Scouting for a good broadband package? Are you sure you understand enough of the technical aspects of a broadband plan to be able to choose the best option for you? Below are some of the most important terms you need to be acquainted with to properly compare broadband offers and decide which plan is better and which ones you should avoid.
This is something that needs to be clarified right from the start. Sometimes, there are subscribers who complain why their actual download speeds (as shown on their download managers/browsers) are way lower than the speed indicated for their plan. This issue is usually due to the lack of proper understanding of the difference between kbps and KBps. For some customers, a 10 Mbps broadband plan, for example, should show download speeds at 10 Mbps or 10,000 Kbps on their browsers. Kbps (kilobits per second) is different from KBps (kilobytes per second). The latter has a bigger value. A byte is equal to 8 bits. Hence, a 10 Mbps broadband plan may only provide a maximum download speed of 1,250 KBps. Browsers use KBps to indicate download speed while most broadband plans and most speed tests use kbps.
Also, when examining broadband plans that provide generic estimates of data consumption, you may encounter some that say you can already watch a certain number of hours of YouTube videos with the data allocation they provide. In most cases, this estimate is based on low quality videos. For instance, if you watch an hour-long YouTube clip at 720p resolution, you will end up consuming more than 1 GB of data. Certainly, it would be more if you choose the higher resolutions. Bear in mind that YouTube automatically selects the resolution for you depending on your connection speed. If you don’t override this automatic resolution selection, you will be consuming big amounts of data and quickly reach your data allocation limit.
Before, unlimited internet services really meant unlimited. You can use your connection as much as you please. However in recent years, the word “unlimited,” as used by many internet service providers, has been “limited” or qualified. Many broadband companies offer unlimited plans but actually set data limits. Their scheme is that if you have consumed your allocated data limit, you will remain connected but your speed will be reduced to dial-up levels or maybe around 256 kbps. There are companies, however, that use unlimited in the real sense of the word—offering true unlimited broadband plans without throttling after a certain level of data consumption.
Download and Upload Speeds and Data Consumption
Obviously, download speed is the speed of your downloads while upload speed is the speed you have when you are putting up something to the cloud or transferring a file from your computer to an online storage (uploading videos or adding email attachments). For most subscribers, the difference between download and upload speeds don’t really matter. Rarely does anyone notice that upload speeds are usually slower than download speeds. However, the important thing everyone should know is that both download and upload data consumption are taken into account when computing data consumption.
As such, you cannot claim that you have been unfairly capped (for your 50-GB data limit for example) when you claim to have only watched 40 one-hour 720p YouTube videos. Take note that data consumption is the sum of your download and upload data consumption. If you have watched 40 one-hour 720p YouTube videos but you actually uploaded more than a dozen 1080p videos straight from your smartphone, you would have already exceeded your 50 GB data allocation.
To have a better guide as to how much data you have already consumed, it would be better to refer to your modem or router’s dashboard. Most of the time, the data consumption count is displayed on the index or homepage of the router dashboard (no need to log in). Use this guide to know what IP address to open on your browser so you can view your dashboard. Contact your ISP’s support for assistance on how to access your router’s dashboard and to help you clear the accumulated data consumption count on the router (so you can get a refreshed count per month).
Disconnection or Speed Throttling Upon Reaching Data Limit
It’s important to ascertain an ISP’s policy regarding data caps. Are they going to completely cut you off when you reach the data limit or are they just going to throttle (limit) your speed? Obviously, it would be better to choose an ISP that only throttles your speed once you max out your data allocation. Most ISP that do throttling limit your speed at around 256 kbps or 32 KBps, which is not really bad. With this speed, you can still read and send emails, browse websites, use social media, and even view YouTube videos at the lowest resolutions.
Most ISPs provide the option to pay for “add-ons” or “boosters” once subscribers have consumed their allotted data limit. It could be $10 for 10 GB more of data (and restoration of your regular speed). If you are looking for the more cost-efficient option, you have to examine these add-ons. You particularly have to be mindful of these add-ons when you are choosing between plans that have the same speed, data limit, and terms. Of course, you need to go for the one that charges lower for add-ons.
The modem or router is the device used to connect your computer or other web-enabled devices to the internet service. At present, ISPs usually give out devices that already integrate modem and router functions. For the uninitiated, if you have a device that only lets you connect one device (through the LAN port and without Wi-Fi), what you have is simply a modem. If your device has LAN ports (usually 4 ports) and/or Wi-Fi, what you have is a modem-router. A basic router simply routes the connection to let you share internet access with multiple devices. It alone cannot be used to connect to the internet.
Most ISPs provide routers (which also serve as the modem) that are to be paid by the customer in lump-sum or by installment. Take note of the price and compare it to those offered by other companies. Choose a plan that comes with a Wi-Fi router since you will surely be sharing your home internet connection with your phone and other mobile devices. You don’t want to spend more just to get a Wi-Fi router later on. Also, mobile broadband is considerably more expensive than fixed line broadband (home broadband) so if you are at home, you need a Wi-Fi router to access the internet through your home broadband connection.
VPN means virtual private network. It is basically a network wherein only a limited number of individuals are allowed to use. If you are one of those who have heard about VPN as a way to get free internet or to bypass data limits, read further. Yes, it is true that you can use VPNs, through VPN applications, to bypass speed limits and access the internet for free. However, you need to be aware that if you try to do that with your broadband plan, you may lose your connection and be made to pay for penalties. What you can legally do with VPN, though, is to use it to access blocked sites.
VPN is being mentioned here not necessarily because it’s important in choosing the right ISP for you but to clarify potential confusion or misconceptions you may have about VPNs. You may have heard or read about ISPs whose speed limits or data caps are more prone to getting bypassed through VPN. This idea is not commendable.
These are some of the most important things you need to get acquainted with. Don’t just randomly choose an ISP. Always evaluate your options carefully and be sure that you understand the important terms you will be encountering.