Broadband data caps in New Zealand

Yesterday Ars Technica ran an article titled “It could be worse: data caps around the world“, which took a very brief look at some broadband data caps in Canada, the UK and Australia – no doubt to make those in the US feel better about their own (large) data caps.

Here in NZ we like to pride ourselves on being up there with the best in the world, and pricy capped/tiered broadband data plans are no exception! In fact, I’d wager we were strides ahead of much of the world in introducing tiered plans for both speed and data. I base this assumpution on the complaints I’ve heard over the months/years on the various tech podcasts I listen to (mostly from the TWiT network). On most (if not all!) occasions I could easily refute those complaints with a statement not unlike the title of that Ars article – “hey, it could be worse – come to NZ!”.

So what is the state of broadband data caps here in New Zealand? Here’s a quick look around the five main broadband providers in NZ (as listed by the Commerce Commission in their Dec 2010 broadband quality report)…

Note, the summary below only lists the main plans from the respective ISPs. There are other options available, but these are probably not the norm and are not directly comparible across ISPs (eg Vodafone and Slingshot offer naked broadband plans with similar data caps to their other plans and TelstraClear offer economy broadband with speeds of 256kbps and data packs of 500MB).

.

Telecom

Telecom lists a maximum data cap of 40GB – “Great for heavy internet users“. The plan details page also says “Quench all your internet thirsts with a huge 40GB of data, but if that’s still not enough, you can choose to upgrade your Total Home Broadband package to 60GB or even 80GB“. Incidentally, if you want that 80GB package you’ll have to fork out $145/month which does include a landline (a requirement on all listed plans). And if you go over that cap? Don;t worry, they’ve got you covered: “If you exceed your monthly data allowance, you can choose to continue at dial up speed for free, or your usual speed at a $2 per GB rate for the rest of your billing month“.

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TelstraClear

Unlike Telecom, there is no limit on how much data TelstraClear will let you use, you just have to buy another add-on pack for the same price as your usual monthly pack – the largest of which is 25GB for $30 (on top of a baseplan starting at $75/month). That 25GB data pack is described as “Ideal for the more serious user. Approximately 8 hours per day of frequent, heavy downloading of files and services. E.g. 2,500 hours of gaming” and if you go over it “another pack of the same size will automatically be allocated“.

.

Vodafone

The largest data cap from Vodafone is 30GB on their “Ultimate” plan  – “Ideal for heavy internet users who frequently download and share music, photos and videos, or use the internet for gaming“. If that’s not enough data, “you have the option to slow down to 64kbps for the rest of the month or buy extra data“. To buy extra data you can double your data on any of the listed plans for a fee (eg $5.10 for another 2GB on the Basic plan, and $30.60 for another 30GB on the Ultimate plan).

.

Slingshot

Slingshot offer a max data cap of 40GB on their Elite plan – “If you want full noise, then this is it! Full Speed up and down and a massive data cap“. However, all their plans also come with “free off-peak” data meaning that whatever data is used during the offpeak period (essentially overnight, but varies according to plan) won’t count towards the monthly data cap. Extra data can be purchased in blocks (2GB=$5, 5GB=$10, 20GB=$25, 50GB=$50) or alternatively “If you don’t want to purchase additional data we’ll just ease you back to dial-up speeds“. Also wirth noting here is that Slingshot offer “data banking” explained as follows: “If you buy a data block, the unused amount at the end of the month will roll over into the next month for when you next need it – each block lasts for 12 months“.

(Note, for comparitive purposes with other ISP plans presented here, you’ll need to add Slingshot’s homeline cost of $49 to the prices listed below.)

.

Orcon

Orcon have two separate ranges of plans depending on whether you’re in the “Orcon+ Network” or not (ie exchanges that have been unbundled – mostly in Auckland). Either way, their largest data cap is 30GB on their Platinum plans. Additional data is charged at $2/GB or you can purchase a data block (5GB=$9, 10GB=$15, 25GB=$27, 50GB=$55, 100GB=$85, 200GB=$165, 300GB=$245). Line speeds for all plans are listed as “Maximum download and upload speeds that your line can support“.

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So there you go. Whereas in the US you can get 150GB from AT&T or 250GB from Comcast, and in Canada you can get an “Ultimate” plan from Rogers with 175GB, here in NZ the biggest data cap on a base plan is 40GB with free offpeak data via Slingshot. You can of course get more data than the standard caps ranging from 25-40GB, but you’ll have to be willing to pay more than the monthly costs ranging between $100-130 (for both broadband and a landline phone).

As with providers in other countries, data beyond the listed caps is covered by a mix of either throttling or purchased data blocks. For speeds however, no guarantees are made with all ISP’s cunningly listing speeds as “max” for the line – which could mean anything in the real world!

About Chris
A self confessed geek, meteorologist (aka weather forecaster), father & proud kiwi mainlander living, working & playing in Wellington, New Zealand.

10 Responses to Broadband data caps in New Zealand

  1. Jay says:

    You kiwis get ripped off pretty bad by your ISP’s. Even here in the USA, it’s pretty easy for me and my family to churn through 250GB since we use Netflix online, not to mention a lot of my work and play is done with the computer – that means a lot of downloading. I use Steam for my gaming and the average size of your typical PC game is increasing; many of them are 12-15GB each at the moment.

    These data caps are unjust. The amount they charge per gigabyte of data is outrageous and not founded in reality; the cost of moving data over pipelines, even with overheard, is fractions of a USD cent. Our caps will most likely be getting smaller and the price they charge for every GB we use will increase, even though the actual market cost will go down.

    Can anything be done, I wonder?

  2. Chris says:

    Yeah I agree Jay – didn’t want to get into my own rant in the blog post, but caps here are ridiculous and the ISPs must be raking in the $ on the data plans. Even though we live a long way from the rest of the world and only have a few main cables in/out of NZ, I don’t believe that makes the data many times more expensive than elsewhere – seems overly disproportionate to me.

    Can anything be done? In the short term I’d say no. I’ve watched plans in NZ get smaller data caps over the years, admittedly while speeds have increased. There used to be unlimited plans here but these are long gone. In the longer term, we’re hopeful here that a new venture by Pacific Fibre (http://www.pacificfibre.net/) to lay another undersea cable will shake up the industry a bit and bring down those data costs. Fingers crossed!

  3. Marshall says:

    I am with ihug…. Well now called Vodafone.
    For years I had the Broadband Extreme plan which was 2.5 mbps down, 512 kbps up. Data cap was 60 Gb split up with 20 Gb Peak from 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. 40 Gb off peak for the remaining 8 hours.
    This was such a pain as who wants to use the Internet during those hours.
    I thought about the Steam games being downloaded during those times however Steam doesn’t have a scheduler. Not that I could find at least.
    I held onto that account for several years because there were no better plans giving that much data and with 5 of us using computers in our house it was still the best one.

    After being so annoyed that the 20 Gb were regularly being used up and being throttled back to dial up hell during peak hours I started looking at other options and that is when I found the Vodafone plan called Ultimate which offered the 30 Gb data anytime with the option to double your data as a once off deal per month taking it to 60 Gb.
    After looking at my options it certainly worked out better as when taking into consideration that this plan was actually $15. per month cheaper even after paying the extra $30 to double my data. Also the speed was unlimited which was faster peaking out at a max of 4.5 mbps down and about 700 kbps up.

    A recent bonus to this was upgrades to our local exchange which saw fiber being installed or at least better gear which gave us a boost to speed seeing d/load peaking at over 7 mbps.
    I noticed this caused us to chew through the data quicker as everything loaded up faster on the web and that was before another upgrade at our exchange which seemed to open the floodgate of data speed as I am now connecting at over 14 mbps and have seen some large steam downloads sit at a steady 13 mbps transfer rate.
    The big downside to this is we are easily chewing through the 60 Gb per month data….. 😦

    Our last month saw us throttled back to dial up hell for a whole week. 20 Gb disappeared over 2 days and I cant really say how that happened as no one was even using the computers much at all on those days.

    All these great speeds we are getting on broadband are a fraction of what other countries are enjoying but even so the data caps should be scrapped as in my opinion it’s simple gate keeping, power and control issue which sees a huge increase in revenue with all I know doubling there data every month now.
    What I cannot understand however is that they only allow you to double your data once per month. Why not let you add data blocks as required.
    Personally I would have been happy to have paid an extra $30 that month to avoid a week of dial up hell.
    My wife, and all my kids were going crazy about the slow as Internet speeds.
    If I had work to do which required Internet usage I would have to disable there computers through the router so I could manage to stop web pages from timing out…. LOL

    The loss of data is still a concern to me though, and I did actually find a connection in my router that was totally foreign to me and was using an IP address that the DHCP would not have issued.
    My router was secure but have since increased the security as much as I can bar totally disconnection from the net, e.g. turning the sucker off…. LOL I no longer broadcast my SSID and have allowed only MAC addresses I have set up.
    It was a big hassled and time consuming considering there are at least 10 devices that I had to include.
    Worth it though if someone did actually manage to hack into my router and use all my data.
    I spoke to my ISP and they said that 1 GB of that data was uploaded. That was on a day when we hadn’t used the Internet much at all and really we don’t upload anyway so it’s very strange indeed.

    All this un-binding of the local loop hasn’t seen much benefit to end users I reckon. It’s so way overdue to see some real competition here in NZ. I cant help but feel we are simply to small for proper competition though. The kind that sees real consumer benefit.
    Some of this could be that here in NZ we live with little democracy. We vote once every 3 years for a government that comes in and changes everything without the consent of the population.

    Ok I wil quick ranting now…. LOL

    Please scrap the data caps!

  4. Chris says:

    Hi Marshall,

    I noticed that Vodafone only let you buy one extra data block once per month – that’s just crazy, afterall don’t they want more money from their customers?! 😛

    Re your router, your SSID can easily be found even if you don’t broadcast it and MAC addresses can be spoofed. The only way to be truly secure and to prevent anyone else using your wifi connection is to use WPA encryption with a strong (unguessable) password containing letters+numbers+symbols if possible (and then it doesn’t matter about SSID/MAC addresses). Don’t use WEP encryption – that is dead simple to crack these days.

    And I agree re your last statement – especially as speeds increase and on-demand content consumption increases – scrap the data caps!

  5. Kamica says:

    Hi, I’m a person who immigrated from the Netherlands to New Zealand.

    At first I thought, lovely country, lovely people, I’m going to love it here! The came the internet, I was horrified, and still am! I was used to no data-cap at all (Since a Data-Cap is basically taboo in the Netherlands) and high speeds. Hell, we had it so good, that even if our internet was only half it’s immense speed, we would complain… Now I’m struck with constant paranoia as to not go over the data-limit. I’m too afraid to watch youtube videos, play online games with my international friends, and do anything more than just browsing the internet. I curse at flash advertisement and wish death upon the auto-loading videos…

    What I know of a democracy, is that for anything that’s not how you want it, you can protest, isn’t there a way to gather enough people and protest against the data-cap? Or could it perhaps be able to persuade at least one company of giving relatively cheap, cap-less internet if you were to gather loads of donations so they could upgrade their tech sufficiently?

    I would really love a better internet in New Zealand, as the entire western world is dependent on it these days, and better internet = better electronics economy I think.

    These are just the rants of a teenager, though I’d like to know what’s possible, there MUST be something that we, as people in New Zealand, can do to show the companies that something has to change?

  6. Hayden says:

    The key thing everyone has to remember here, is that NZ is for all intents and purposes, a relatively isolated country. Its alright for everyone in this forum to go on about America and the Netherlands and the UK etc etc when it comes to there broadband caps (or lack of).

    But then again, that is not comparing apples with apples now is it? How many of those countries only have one main data cable coming into there country?

    Nothing is going to change in terms of data caps in NZ, so long as the Southern Cross cable is the only major cable supplying international net traffic to NZ. No amount of moaning about it is going to change it. And who owns the majority of this cable you might ask….well 50% owned by Telecom!!

    Telecom must be laughing all the way to the bank. And if you control a monopoly like that, why would you charge less when there is no competition?? The main objective of any business is to believe it or not MAKE MONEY! And Telecom is doing an excellent job of that.

    Bring on the pacific fibre cable, cause that’s the only way data caps are gonna change!

  7. Kamica says:

    Yea, you mentioned Monopoly, I’m starting to feel like New Zealand has quite a lot of monopolies, or semi-monopolies. There isn’t nearly enough competition here to make a fair living for the kiwis….

    Also, how much does such a trans-oceanic (or whatever ’tis) cable cost? =3.

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  9. cinverd says:

    Excellent, all the information I was looking for on one handy page! Thanks man! On a sidenote though, those data caps seem insane, considering in Ireland you can get an unlimited* broadband plan for something like €35-€45.

    *Meaning a few hundred gigs

  10. carpentaro says:

    Hey, I just gave my wife an iPad2 for mothers day. Go figure, two days after motheres day, we’d maxed out our 60gb plan. I guess you can’t use an iPad the way it was meant to be used in NZ.
    We went to Oz for Christmas this last year. I got a sim card for my smartphone [LGp970]. I was sooo used to turning off all of the features [defeates the purpose of a smart phone] and was surprised to find out that with the affordable plans in Oz, I could actually use my phone the way it was meant to be used.
    NZ is sooo far behind, to tight fisted, and losing ground by the day. Only people who’ve left AND come back realy know how far behind it is here. Most that go don’t come back, to the tune of 50,000/year.

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