Just under a year ago I was sitting in a cafe, beer in hand, near a 100% humidity and around thirty-five degrees celsius. The traffic and pollution were horrendous, the beer was cheap, the food was hot, and the broadband was not only free, it was smoking at about 25Mbps and there was no data cap nor time limit. I was in Ho Chi Minh (Saigon) in Vietnam. As I travelled the country I had the same experience everywhere and all along the way from south to north I ran speed tests out of curiosity. It never dipped under 10Mbps and everywhere you went there was nearly always a free access point nearby.
A year later and I am pulling my hair out over the broadband speed, costs, and data caps. Apparently we (New Zealand) can’t get our broadband sh!t together. I’m paying over $100 per month for a Telecom home service that maxes out at 10Mbs and has a cap of 80GB, which I am pushing each month. If I want to watch a movie, I have to let it download first. Dozens of services that are zero rated overseas I am paying for here. For the same amount of money I am paying here, I could get a service in Australia that was three times as fast with 1,000GB (1 TB) of data.
These kind of costs are madness and the speeds are going to keep us in the internet dark ages.
What kicked all this off was the costs of trying to buy some extra data for my Vodafone phone.
I’m a heavy user of mobile data but this month has been particularly bad as where I am working has a download speed of about .150Mbs per second. Yup. Imagine what that is doing for productivity (it also has a mail cap of 250MB and a file cap of 100MB, just as an aside). So, in order to speed up the process I brought my laptop in and tethered it to my phone, most of my material is kept “in the cloud” so I can get away with emailing final copies of documents back to the client site as needed.
After three weeks of this I broke my data cap passing over 3GB. Which is nothing when you are working all day everyday with a range of services across the internet.
I rang Vodafone, who were very friendly but very not able to do anything for me.
Me: Hi, I’ve just gone over my data cap and I need to buy a data pack.
VF: No problem, what’s your number, we can sign you up for a 500MB pack and have other options!
Me: My number is blah blah blah.
VF: Oh, wait a minute, I just need to talk to my supervisor.
Yeah you know what’s coming… 30 seconds goes by…
VF: Unfortunately you are on an old plan (I’ve had my phone for 18 months) and you can’t buy data packs. You’ll have to upgrade your plan when it comes up.
Me: Ok… So how much is data going to cost me?
VF: 20 cents per MB.
Holy robbery Batman!
That means, that if I wanted an extra 3GB for the next week, which I estimated was about right, I’d be charged $600.
The Commerce Commission noted in a December 2011 report entitled “International Price Comparison for Retail Fixed-Line and Mobile Telecommunications Services” that mobile broadband in New Zealand was on average 144% more expensive than Australia. Further they noted that ” Mobile broadband can be cheaper than fixed line broadband when data use is low, but us significantly more expensive for higher data use. This suggests mobile broadband is priced as a premium service in New Zealand that is likely to complement rather than replace fixed line broadband.”
In the end, I went down the road to 2 Degrees and bought a USB stick with a 3GB pack of data on it. Now I’m in the Wellington CBD and their coverage zone, but the speed is 50% faster than my Vodafone regular mobile broadband and cost me $50, not $600.
Needless to say, the iPhone is currently in “thou shalt not use any data mode” and as soon as my contract is up I’m pretty sure I’ll be swapping based on the costs. Well done 2 Degrees, dear Lord what are you thinking Vodafone.
Something has to be done about bandwidth speed and price soon. Ten years is a ridiculous amount of time to wait, even in suburbs close to Wellington CBD it’s going to be more than two years I am told before UFB is ready. The entire world is moving on around us and we are stuck somewhere around 2005, dragging behind by at least six if not seven years.
Cloud may be close and the way of the future, but we are not going to be able to afford to access it or get the performance we need out of it without some major changes and fast.