So late last night we got a tip off that Incredible Connection is launching its own uncapped ADSL service, backed by Internet Solutions, for what appear to be very low prices for South Africa. It’s not quite as cheap as Cybersmart (which appears to have cut its prices this morning) – an uncapped 4Mbps connection from IC is R260, compared to R280 from Cybersmart.
Here’s the thing, though – Incredible Connection is offering what I think is the first entry-level uncapped package that is free of traffic shaping. A quick chat with folks at IC this morning to find out exact details of the service revealed that unless users violate the AUP – more on that later – there’s no throttling of particular traffic types at particular times of the day. Which for some of us is more important than removing limits on the amount of data we can consume.
I don’t want to sound like an IC salesperson*, but this is phenomenally good. Every other standard uncapped service I’m aware of with the exception of Axxess (which is also a bit cheaper) uses some form of traffic shaping to manage network traffic. Unless you pay a premium for a business service or something like Web Africa’s ‘Pro’ bolt-on, you’ll find certain types of download running slower in daylight hour.
Here’s where it gets a bit geeky.
Bandwidth is a limited resource, and at peak times most networks and ISPs get pretty busy. In order to make sure everyone can carry on reading their mail, browsing the web and watching YouTube videos without hideous lag, most network engage in traffic management of some sort. For example, they’ll disable or throttle Peer-2-Peer traffic, which is typically used for large files and illegal movie downloads.
Typically, in South Africa, all networks shape traffic on uncapped connections but generally don’t if you’re paying by the gig. So in my case, because I value quality of connection so that I get the best gaming pings and can download work files at home when I need them, I don’t use a relative cheap uncapped service, but rather pay a bit more (actually a lot more…) for a restrictive cap.
Even for unshaped accounts, broadband contracts also come with an ‘Acceptable Use Policy’ which allow ISPs to restrict the service to those who they deem have abused the system by hogging bandwidth and slowing down the network for others. That’s to stop people trying to run a heavy duty web server off of a domestic-grade account, for example, or leaving their PC on 24/7 uploading movie files via Bittorrent.
The official line is: “Only Customers with very high usage patterns will be shaped during busy periods, to ensure a good experience for the client base.”
What IC is saying is that its basic uncapped home service doesn’t have these restrictions – which for a budget service is huge. Only users who violate the terms of the Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) will find their traffic being shaped, and then only during peak periods. And they’ll be sent a warning email if that happens encouraging them to adjust their behaviour in future.
The only small catch to the whole thing is that as yet, there’s no word on exactly what a user would have to do to break the AUP. The word is that decisions about throttling will happen on a per-account basis. The unofficial word is even if you’re downloading 50-100GB or more a month you should be OK.
Obviously this is hard for us to test, so I’d really like anyone who’s planing on signing up for this offer to let us know how they get on. Fortunately, it’s a monthly contract, so if you do find yourself hitting unreasonable limits you can switch provider fairly quickly.
The important point is that other ISPs have to respond now. Even cheaper products or better, more reliable connections without restrictions must follow. And that’s a very good thing for us all, whoever we’re signed up with.
* Disclosure – Our parent company Hypertext does have a joint business venture with Incredible Connection in the magazine Connect, but we have no financial stake relating to the success or failure of IC products.