Saturday, January 05, 2013

I want my UFB

OK, so we've just finished our first full month on Telecom's 500gig plan.  Yes, that's 500gig, half a terrabyte, or in technical terms, oodles of data. (I'm aware of whole schools that have less, infact the firm I work for doesn't have a lot more...)

Now I've been with Telecom/Xtra since the beginning of broadband, when my ASUS ADSL router hooked me direct into work so I could work from home two days a week when Amber was born (that's back in July 2001).
And dispite Telecom/Xtra's less than stellar reputation (it took them a year and a case of beer to get my billing right) and everyone telling me I should switch to ISP X, I've stuck it out.  Not that I haven't been tempted...
Over the years, various plans (more gigs or more speed on unbundled exchanges) have been very tempting, but Telecom/Xtra have consistently come back with something that's been "enough" to stop me switching.

Disclaimer: I don't use Xtra for email and aside from the billing woes of my first year, you can count the number of times I've had to call the Telecom/Xtra helpdesk (for Internet) on one hand and still have some spare fingers...

So there I was on Telecom/Xtra's 160Gig plan, looking longingly at various 200Gig and Unlimited (well, none are truely unlimited, they all have a variety of constraints/restrictions, many of which aren't spelled out so you just know you're walking into a world of hassle) plans, thinking maybe it's finally time to switch, especially given that where we live is not on the 3 year (err... only 2 years of that left now I think) UFB roll-out plan.  Then along comes the new Telecom/Xtra 500Gig plan, for $6/month less than I'm paying for their 160Gig plan (how does that work?). Leap!

So, you're probably all thinking "Do you REALLY need 500Gig? Surely 160Gig is more than enough?", after all, most of you are probably on far smaller plans and they are working just fine for you.  OK, so first up, we have a number of Internet connected devices (TV, iPhone, iPad, two iPod Touches, PS2, MagicTV (FreeView recorder), AppleTV, three laptops, a desktop PC and two servers. That's more than some people, but I know a fair number that have more. The updates alone put a dent in our monthly quota of bandwidth (for the geeks: I used to run a proxy to try and cache things, but it generated almost as many hassles as it solved), plus my girls are into YouTube and Ngaire loves posting photos and videos for her friends.  Oh and I download a fair bit too.

So we've been banging up against our 160Gig limit fairly freqently, popping over it a number of times, dispite having a little guage on my laptop that tells me how much we've used...

But with 500Gigs I no longer have to worry about my quota, I would have to try seriously hard to actually use that up.  And to prove it, my first month came in at 112Gig (note: we were away for a week, which would have decreased it).  So now I not only have oodles of quota (who needs "unlimited" when your quota is more than you can use?) but I don't feel I have to use it up.

But what has all this got to do with UFB?
As I've mentioned, our part of our street is not included in the initial 3 year UFB roll-out (dispite being in an afluent area, two blocks from a primary school and two blocks from an intermediate and the Telecom "box" is right at the end of our driveway) so I'm unlikely to get UFB anytime soon, so I'm looking to make the best of what speeds I can get (18Mbit/s down, 940Kbit/s up according to my router today).  According to my crude math, if I could saturate my connection continuously, it would take about 2.5 days to use up my 500gig plan! Now that seems quite quick.

UFB comes in two speeds:
  • 30Mbit/s down & 10Mbit/s up
  • 100Mbit/s down & 50Mbit/s up.
Orcon offer UFB plans in 30Gig, 60Gig and "unlimited" but their "unlimited" fair use policy is based on the average usage of their customer base - the wording is sufficiently thin that I suspect it's not the "average" of customers on their "unlimited" plan  and it possibly includes non UFB plans!, so your potential is being pulled down by cutomers on 30Gig plans.
So anyway, 30Gigs at 30/10Mbit/s - 2.3 hours.
60Gigs at 100/50Mbit/s - 54 minutes!
Even 500Gigs at 100/50Mbit/s is 7.5 hours.
OK, so sustaining that level of bandwidth is unlikley, but I'm just trying to show how small the quota is when compared with the bandwidth given. After all, what if a "hacker" decided to flood your connection, it wont take them long to push you into extra cost or back to dial-up stone-age speeds.
What's my point?
For UFB to "work" for home usage, a number of things need to exist, content (HD videon [Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, etc], internet radio [Spotify, etc] and HD streamed games being the most obvious and bandwidth intensive available currently), services (online photo/video editing? HD multi-user video chat [e.g. Skype], being some obvious ones) and consumers to consume it ("build it and they will come"?).

Now the likes of the USA have most these things to some degree or another (though often not available to those outside of the USA) and if you're prepared to pay extra in NZ, you can even get some of the premium video (Sky has all the TV/Movies pretty much tied up, so no sign of Hulu or Netflix here).

But the key catch in NZ is the quotas on our Internet plans. 30Gig = ~ 30 hours of average quality 720p video or about 6 hours of average quality 1080p video. So the Internet is not going to replace your TV/DVD/BluRay in any great hurry (yes, various ISPs have deals where iSky/YouTube/etc don't count against your monthly quota, but what if you get your video from somewhere else?).

So until consumers don't have to worry about going over their quota after watching only a handful of movies each month (or their kids watching a string of TV shows), I don't think the UFB story is sufficiently compelling for most homes.

However, if I can keep my 500Gig plan, I'd leap on the 100/50Mbit/s UFB, though I'd be back to watching my usage closely, but Ngaire will get a much better experience uploading her videos and photos and we should be able to watch multiple videos at the same time as downloads are going on.

Though it will be interesting to see how various NZ services and the Southern Cross Cable (NZ's primarily link to the rest of the world) cope with consumers having significantly more bandwidth.

No comments: