The illusion of choice
- There are dozens of Internet Service Providers in Nepal, but are you getting the right speed for the price you have paid?
Jul 25, 2017-The internet has become an indispensable household commodity in urban Nepal and rural parts are slowly catching up as well.
With the ever growing need for connectivity and mushrooming Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in the country—43 to be precise—the industry has laid for us a myriad of options to choose from. And these ISPs with their marketing schemes—that promote ‘fast speed’ and ‘budget friendly’ services—can easily get you carried away to say the least.
How then do we make sure that we are not taking hasty steps and choosing the less-than-ideal services?
Let’s decode the jargons so you know exactly what’s on the table.
Mbps versus MBps
At first glance Mbps and MBps might seem like the same thing. The difference lies between the ‘b’ in the former and ‘B’ in the latter.
Mbps stands for megabits per second. Mb is used in reference to download and upload speeds.
MBps stands for megabytes per second. MB is used in reference to file size, or the amount of data transferred—8 bits = 1 byte.
While you are downloading a file from the Internet and transferring data from one device to another, you’ll spot these terms as the rate of transferral. Your connection speed (download and upload) will display as megabits per second. But, you’re downloading or transferring megabytes.
For example, when you download or transfer a file, note when Mbps and MBps come into play. A file consists of a certain amount of megabytes (MB). Say you download a file of 2 MB. You’ll need a download speed of 8 megabits per second to download the file in 2 seconds. Because, 8 mb = 1 MB.
To calculate how long it would take a file to download over different speeds, you can use Google’s MB to Mb calculator.
Remember, the more Mbps, the quicker the download.
The choices of plans:
The ISPs of Nepal have many services to offer, that include: Wireless Internet, Cable Internet, FTTH (Fiber To The Home), WiMax, ADSL, VSAT under different promotional names. They also offer their customers various plans from limited volume based packs to unlimited Internet services. Let’s take a look at a couple of the more prominent ones:
In the Limited Volume Based Plan, the Internet companies give you much higher speed up to a certain bandwidth for a fixed data size and then reduce the speed significantly after you cross that limit. After the predetermined bytes in your plan have been completely consumed, you can no longer browse the Internet.
On the other hand, in an Unlimited Data Plan, the data size is not fixed. And hence, you are free to consume as much data as your work demands till the duration of your plan expires.
So, how do you choose among these two options? Here’s a small tip:
If you consume data in large amounts, be it by downloading files or streaming movies, a broadband unlimited plan would be the right choice for you. However, if you do not use the Internet for anything other than work mails or instant messaging services, a limited plan may suit you best considering your low usage.
However, it is equally important for you to understand the boundaries of both the choices. If you choose the limited data plan, your internet speed slows down after you reach the capped limit; whereas, if you choose the unlimited speed you will be subjected to Fair Use Policy (FUP) from the very beginning. Moreover, Sharing Ratios are applicable to both of these plans. Let’s unpack these jargons as well:
Fair Use Policy (FUP):
The ISPs that provide unlimited Internet plans for their customers define a bandwidth checkpoint on the basis of Fair Usage Policy.
For example, they will allow you to browse with high speed (full bandwidth) upto 10 GB. Beyond 10 GB, they will set a bandwidth cap like 64 Kbps or 128 Kbps, which is also called ‘throttled speed’. So, once you have crossed the limit, your browsing speed will be drastically reduced.
This policy is in place so that the excessive amount of network bandwidth used by a small amount of customers doesn’t impair the experience of a large majority—attempting to provide equal speed to all customers.
The FUP, however, would only make sense if the ISPs could keep up with the growing demand for the Internet. When this idea was first started, the use of Internet in a household was limited to a single computer for sending emails and messages and hence minimal bandwidth was ample. But now, even average users need access to multimedia files through their smartphones, tablet, laptops and smart TVs. This means, the average user of the past has become a heavy user today. As the idea of FUP has not been changed among the ISPs, it has resulted in slower Internet experience for everyone.
One thing ISPs don’t explicitly tell their subscribers is the sharing or contention ratio of the Internet speed on offer. Contention ratio refers to how many users are sharing the data capacity on a provider’s line. To put it even simpler, it’s a count of how many households are using the same main broadband line as you are.
Generally, the sharing ratio is 1:8 or 1:4 in Nepal, which means if you have subscribed to 1 Mbps of Internet you get 128 Kbps if the sharing ratio is 1:8 and 256 Kbps if the ratio is 1:4. Business houses can ask for a dedicated IP.
With all these confusing plans, FUP, sharing ratios, hidden costs, bad customer services and unreliability, the quality of service that we customers deserve has been dramatically compromised. Thus, it is more than important that you clearly understand the difference between what you are looking for and what is being offered to you. The choices of ISPs might have ballooned in recent years, but it has become all the more crucial that you cut through the jargon to ensure that the number of choices is not merely an illusion.
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Published: 25-07-2017 09:39