How to not sound foolish when shopping for Broadband
- "I need Wi-Fi" - Not quite
- "I don't want a phone line" - You probably do
- "I want business broadband" - Nope, nope, nope
We’ve all done it – read about 1% on a subject and assumed we know enough to argue with salespeople and technicians when shopping around for something. It leads us to do things like asking a mechanic if the car needs dual bonded flanges, or whether or not these apples are in season (hint: fruit gets imported).
By making ourselves sound like we don’t know what we’re talking about, we signal to a salesperson to go into autopilot – sell the item that’s hanging around. The item that the bosses want them to sell. That most often means the cheap stuff that hangs around and doesn’t work well. It also means the salesperson is not engaged and doesn’t really care what you buy, so long as you buy something. And with broadband products and services being so complicated, it’s a good way to end up on a contract with a service you really don’t want.
If you’re reading this, you’re already in a position where you’re trying to be an informed consumer. Even then, it’s easy to mix up terminology that sends you into a tailspin of dodgy services. So get to know what things mean, not just what things cost. Here’s a list of the things that we hear a lot, and that you want to understand:
“I want Wi-Fi”
You can’t shop for Wi-Fi. Wi-Fi is a technology that allows for a short range connection between your computer (or smartphone or tablet) and a modem. The modem itself plugs into something – either a phone line, or cable line, or mobile network from a mobile tower. How the modem connects to the internet is what you’re shopping for: Wi-Fi is a feature of your modem. It’s available regardless of the connection method. It’s like shopping for a car and starting with the number of cup holders – it has little bearing on the performance, quality and relevance of the product you’re buying.
“I don’t want a phone line”
You probably DO want a phone line, regardless of what you may think that means. Most people are looking for a cheap, reliable, widely available service. That means a Digital Subscriber Line, or DSL (in Australia, we use A-DSL, or Asymmetric DSL).
There’s Naked DSL, but that still uses a phone line (the actual line in the ground) as the means of connection, so it’s not like you can get away without paying to use that line. Naked DSL just withdraws the voice service – if you get a home phone + ADSL bundle, and then don’t plug in an actual telephone handset, then for all intents and purposes you have Naked DSL. And there are a lot more deals and special offers for standard ADSL than for Naked DSL.
And please don’t say “I have a laptop” or “I have an iPad”. With ADSL, the modem plugs into a wall, and then uses Wi-Fi (see point #1) to send the service around your home, wirelessly. S’all good.
“I want X at this speed and with X”
Slow down. All services are subject to availability. Unless you live within 10km of a major city’s CBD, you probably have to settle for what you can get. So ask what you can get first. No salesperson wants to sell you the worst service available: they want you to have the best service they can offer.
As for speed – the average data speed in Australia is 5 Mbps. The top speeds available are 100Mbps, on either cable (available to 25% of homes) or NBN (available to <2% of homes for now) – and getting that consistently is even rarer. Most applications, up to and including streaming High Definition video, can be easily handled by a 10Mbps connection. If you’re asking because in the past your service has seemed slow, make sure that slowness isn’t a result of your computer being slow. Trust us: it’s more often the case. Blaming your connection for slowness is like blaming the road for your car’s crappy performance – you may be right some of the time (a pot hole can certainly slow you down) but more often than not, it’s on you.
“Give me the cheapest deal”.
Sure. But do you think individual service providers have a range of services that are all just as good as each other, but with different prices? ‘Cheap’ means ‘bad’ in many cases. There’s more to buying a broadband service than just the price. There’s:
- Contract Length
- Speed (not as much anymore, but some providers still categorize services by speed)
- Customer Service (you do pay more for tech support and customer service based in Australia)
- Connection Type
- Hardware Costs
- Connection Costs
- Included data
That said, the most perfect compromise on all these factors we’ve seen of late has been with MyNetFone (1300 421 046). They provide plans with plenty of data (200 or 500GB), reasonable contract lengths (12 months), cheap connection fees ($49) and a free Wi-Fi modem (plus postage). They also have reasonable prices and Australian-based customer service and support. Give them a call first if you’re looking for the most straightforward connection that suits most people’s needs.
“I don’t want a contract”
Fair enough- but expect to pay a higher connection fee. Contracts guarantee your business longer. This is a business: if you’re not willing to commit for a long term relationship, a jealous ISP will make you pay. Put a ring on it, for cheaper prices.
The best solution if this is an absolute necessity? Club Telco (1300 138 155). They don’t do contracts; they instead charge an annual $50 membership fee. Perfect if you’re in a place for a short time only.
“I want to be connected right now”
Nope. Sorry. A technician has to get out to your street to activate your line, and sometimes has to come to your home. That takes time and there is a queue.
“I want wireless”
Do you? Strictly speaking, there is no wireless internet. But there is mobile broadband, where the connection from the network to your computer is made wirelessly, from a mobile tower. Don’t get this unless you need country-wide mobility: you’ll get very little data, and erratic service. Even 4G connections, which are extremely fast, can be blocked by buildings, bad weather and network congestion. And even if it’s fast- who cares if you only get 5GB of data?
“I don’t use much data”
Unless you know, chances are you do not know. Every service provider provides a tool to monitor or check your past usage. Use it. If you don’t know how, call your existing ISP and ask how much you’ve used for the past 6 months. We need to know how many gigabytes: telling us you ‘use Skype sometimes’ doesn’t help as much as you think it does.
“My neigbour gets X”
Yeah, that means nothing. Chances are your neighbor is slightly exaggerating what they have, or misidentifying it. But also common is that ‘neighbour’ can mean someone 5 blocks away, and yes, that can make all the difference. They might be closer to the exchange (and 900 metres closer is a big deal). They may be connected to a different exchange, one with more wholesale competition. The point is – when you call and ask for a service, what they tell you is what you’re gonna get.
“This is the 21st Century!”
You’re right: the technology exists to make this all easier and better. But this is a big country: implementing all that great technology in a place this big and this empty takes a lot of money. Patience – better things are coming.
“I need business broadband”
You probably don’t. Actual business broadband is around $1000 a month, and involves a private line connection from you to the service provider, with no public utilities used, and with a certain guarantee of service. If you just need a connection for your small auto-detailing shop or to host a website selling cakes, you don’t need anything approaching that.
Your writer has worked in the broadband industry for 15 years – most of that for Telstra. The other staff here at Compare Broadband have similar long telco working histories. We spend all day keeping up to date with news about the industry, analyzing plans and combinations of services, and keeping abreast of the latest updates to technology and legislation affecting what consumers pay for and get. And you know what? We know more than most, and we still barely know half of what we need to. It’s a big complex industry- sometimes made more complex on purpose, and it can be worth it taking our advice. But whether you call guys like us or call directly into a service provider to get something, make sure you’re asking relevant questions – the most important being
a) What can I get?
b) How much does it all cost?
And try not to assume you know more than you do. Most people want to help you, but have plenty of room to literally get you off the phone as quickly as possible with as little effort as possible. Make sure you don’t give them a reason to do so.
For more details on the best plans available at your address and for your needs, call us on 1300 106 571!