just wow. It is just amazing and full of fun. My friend told me about it and I really amazed to see it. It is really very eye-catching and good to see. My family also admired it a lot. It is fun.

  4. Really apperciate the information you have shared and it has been really helpful.
    Your services are undoubtly unmatched for the price and quality that's offered.
    Sharing such information is caring and please do share such thing in future too as we all benfit from it.

  5. It's good to see Netflix is available in Pakistan. But the thing I don't like is allowing a streaming channel and then restricting some of it's content country wise. When USA users are able to watch anything in Netflix, Pakistani users will definitely restrictions from interesting movies. This is not fair.

  6. Awesome information, thanks admin for sharing such a great post with us, its really great one. I have found here a good blog having iPhone, iPad and IOS apps and games, you can download iPhone apps and games totally free.

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