You have an Unlimited plan. Now What?
- TV, phone, radio - all available online
- Streaming Uni courses becoming more and more common
- TPG, Dodo amongst several providers offering all-you-can-eat data
TPG were the first to offer Unlimited Broadband plans on a wide scale to Australians, in 2010. Up until then, Australians had to be happy with plans ranging from the ridiculous 200MB (almost enough to download a Windows Update without having to payseveral hundred dollars for overuse) to about 200GB.
The usual argument against offering all-you-can-eat data to Australians concerns backhaul. Backhaul is a term referring to the long range capability of a provider’s network. So if a company rents a small amount of space off of Telstra and resells that to its customers, they could be said to have a low-capacity backhaul. If a company owns and operates its own interstate network, and its own international, undersea high speed links, it could be said to have high capacity backhaul. When TPG purchased PIPE networks in 2009, the developer and operator of a PPC-1, a submarine cable linking Australia to Asia via Guam, it became the sole provider of international backhaul besides Telstra and Optus. That ability to control its own network opened up a chance for TPG to exploit one of the most frustrating parts of using the internet in Australia- the potential to be overcharged or slowed down for using the service ‘too much’.
In the US, South Korea, Japan and most of Europe, data caps are either non-existent or a fairly recent phenomena. Prices are usually split along speed lines, while data is abundant thanks to the density of international links. Some providers have started introducing data caps as a way of curbing ‘bandwidth hogging’ – this is when heavy duty users max out their connection speed and limit the amount of available network space to other users in their area.
TPG is not alone anymore, with other providers (such as Dodo) now offering Unlimited data as well. Often they do this by buying wholesale international backhaul access through TPG, who are generally more competitive than Telstra and Optus. But TPG still offer the most consistently available, high-quality Unlimited data plan at the best price, of any carrier in Australia.
After years of curbing their appetite for online content, many Australians might be left wondering what there is to do with an Unlimited service. Those with a raised eyebrow and mischievous grin know exactly how to use this type of freedom- by downloading tons of copyright content for free. While this has obvious appeal in a country that gets US entertainment several months or years late and at an inflated cost, it is still illegal and we can’t condone it.
But there are plenty of other services that wouldn’t be available without Unlimited data. Online gaming, whether it’s through the Playstation Network or XBOX Live, requires tons of streaming data. Video chatting on Skype, while not a huge bandwidth eater, still goes through about 10MB a minute. An hour long chat will cost you half a gigabyte. As YouTube moves towards high definition playback, those 3 minute cat videos will require more and more data.
The gap in most people’s knowledge comes from the idea that a gigabyte is something you download, as an object, to your computer. So downloading a movie to watch later is easy to conceptualize as using a lot of data. But when you’re just watching a video, you’re not storing anything, right?
But when you ‘stream’ a video, or a game, or a Skype call, that information IS being downloaded into a temporary cache on your computer, with a small gap in between what’s stored and what’s being played (known as buffering) to make it seem like a smooth experience. Once your session is over, that downloaded content is erased, to make sure your computer isn’t clogged up with temporary files. All of this happens quite seamlessly, so it’s hard to picture- but it certainly does eat up your data. In fact, streamed services eat a little more; if a session is interrupted, there’s more chance it will have to start again from a certain point, and re-download information you’ve already seen.
The ABC have embraced the widespread availability of uncapped data with their iView service, which is available to view in your browser, or as an app on your smartphone or tablet. With it, you can pick and choose programs to watch from the ABC’s current lineup. Some providers, like Internode, have arranged unmetered agreements with iView – so no matter how much you use it, the usage won’t count towards your allocated data. But for Unlimited users, there’s no worries at all.
Almost every FM and AM station in Australia do a simultaneous webcast (simulcast). ARO is a good repository of almost every station from every state. There are also services and sites that allow you to stream international stations, crystal clear and with no worries that the streaming data will max out your connection.
Foxtel on XBOX 360
Foxtel is available from as little as $19.50 a month, sans contract, with no installation or hardware- provided you have a broadband connection, an Xbox 360, and a service that allows for all that streaming data.
Open University currently offers classes from most providers as a streaming live webcast, to enhance the experience of long distance learning. Many universities, including Monash, RMIT, UniSA and Griffiths are independently doing the same.
These are specific examples, but it serves to illustrate the point- having an unlimited amount of data is a gateway to experiencing far more than the usual browsing and email capabilities of most connections. It’s a way to make other services (such as Pay TV) cheaper and more flexible. Call us today on 1300 106 571 to see if you’re in TPG’s network.