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TelstraClear calls limitless weekend 'very successful', InternetNZ 'disastrous'

LATEST: Some businesses seething, but TelstraClear says need for compo after weekend go-slow

Update Dec 5: The promise of data heaven turned into data hell for some TelstraClear customers over the weekend.

A limitless broadband promotion saw NZ's second largest ISP lift data caps on all residential plans from 6pm Friday to midnight Sunday.

Customers responded by ramping up their internet use, from downloading video to online gaming - or at least they tried to.

Sunday evening, TelstraClear spokeswoman Diane Robertson told NBR the promotion had been, on balance, a positive, "We correctly predicted that with so many people taking advantage of the weekend, some users would experience slow speeds. We acknowledge this was frustrating for some. However, we believe it has been very successful."

Asked if he agreed with TelstraClear's analysis, InternetNZ boss Vikram Kumar said, "Absolutely not. For customers, it's been disastrous."

InternetNZ administer's local website address on behalf of the global internet body ICANN and lobbies on behalf of users.

Mr Kumar's personal connection slowed to a fifth of its usual speed. Judging by NBR reader comments (below), a heated discussion thread on Geekzone, and chatter to TelstraClear's Twitter account, many shared his frustration.

Rather than gorging on all-you-can-eat data, many were simply waiting for the weekend to end. Some rumbled about making complaints under the Consumer Guarantees Act over what they called unusable service (TelstraClear has yet to comment on whether it thinks any form of compensation is warranted.)

Repeat would "lose customers"
"If TelstraClear repeats this experiment they are going to lose many customers," Mr Kumar told NBR last night.

"The only 'success' has been to put data caps and issues related to demand-side management in the spotlight."

TelstraClear head of consumer Steve Jackson said the jury was out on a re-run.

"High demand did slow speeds and create congestion for some. While the proportion of customers experiencing issues was small, we understand the frustration of those who experienced poor performance," Mr Jackson said.

"We will be evaluating all feedback before any decision is made on future unmetered weekends."


TelstraClear chokes as all-you-can-eat weekend kicks off

UPDATE Dec 3: TelstraClear's unlimited broadband weekend got off to a literally slow start.

InternetNZ boss Vikram Kumar said his TelstraClear cable connection was "almost unusable" last night (the ISP's all-you-can-eat weekend kicked off 6pm Friday).

"Nearly died for many people"
Mr Kumar, who was monitoring social network chatter about the promotion, told NBR that broadband connections "nearly died for many people."

Early yesterday evening the InternetNZ chief executive quickly slid from anticipation of "#dataheaven" to sarcastically thanking TelstraClear for "munting" his account.

This morning, it was better news. Mr Kumar reported his connection was back to its normal speed, but on websites and social networks, complaints continued to flow.

Mr Kumar told NBR he usually gets 9Mbit/s to 10Mbit/s download speed from TelstraClear.

Yesterday, that dropped below 2Mbit/s and, at the point of this speed-test screen grab, 1.7Mbit/s:

One TelstraClear customer told NBR his connection fell to 0.2Mbit/s.

Another complained, "Frustrating last night. Tried to watch a short video clip and it buffered every second - gave up."

NBR was unable to load TelstraClear's home page this morning.

TelstraClear consumer head Steve Jackson responded that, "Our free broadband weekend is proving incredibly popular. As we predicted, the high numbers of people taking advantage of this opportunity to make the most of their internet will inevitably slow speeds and create some congestion.

"We expect this to be intermittent as demand ebbs and flows and understand the frustrations this may cause for some. Our technicians continue to monitor the network 24/7 and we'll be considering all feedback in our review."

One link
A key issue is that much of New Zealand's internet traffic is cross-border, both from people accessing offshore sites, and domestic data that gets routed via LA due to the politics of "peering" traffic between providers.

Right now, New Zealand has a single link with the outside world, the 50% Telecom-owned Southern Cross Cable (which falls under the 'new' Telecom rather than Chorus post-separation - giving the "retail" focussed "new" Telecom control over wholesale international bandwidth).

Pacific Fibre is in the processing of raising funds for a new cable between Australia, New Zealand and the US.

One of the cable's backers, entrepreneur Rod Drury, told NBR this morning: "I don't know what the bottleneck is on TelstraClear but we do know that 90%-plus of content is from the US, so these unmetered weekends are probably going to crippled by our overseas connections."

For basic websites, the problem could probably be solved by better "caching" (ISPs storing local copies of popular sites), Mr Dury said.

But, "The realtime web - video conferencing, online demonstrations and meetings can't be cached so we see that as key productivity inhibitor which affects trade."

Mr Dury added, "I recently upgraded my FX Networks/Unison Fibre connection from 10MB to 100MB and haven't noticed any speed improvement. I think that proves opening up international is key to improving the NZ internet experience.

"Without opening up international, ADSL+ over copper with good upstream fibre to the cabinet and reduced contention would be fine in 99% of residential environments. Therefore fibre-to-the-home appears to be a wasted investment if international is not substantially opened up."

Added industry commentator Lance Wiggs, "It shows just how much pent up demand there is from families and businesses for capacity, which is an opportunity for ISPs which will only become greater as Ultrafast Broadband comes online."

Pacific Fibre chief executive Mark Rushworth struck a diplomatic tone, telling NBR, "TelstraClear should be applauded for this innovated pricing special. It reminds me of the first $5 calling weekend Telecom offered in the early 90s. They had some initial capacity planning problems but it changed the nature of how people made national calls.

"Let's all hope this is an industry step towards higher data caps for all."

TelstraClear braces for all-you-can-eat weekend

Nov 28: Our second largest internet service provider, TelstraClear, says it will allow unlimited internet use this weekend (6pm on Friday December 2 until midnight on Sunday December 4). Customers will be able to browse, downloaded video and otherwise surf the web without worrying about any data being counted toward their monthly cap.

It's a naked PR stunt.

Yet it will also be intriguing to see how the ISP's network stands up to unfettered use.

TelstraClear admits there's likely to be some degree of slow down.

In a statement, head of consumer markets Steve Jackson said, "TelstraClear knows that this weekend will be very popular. With lots of people online for longer, some customers could experience slower than normal connection speeds."

It will be interesting to see if the traffic glug is mild, medium, or bad (in which case, you'll soon see squeals on Twitter).

A second question: will TelstraClear customers accept some degree of slowdown if they know the upside is un-metered data?

Asked if this weekend was a test of the TelstraClear network's ability to deal with unlimited use, or a precursor to an all-you-can-eat plan, spokesman Gary Bowering told NBR, "It’s not a test. We’re confident that our network will cope well with the demands that may be placed on it. We’ve made no decisions on whether there will be further unmetered weekends."

TelstraClear offers a number of services unmetered, including the Steam gaming service, access to TradeMe's website and video-on-demand from TV3.

A nation under the thumb
All-you-can-eat broadband plans are the norm in most countries, but a recent Statistics NZ survey of ISPs found that 99% of New Zealanders are on internet plans constrained by data caps. Historically, relatively expensive overseas data has been blamed.

Overall, the Statistics NZ survey found the size of the average data cap was increasing.

More by Chris Keall

Comments and questions

TCL will fund it from all the $25 #3strikesnz notices that will result ;-)

its funny, netflix/hulu dont want to come to NZ suppos due to data caps, but if the ISP's had no caps and they came to NZ, the content would be in NZ and require a lot less international capacity, which costs which is why we have data caps.

The best network in NZ, I've moved houses and choose by whether they have a Telstra connection and they are dropping their top end plans by over 30% in a few days.

Will be interesting to see how slow the network will get over the weekend, sure it will still be more than 3g networks at least

it will be a test of sorts of what a worst case scenario could be. Essentially if they actually got rid of data caps altogether there is no way the network would be hammered as hard as it will be this weekend. But because it is just for a weekend, people will attempt to fill their boots with as much content as possible.

I'm looking forward to this weekend...

There'll be squeals on Twitter irrespective. The priming of expectations of such problems is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Every slow site and problem will be laid at the door of the metering free week-end.

It's a PR stunt alright, one cynically designed to generate negative buzz around the uncapped concept.

"See, we tried it, and customers didn't like it. They like paying overage which has been shown to be ineffective in controlling congestion, but wonderful for margin enhancement"

In all honesty if this speed is to be expected from a new Telstra unlimited plan I would prefer to chuck my PC in the bin and forget about internet altogether, running at 80kbps on yes a broadband package, what's the point in such a deal as unlimited when I could get dial-up at 56kbps for free.. share your views will be interesting if other people are experiencing such low speeds.

Yeah, I would rather they double my cap for a month than give bit-torrent uses an open-pass for the weekend (at the expense of everyone else). Enjoying a 0.8mb download speed this weekend :(

Yay! I can't download things. I can't update LoL. I can't get decent performance from online games. What is the point of a unmetered weekend if the internet doesn't even function?
It's fantastic to see professionals using their paying customers as guinea pigs and cutting off their internet for almost 2 and a half days.

Snap has done this on 2 occasions and it has not slowed down my connection, how can this cripple a big ISP like TelstraClear with their own network

Rod: you have to take into account the distance to the US and the packet round trip latency when you talk about international bandwidth.

As for TelstraClear, does this mean its network has really high contention levels? That is, the shared bandwidth is oversold to a large degree?

Plus while Rod has 100mb, that is only to his ISP. Past that point everything gets merged in with other ISPs

Come on Juha - The connection to the US worked regardless of latency and RTD before they released the bandwidth floodgates. The distance is fairly irrelevant other than it is likely to highlight packet loss issues. Clearly the issue is TCL don't have enough bandwidth internationally to be able to offer plans similar to those enjoyed in other parts of the world. If Southern Cross didn't charge so much Telstra would buy more and we wouldn't be having these debates. If a company with the scale of TelstraClear can't make it work, how will any tier 2 ISP ever compete in this space. Bring on Pacific Fibre!!

It was predictable that this would happen. Telcos over-sell the internet pipes, because the public couldn't afford the real cost of permanent high speed.

A 1Gb/s pipe at wholesale (no data cap) will yield between 1000 and 5000 10Mb/s retail connections dpending on the Telco. It’s called contention - its worked on the basis that not everyone is going to be downloading at full speed at the same time.

The reality is that businesses that need guaranteed high speed with no data cap, for data links or inter-office connections are usually prepared to pay significant amounts per month. The illusion that 16 year old Johnny can download music at high speed at a fraction of the price of what a business pays is a marketing ploy. Some people always get excited by something for nothing.

This weekend will cost Telstra nothing - they already pay for the pipes, the only difference is that they will not collect any over-useage charges. The increase in data download will be met by a corresponding decrease in overall connection speed.

Telecom tried this with go large and it didn't work, Slingshot have it - and if you read their fine print you will find they throttle back connections to meet demand, and prioritise connection types
2. Gaming
3. Browsing
4. Streaming
5. Local traffic
6. File sharing, including Peer-to-Peer (P2P)

To get a genuine guaranteed 24/7 speed 20Mb/s down / 10Mb/s up unlimited data connection costs upwards of $1000 or more per month, and even that may be subject to contention if it is running hard out all the time.

Again read the fine print. No ISP guarantees speed.

[Good point. The first retail plan released under the Crown fibre roll-out has a "committed information rate" (guaranteed minimum speed) of 2.5Mbit/s up and down. That's as per Crown Fibre Holdings' template for wholesale deals, and quantumly faster than the committed information rate in the highly contended copper world - CK]

Are people on HomePlan/ADSL2+ connections experiencing the slow downs that InHome/Cable customers are talking about?

I've been running at max line speed for International downloads since I first tried to download last night (1.1MB/s)

Double edged sword, stoked that they're trying new things, regret for those who are negatively impacted. Not a network guru by any means, but hazarding a guess, I think that the greater upload speed afforded by Cable plans is impacting on the performance in specific, high density cable areas.

If shared international bandwidth/contention was oversold, then I would expect ALL users of TelstraClear would experience the slowdown, where that is clearly not the case.

The contention will mosy likely vary depending on location or type of service because the first botteneck is the local switch, and the pipe feeding into the area and spreading out through the network.

If the contention was international it would impact on users from every ISP.

Between the ISPs and their upstream providers there are multiple points at which contention restraints can be applied.

The data caps and costs are a way of Telcos subsidising the capital cost of new pipes. I have often wondered if the Telcos had to compete with no data caps and lower contention rates whether it would force them to tidy up their act and run more efficient businesses.

There is no question that the massive gross margins the Telcos enjoy, make up for the cost of apalling inefficiency and overstaffing which is caused by very poor systems, and too much complexity.

No doubt the decades of the socialist monopoly by Telecom has had a big part to play.

It's sad and pathetic that there's such strong demand that it cripples a network as large as TelstraClear.

The fact remains that no one is willing to invest in NZ. The cost of fibre has dropped substantially. I don't blame investors however, SXC can easily upgrade their equipments relative cheaply and give unlimited data to every child/woman/man/sheep/cow in NZ. Perhaps kiwis can set up a public link to Australia(small cost, no more than 100m) and have same type of internet plans.

Slow slow slow! Why provide this service if the network cannot handle the speed. I have been a Telstra customer for 8 months and has super fast internet and I pay for the full deal. This morning it grounded to a halt 1.33 Mbps should be 10!

this free weekend is nothing but a @#%* NIGHTMARE!!!! its like dial up !!!
if this is a way to attract new customers I'M OUTTA HERE!!!

I am wholly unimpressed with Telstra Clear's free weekend. it's totally screwed my performance to the point where internet is un-usable. Worse than I used to get with dial-up!

their pricing is what's normally protecting their over-subscribed network, through lower demand. this weekend's elimination of the control by pricing has revealed the emperors clothes. I've rarely had occasion to consider changing from TC Cable Modem.... now I shall be keeping an eye out for better technology.

shame on you, Telstra Clear marketing department. I hope the marketing lunch that spawned this (epic fail) idea was a good one.

My ping has doubled on a game server in germany. I cant even play it! I am so unhappy so i rang telstra and they are unsure whether there will be any more 'free weekends' in future. Imagine how angry you'd be on another company and they telstra fucks your internet like this \0/ Jesus christ i'm angry, just gotta wait til 12 pm sunday so i can play again. Fuck you NZ


My parents got me round to fix their computer today cause "nothing is working" what they actually meant was the Internet was unusable due to a crappy marketing exercise. Speedtests showed less than 1mb download speed and timeouts on upload -

They could care less about unlimited data, they are happy with that they pay for as long as it works as I would imagine the vast majority are its only the bittorenters who win out of this. Nice way to lose some customers who pay full price on time and never hit their cap - so therefore are overpaying and replacing them with data leeches who thrash your network. Sounds like a solid business plan.

Thanks for nothing TelstraClear. This is a nightmare. Internet speed is so bad there is no point using it. I am gutted. Don't know who is benefitting from this - but it isn't your decent customers that pay for a high usage plan.

Gaming is currantly impossible thanks a lot for ruining the internet for a weekend, hope the extra cash you get from all the warnings you will send out is worth it.
I'm 90% sure to quote star wars 'it's a trap'.

I work at a small net cafe up in hamilton (working right now) and our internet is a nightmare at the moment. Latency of 600ms+ on games such as LoL and WoW, web browsing is slow and Youtube videos load so slow on anything other than 360p.

Not impressed at all, but I expected it.

Rubbish performance . I rather pay than have performance like this ...

I've been trying to download a rented movie from itunes since last night. Apparently it's going to take another 9 hours. I think I'll just go to the video store. Thanks telstra.

I called Telstra's helpdesk today and was baasically told "nothing we can do, it will probably come right on Sunday night"
My "Lightspeed" plan managed 0.26Mb/s to the US today. Apparently Light is approximately the speed of crap.

Probably about 98% of the time I am extremely happy with my Telstra Cable connection in Wellington.

Since Friday night doing simple things like trying to browse websites makes me feel like I am using dial-up.

Trying to game on-line is a nightmare to international servers. I would normally get around 200ms, I am currently seeing spiking speeds of 600-5000ms. Not to mention about 20% packet loss causing spikes every few seconds lasting from 1-20 seconds.

I will be patient this weekend however if they try and do this again I will be leaving Telstra Clear. I don't care if I am on a contract I signed up for useable internet 7/7 days a week, not 5/7 days a week and they won't be getting any fees out of me for providing a terrible service.

It's not as though online gaming is a good reason for unlimited data caps - it's hardly productive, or necessary to society...

It's not the gamers that use the bandwidth - online gaming is relatively light on the usage meter - it's all about the latency. If the big file downloaders are busy, everyones signal takes longer to get back and forth. High latency = furious online gamers.

I suggest you fill one out if you are experiencing terrible performance - it will at least show them that they can't afford to try it again

Demand a 2 day credit from Telstraclear customer service. Take screenshots during the weekend to verify your claims, and email them to Telstra if necessary.
This is a self-inflicted network issue. Any network technician should have seen this coming, that's why they have quotas in the first place - to restrict usage per customer over a fixed period to restrict network traffic to levels their network can support. I honestly do not know what they were thinking.
Steve Jackson: calling this "popular" is like calling the flu popular at winter.

another Free Weekend and im canceling my contract.

Under the Consumer Guarantees Act the "service" they are providing is no longer fit for purpose and refunds should be given

Stop complaining and go to the beach and clear your heads!

"Go to the beach" Don't be so inconsiderate. I'm sure you would complain if you went to the beach only to find everyone else in the country was there, you had no parking and no space on the beach for yourself and the dairy had sold out of drinks and ice creams! Besides many of us have other things to do than just laze on a beach all day.
2 Day REFUND x number of customers = lots of money.

Remember when TC ran a billboard campaign that was like an open letter to Stephen Joyce that they already had an ultra fast broadband network.
Is this what they meant ?

Folks I hate to say it but we have a unlimited plan and have a rural connection but still get the following result
Last Result:
Download Speed: 5816 kbps (727 KB/sec transfer rate)
Upload Speed: 753 kbps (94.1 KB/sec transfer rate)
Latency: 57 ms
Saturday, 3 December 2011 8:49:32 p.m.

Any complaints e mail CEO Dr Allan Freeth

Forgot to mention definitely not with TCL lol

this is garbage i pay to have a working stable connection for online gaming not so that thousands of people can download illegal pirated material on cheap crappy connections for 3 days nonstop while people like me who pay alot for high usage cap get screwed.

i've downloaded 30gb today been pretty fast all day slowed down a bit now tho - will aim for 40gb tomorrow. Thanks Telstra!

I cannot download anything, lucky to get 10kb/s on offshore downloads (and there ain't a whole lot worth downloading inside NZ). Well played TC, Internet buggered for an entire weekend.

To anyone who has worked for this company... are we surprised at this marketing failure?

I have just joined Telstra for a good gaming experience and now it is ruined untill sunday night! I am so angry, sunday night cant come soon enough!

thats what were all waiting for : (

I live in Christchurch and normally I get around 15megs. Today I'm getting between 3 and 4megs. I rang telstar and the customer services person said I would have to endure it until the end of the free weekend. What! Unbelieveable I'm making a written complaint to telstra and am quoting their - Committment to you - policy which this weekend has breached. A complaint can also be made to the Telecommunication Disputes Resolution company. Telstra have compromised quality in the hope to attain more sales. I think the term is zero pricing strategy. This is unprofessional and unethical. Shame on you Telstra! If they were doing it for ethical reasons they would have said.

dunno what you sooks are on about. I'm getting mad tunes and movies.

what up section 92a?

I don't understand the fuss about this failed attempt at an all you can eat plan. Slingshot already offer one, which I have been on for the past year. I download about 400GB per month without issue. Good luck hanging in there guys while Telstra use you to test their network, I will stay with Slingshot.

This has been a complete failure PR wise. Has anyone (except for torrenters) actually benefited from this? Takes 15 minutes+ to load a four minute clip on YouTube.

What a waste of time.

I'm looking at my account and I pay $55.00 for 20G light speed I checked with the Telstra sales people and I save $10 every month to reduce my plan to 10G. I must say my gardens have benefitted and other long awaited chores have also benefitted. There is more to life than internet. $120.00 per year may not sound much but for the new internet free life I'll have, its priceless!

So what is the point of having a Wellington Clearnet cable link if the speed is less than my backup Telecom cable --- I've had enough of Telstra Clear. They simply cannot be relied on. That's why I had to get the Telecom backup. From next week it can be the main link and as soon as poss I'll dump Clear.

This problem is affecting smaller ISP's downstream of TCL as well.
Dont lose sight of the fact the Internet is the USA and we are 10,000km away from it. Thats the premium we pay for living on an island near Antarctica. PacFibre wont help the cause either - SxC have already dropped their pants. Suck it up or pay a higher premium, simple.

Telstra Clear's performance this weekend made the Black Caps look good.

I bet the whole thing was dreamed up by the company's marketing department with naff-all consultation with the techies.

How about thinking ahead.... "free data to national sources" would have worked much better.

Youtube is served out of a snap cache in Christchurch.

Well they may not be planning on offering compensation but TC have already credited our account for the weekends lack of broadband. Not sure if Steve has spoken with his contact centre staff who were more than happy to provide the credit and commented that they'd provided a number of credits before I had called. It'll be interesting to re-listen to that conversation when I get the audio copy of it (as is my right if they record the phone call).

my connection was stable the whole weekend. I had a constand speed of 5mbps which is normal at all other times.

my connection was stable the whole weekend. I had a constant speed of 5mbps which is normal at all other times.

Yup, that was awesome, dunno what you people are complaining about, everyone at our flat was getting pretty reasonable internet speeds, granted things were a bit slower than usual, but overall I think people are really making a mountain out of a molehill OMG, i'm only downloading at 300KiloBytes a sec... poor me!...

To the ones saying it was like being on dialup.... have you BEEN on dialup lately, your lucky to get 7Kbytes /sec

Thanks TC, do it again!

I have paid a premium for TelstraClear's adsl service as in the past as it has been reasonably reliable. This weekend latency to the US so high that any realtime applications were completely unusable.
TCL have refused to offer me any compensation so I have voted with my wallet and switched to a different ISP.

The free broadband weekend was the most unpleasant and inconvenient experience imaginable. It took me 2.5 hours to download a 50mB file through Skype file transfer on Friday evening and the same time through WeTransfer on Saturday. That is about 5.5 kB per second and that IS dial-up speed. Appalling. I tried again at 5am on Sunday morning and it took 2 minutes.

Steve Jackson should resign! How stupid could you be despite being told that it was going to fail and after Telecom did similar last year.

This now has affected business customer's as well!

So a couple of kids couldn't play games on the computer. Boo hoo. Finally a chance to get a real life. I live in Chch and speed was fine, I got lots of Microsoft patches downloaded. I am happy. Thank you Telstra.

It was sweet on our side no slowing at all please extend the free broadband weekend

The no-datacap weekend was great. I took full advantage of it and had good download speed, typically 7-8 Mb/s and often in the 10-15Mb/s range. I hope Telstraclear offer another free weekend soon.