The uncapped data battle

May 4th, 2014 at 9:05 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Intense competition in the Kiwi broadband market is proving a boon for consumers.

This month, Telecom and Vodafone began offering unlimited data plans (at $109 a month), so users can download as much content as they like without incurring extra charges or having their broadband speeds cut.

On Thursday, Slingshot responded by cutting the cost of its unlimited offer from $109 to $89 a month.

Slingshot spokesman Taryn Hamilton said data use had doubled in the past 12-18 months as people started using the internet more, and data-heavy websites and apps became more common.

There were a growing number of “power users”, people who watched television online, played games and downloaded content, he said. “These people are flocking to unlimited. It gives price certainty, and allows people to use data without thinking about it, or being worried about the cost.”

This is a key point. Once you have flat rate non capped plans, the way you use the Internet can change for many. Under capped plans, many will restrict what they do online – meaning they’re not using the Internet to its full potential.

Peter Griffin, of the Science Media Centre, said the unlimited deals were a sign of a shifting market.

Telecom has about half the country’s broadband customers and where it went, other providers would have to follow.

“It’s just a matter of time before people don’t even think about how much data they have to use.”

Telecom chief operating officer Jason Paris said the company had already sold a few thousand unlimited plans.

“It’s going gangbusters.”

I’m on a 60 GB/month plan and once I move to fibre, will probably go for an uncapped plan.

14 Responses to “The uncapped data battle”

  1. convicted radical (72 comments) says:

    Spare a thought for us rural types that cannot even get a copper pair….
    $120 for 20GB! Bust that and your bank balance will hurt.

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  2. Judith (8,534 comments) says:

    60 GB? How do you survive. We are on 500GB, and will probably change to uncapped now it is available at the same price. Mind you we have five adults using it, including two businesses, and all my research stuff.

    We used to be on a lot less, but running out and being slowed down was painful.

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  3. tom hunter (7,707 comments) says:

    60Gb/month? Good god I’m amazed that such a media-savvy person as you would be capped that low? How do you survive?

    I think I went to 80Gb/month several years ago, went to 250Gb/month in 2012?, with a recent, unrequested jump to 500Gb/month. The kids had been nagging me for ages as to when I was going to sign up to Netflix and a number of other sites and I’d repeatedly told them that we probably needed a minimum of 300Gb/month to cope. That seems about right in hindsight as we breached the 250 barrier a few times for minimal cost. But now it’s all good.

    Here’s the thing though. The last time I ever bothered to try and watch a replay of a show I’d missed – Grey’s Anatomy I think – TV3/1/2 jumped and glitched and farted around to such a degree that I’ve never bothered going back. If the old TV broadcasters can’t even get their server capacity up to scratch then there’s no way they can take advantage of TV-via-the-Net.

    But between Netflix, iTunes and BitTorrent who needs to?

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  4. davidp (3,865 comments) says:

    I’m on 500GB a month too, and sometimes that is a bit marginal in that I need to watch my usage towards the end of the month. I doubt 60GB a month would even cover YouTube.

    I hardly use broadcast television these days. I just torrent any entertainment I want to watch, which suits me just fine… There are some things I want to watch within an hour or two of their broadcast in the US so I won’t be spoiled, and will be able to engage with social media feedback. While other things I like to store up a whole season and then watch it in a blitz over a few nights. Increased caps mean that I can do this in 720p or 1080p, rather than lower qualities.

    My guess is that heavy torrent users are pretty much driving demand for the modern internet, while other users (such as education, research, and business) are sort of tagging along and enjoying the benefits. If there were no pirates, then the telecom industry would still have an infrastructure set up for slow speed and tiny caps.

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  5. peterwn (4,284 comments) says:

    An interesting comparison can be drawn between water, electricity and internet. The economics of metering water has historically been marginal so some communities had metered supplies and some un-metered supplies. The latter were unlimited subject to ‘fair use’ in the circumstances eg excessive garden watering in a drought was not ‘fair use’. To highlight it was marginal, Sydney has water meters but under-maintained them as full maintenance would have been uneconomic.

    Conversely, electricity was historically very expensive and was metered when metering became feasible. Even when electricity became relatively cheap as it has been for the last 60-70 years, it could be very accurately metered (within 1% or better) at reasonable cost, so in general the question of ‘use what you like’ uncapped electricity never arose.

    Witness now the internet. Historically gigabyte bandwidths were extremely expensive and so was metered. This is despite ‘smoke and mirrors’ marketing which required the customer to select a ‘plan’ and any excess was charged at a punitive rate (which required metering). It was very much electricity. Costs have now fallen so much that it is not been treated like un-metered water.

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  6. metcalph (1,516 comments) says:

    I’m at ~60gb/month too but seeing the Enable people are tearing up the street, will prolly change to an uncapped fibre plan soon (Netflix).

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  7. mjw (629 comments) says:

    This is a really welcome trend. It’s been a long wait, but it is good to see consumer power start to trump market power at last.

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  8. CharlieBrown (1,768 comments) says:

    I’ve had pretty bad experiences on uncapped plan. Years ago I went with Woosh on an uncapped plan and even browsing news websites became unbearably slow, even when throttling wasn’t meant to occur. I went with an uncapped plan with Telecom when they last offered it and the same thing happened. Then when Orcon offered uncapped plans, I chose to stay on a capped plan with 110 gb as I figured I wouldn’t experience the same performance drop, but it got to the point where I couldn’t play any games without getting 1.5 ms latency – the timing made me believe that this was caused by their network not handling uncapped.

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  9. Jack5 (9,291 comments) says:

    Peter Griffin was interesting talking about Internet traffic on Radio NZ’s This Way Up on Saturday.

    The big entertainment providers are starting to swamp the Internet, for example with at certain times Netflix accounting for 30 per cent of American net traffic.

    The entertainment providers are beginning to pay cable providers for better delivery to avoid net delays, and are putting up costs to cover this.

    Ultimately we all pay as consumers. The trick will be to get the couch potatoes who suck up entertainment video to pay their proportional share of Internet costs.

    The surge in video demand may also threaten Internet neutrality, I think I recall Griffin saying, with perhaps prioritising of different types of traffic. He said people taking up flat rate plans should look at if and how ISP’s were shaping traffic on these lines.

    Those in the market for such a plan might find it worth while to download the Griffin section of This Way Up for yesterday.

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  10. jims_whare (497 comments) says:

    My missus and I must be dinosaurs.

    We have a 40gb plan and use about 9-10gb a month and we seem to be online a lot.

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  11. Left Right and Centre (4,393 comments) says:

    And this from the neolithic masses: 1GB prepay mobile broadband.

    If I had uncapped data . . . I probably wouldn’t post on blogs much. Too many other cool options.

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  12. inoddy (4 comments) says:

    Just curious: how long does a 300MB torrent take to download in the evenings and, tough question, how many MB traffic does a 300MB download use up (since you are simultaneously making that torrent available to others)?

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  13. gazzmaniac (2,842 comments) says:

    I’m on a 12gb 4G mobile plan, costs me $35/month. It’s faster than DSL1 and I don’t have to have a home phone I will never use. I’d go for DSL2 unlimited if I could get it, a cheap one is about $50 a month in Queensland.

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  14. Ed Snack (2,793 comments) says:

    We manage on 100 GB with 4 including two teenagers. What makes the biggest difference is that we don’t download any TV, afterall, what is there to watch ? We go pretty close to the cap some months, usually school holiday months, so I’ll probably take 250 when it’s cheap enough. There’s fibre at the bottom of our road, and “plans” to bring it up our way but not for several years, so anything faster will have to wait.

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