6 April, 2011 10 Comments
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 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“.
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“.
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 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 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“.
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!