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).

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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“.

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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).

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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.)

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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!

No love for Internet Explorer 6

…and rightly so!

It’s high time the world ditched the 8-year old IE6 for good IMHO – afterall it’s slow, notoriously bad for security and just plain horrible at rendering modern web standards.

Here’s a look at how a few “social” sites are encouraging IE6 users to upgrade to something (anything!) better,

Twitter posts a simple message “There’s a better way to browse the web!” and goes on to recommend you upgrade to the latest version of IE (pity they didn’t recommend upgrading to Firefox!)

Facebook suggests “you may want to upgrade” since “Facebook will work better for you if you upgrade or switch to another browser“. In addition to suggesting IE8, they also post links to switch to Firefox, Safari or Flock.

YouTube has by far the most compelling upgrade message in stating “we will be phasing out support for your browser soon” – in other words if you want to keep using the site, ditch IE6 now! Not surprisingly they list Chrome first up, followed by IE8 and Firefox 3.5.

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So there you go, three of the biggest (if not the biggest three) social network sites have spoken. If you’re still using IE6, shame on you and upgrade now!

Note: no PC’s were harmed in obtaining these screenshots. These were snapped on XP running safely sandboxed in a virtual machine – I’m a Firefox fanboy afterall!

Hello Slingshot

Following a recent price rise by Orcon (the second in under a year), I decided to move on after being a loyal customer for 5 years – my “Welcome to Orcon” email was received 21/3/2004! Sadly, they couldn’t offer me anything to stay and have no discount for valued customers, so I jumped ship and am now with Slingshot.

Incredibly, the full switch of both internet and phone service was done within 48 hours of speaking to a Slingshot customer rep! The only hiccup was that when they switched me over I lost my internet connection and thus couldn’t get the email telling me I’d been moved to Slingshot and to update my modem settings to reconnect. Duh! Lesson for ISP’s: make a phone call to tell new customers they’re up and running – don’t send an email!

So why Slingshot? In short, they’re cheaper for the same speed and same data I was getting with Orcon – provided I schedule my large downloads (such as video podcasts from odtv.me) during the free off-peak period overnight.

And while not directly related to switching ISP’s, I also got a stellar speed increase about the same time due to my local cabinet getting a fibre upgrade. Before the cabinet upgrade and while with Orcon, the fastest download speed I saw via Speedtest.net was,

(I later paid an extra $10/month to upgrade the upload speed to “max”)

And now, here’s a sample from this evening as I write this,

Yeah baby! Of course that’s a somewhat synthetic test to a server in NZ and actual download speed (usually from overseas sites/servers) will be less than that. As an example, here’s the fastest “real world” speed I’ve seen – during a download of a video podcast via iTunes,

which is outstanding IMHO – that 385MB file was done in under 5 minutes!

So there you go. I’m now a happy Slingshot customer – drawn in by good pricing (for both internet and phone), free off-peak data, and data banking (purchased unused data is carried forward). Oh, and no complaints about the speed either!

NZ domains blacked out

Today is the main focus of the Blackout protest against S92A of the Copyright Act – due in effect this coming Saturday, the 28th Feb.

My site, noble.gen.nz is blacked out, along with many other NZ sites including Geekzone.co.nz and Scoop.co.nz.

Read more about the law changes and blackout protest at www.CreativeFreedom.org.nz.

Guilt Upon Accusation is Wrong!

New Zealand's new Copyright Law presumes 'Guilt Upon Accusation' and will Cut Off Internet Connections without a trial. Join the black out protest against it!

Join the Internet Blackout Protest!

Vodafone scam alert!

Yes, you can get SPAM on your phone!

I received a couple of these txt messages last night (you shall remain nameless!) which should immediately jump out at you as being a scam.

This isn’t the first time these type of messages have done the rounds, but this one is so fake it’s laughable. Why? Oh boy, where to start…

  • It clearly contains a spelling mistake, bad grammar and a lack of punctuation
  • It didn’t come from Vodafone
  • It sounds too good to be true (which means it most certainly is!) Spend $2 and get $50 – yeah right!
  • Deals and promos from Vodafone always contain a link to their website for more info or a phone number you can call

And if you want confirmation it’s fake from Vodafone themselves, check out this forum post by Paul Brislen – Vodafone’s External Communications Manager.

I promised those that got sucked in a lecture, so here goes… after the break that is…

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