When is unlimited broadband actually unlimited?

Fresh from Telecom announcing its new Unlimited Broadband Data plans for residential customers, Telecommunications Users Association (Tuanz) has questioned the specifics of the offering.

According to CEO Paul Brislen, the telco giant, soon to be Spark, has revealed an “unlimited” range of plans.

“They’re unlimited in terms of how much you can download and at $139/month for the fastest of the fibre plans (100Mbit/s down and 50Mbit/s up), they look like a good idea,” he says.

“But in the product summary sheet, the section on traffic management is less than helpful.”

Writing via the TUANZ Official Blog, Brislen quoted the terms and conditions of the offering, which states:

We may use traffic management policies to make sure that the available bandwidth on the network is shared fairly and efficiently between all users.

Certain types of traffic may be de-prioritised so that general web-browsing, real time applications like Skype, online games and streaming video services perform better.

“Using words like “may” and “certain types of traffic” does nothing to help the customer,” Brislen adds.

“If you throttle P2P traffic, say so. If you apply the rules at certain times of day, say when they are.

“I had a quick look at the other major ISPs with similar plans and their statements.”

Vodafone’s traffic management statement is “quite a bit better”, according to Brislen.

P2P (Peer to Peer) is primarily used by a small number of higher-end broadband users. We are not anti-P2P however if our network is congested then P2P-type traffic will be the first to feel the pinch.

We will always prioritise the more mainstream traffic types (such as web and email) over P2P as this will have the greatest benefit for the greatest number of customers.

“If you are a customer who uses P2P a lot, then we ask that you try to keep your usage to our off-peak (10pm – 6am) when there is the most capacity available.

Slingshot does have an unlimited plan and its offer summary says:

We may use traffic prioritisation policies for our plans at any time to improve the overall performance amongst our customers. Our Unlimited One plan throttles P2P downloads. If you require P2P downloading you should opt for our Unlimited Plus plan.

For Brislen, Orcon’s is the cleanest:

Our policy is to provide our customers with the best possible internet experience. This means that we do not shape internet traffic when you (and everyone else) are streaming videos, sharing files (P2P), gaming or browsing the web at any time.

We always make sure that we have tonnes of national and international bandwidth to cater to all users.

Brislen believes these kinds of things are important because without that kind of information, customers simply don’t know enough about the product they’re buying.

“I’m encouraged by the growing number of unlimited data plans that are coming into the market,” he adds.

“Telecom, Orcon and Slingshot all have them at a range of prices and as three of the top four telcos, that means most customers are within reach of not having to worry about over use charges ever again.

“And I’d encourage Telecom to have a closer look at what it’s telling its customers. It’s nearly there, just needs a nudge in the right direction.”

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