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Orcon offers all-you-can-eat UFB fibre – with a hook

UPDATED with Orcon response.

Orcon has launched a $99 unlimited data plan for customers on copper/DSL and UFB fibre plans.

The unlimited data move follows criticism that the first wave of UFB fibre plans from Orcon, Snap and Callplus/Slingshot have stingy, unrealistic data caps.

The plans include a phone line with unlimited national calling.

Orcon UFB customers on a full-speed (100Mbit/s) plan will have to pay $135 for unlimited data.

The ISP, a division of state-owned Kordia, has previously complained about low update of its UFB plans and low-uptake overall.

Potential throttling for unlimited data customers
At first glance, there is one obvious hook.

Orcon says it has organised its network into two "pools of bandwidth" – one for those on unlimited plans and one for the rest, based on estimated usage.

And if the network gets busy, it's the unlimited pool that will get the handbrake applied.

Unlimited users could notice a temporarily slowdown at peak times such as the evening, Orcon says. That is, just the very time they could be wanting to steam a programme or movie or do some online gaming.

(Orcon does not forbid peer-to-peer use, as such, put its standard terms and conditions do let it step on a user who strays significantly beyond a normal usage profile).

Prioritising average Joes over unlimited data users is the same paradigm used by Telecom with its ill-fated Go Large and Big Time plans. Go Large was abandoned after it drew heat from the Commerce Commission over its fine print.

Big Time was ditched after grizzles about slowdowns from power users – that is, the type of customer who is likely to be an early UFB adopter).

The Orcon unlimited data plans also come with more routine terms and conditions. There is a 12-month minimum contract and break fees apply.

Orcon responds
Asked if potential throttling would put some customers off, Orcon spokesman Quentin Reade replied, "If the plan gets a reputation for poor speeds, then we won’t sell much of it. We want to sell a lot of it – it’s our hero product.

"So, we need to make sure we buy plenty of capacity so that it has a good reputation."

Cost of international data blamed
The launch of any unlimited data plan has to be cheered, but wer're still waiting for one that provide will let your data through unmolested, without any provision for potentially throttling speed.

Last week, Slingshop (owned by CallPlus) launched UFB plans where users had to pay extra for unconstrained bandwidth and modest entry-level data caps.

CEO Mark Callander and chairman Malcolm Dick blamed the high cost of international bandwidth.

The collapse of Pacific Fibre, leaving the 50% Telecom-owned Southern Cross Cable monoply intact, had been a "real blow" for his company's unlimited UFB data ambitions, Mr Callander said.

Orcon's Mr Reade told NBR ONLINE that the cost of international data was somthing his company had to live with and that it did shape the new unlimited plan.

"It’s about managing capacity. We want to make sure that existing customer performance is maintained," Mr Reade said.

"Hypothetically, if international data was free we would have bucketloads of capacity and no need to manage the pools at all. But international data costs, so we do only have a finite amount, and we have to make sure that we distribute it fairly among the users of our network."

Big three in holding pattern
The largest ISPs, Telecom, Vodafone and TelstraClear have yet to announce any UFB plans.

Vodafone, which has sought Commerce Commission approval to buy TelstraClear, says the install experience is not ready for primetime and that it need more clarity on what will happen when Chorus' free connection deal expires at the end of this year.

Telecom says it will launch UFB residential plans early next year, with a focus on value-added services such as video.


$99/mth for unlimited data and national landline calling

ISP Orcon has launched a new fixed price plan - $99/mth for unlimited data and national landline-to-landline calling.

“Data use is skyrocketing – and the time is right for families, flats and big fans of the internet to make sure they don’t get bill shock – and can use the internet when they want, how they want,” says Scott Bartlett, Orcon CEO.

“We asked people if they want to use more data. More than half said yes. We asked people if they ever got bill shock. Forty per cent said yes.

“We’ve built this plan with this in mind. Unlimited data isn’t just for the traditional heavy internet user – it’s also for the families whose usage can fluctuate, and for the flatmates who are sick of one flattie using all the data.”

Existing and new Orcon residential customers on Orcon UFB, Orcon Genius and Orcon LLU services can now sign up for the new plans which start at $99/mth for households*.

“We think this is a game-changer. Unlimited plans aimed at mainstream consumers will see people vastly change their web habits and finally use the internet to its full potential,” says Bartlett.

“What’s more, unlocking unlimited data on a UFB connection is just awesome – we think people are going to love that.”

Bartlett says data caps for families are increasingly being challenged by an ever-increasing range of new digital services such as Spotify, Rdio and streaming video services coming to the market.

“The way we consume media is changing. In the US and UK, it’s estimated up to a third of internet traffic is through users accessing online video and entertainment services.

“Orcon unlimited plans are about people being able to consume without having to keep an eagle eye on how much data you and others members of your household are using,” Bartlett says.

Orcon’s unlimited broadband plans are priced as follows:

  • $99 a month for consumers on Orcon UFB (up to 30 Mbps), Orcon LLU, and Orcon Genius plans (includes unlimited national landline to landline calling**).
  • $135 a month for consumers on Orcon UFB (up to 100 Mbps) (includes unlimited national landline to landline calling**).
  • 12 month contracts and early termination fees apply (remaining payments due on Orcon UFB contracts [$199 minimum] and $199 on other plans).

Please note: UFB plan speed refers to the maximum possible connection speed.  Actual speed may vary.  Our Fair Use Policy together with all other Orcon terms and conditions apply.  See for more information.

*current customers’ plan changes will take effect on the 23rd of the month, in line with Orcon’s billing cycle.
**calls up to one hour

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Comments and questions

What's the contention rate or the committed information rate for copper users?

As we move to UFB this kind of information will be vital to users so they can see what they're getting.

The committed information rate (CIR) for UFB fibre connections is 2Mbit/s in both directions according to Crown Fibre Holdings' template contract.

2Mbit/s sounds puny, but it's a better than the dial-up like pitiful CIR usually associated with copper/DSL connections.

On the CIR for Orcon's new unlimited plans, spokesman Quentin Reade told NBR, it all all depends:

"There’s no real CIR defined for copper like there is for fibre. BUBA (the old UBA product) has a handover “dimension” which is a way of partitioning or sharing the available bandwidth among multiple users. Chorus manage the BUBA dimension to 75kbps, but in reality because not everyone is using it at the same time people get a lot more than this. We have very few customers left on BUBA anyway.

"With EUBA and LLU, Orcon defines the size of the handover, so the minimum speed available for an individual customer would be the answer to this formula:

"Size of handover (Mbps) / number of customers connected to that handover = minimum speed or “dimension” per customer (Mbps)

"But because the number of customers changes all the time, and we upgrade the capacity of our handovers periodically as well, the answer to this question constantly fluctuates. Also it only applies to the local handover, as soon as your traffic is international that’s another pipe with another formula at play."

Shame you didn't ask and answer that question when you were pushing Voda for RBI.
Rural users will be left in the last century with 5 meg "PEAK" in reality it will run like a dog after 4 oclock till midnight cause the contention will be through the roof. Video will be all but unusable.

Fair use policy always negates the so-called "unlimited data" plan. There's no such thing as an unlimited data plan anywhere...

Firstly, really good question Paul. I'm no techie but as it was explained to me, an 8 lane freeway (UFB) vs a two way road (DSL) sounds great unless the freeway is crawling along full of commuters compared to zipping down a deserted country road in the McKenzie Basin...

Secondly, a lot of huffing and puffing about Southern Cross Cable data costs keeping up plan costs but still no transparency.

If the data is hosted locally* then there's no international data cost so shouldn't someone provide a plan where this data is cheaper or free, especially given the peer-to-peer traffic is primarily international?

* Acknowledging some local (* websites are actually hosted overseas... like Xtra and some TV on Demand services for instance. Maybe if the local data was free, then kiwis might choose to select the local hosts more than overseas ones.... or choose ISPs with lower plan rates who may choose to locally cache popular sites and reduce the duplication of data going over the international fibre connection...

The problem comes with the fact that the majority of data streamed is in fact held overseas (such as streaming television shows etc). Plus I wouldn't be surprised if 60-70% of websites are at least partiallyt, if not wholly hosted overseas.

For all the complaints at the time about Big Time it was certainly better than the alternative (which we now have). I was able to over 200GB/month, a large majority of which was either off-peak or uploaded to hosts within New Zealand (at a trickle thanks to ADSL upload speeds).

However, the real reason Big Time was killed was because of difficulties in managing traffic. Telecom couldn't keep a step ahead of a small minority of users who worked around the traffic management systems put in place.

For example, because Telecom didn't shape HTTP traffic a small number of users altered their behaviour and downloaded multi-TB amounts of data monthly across the HTTP protocol. For a short while they also took advantage of Telecom's New Zealand youtube cache. As a result they very effectively bypassed the traffic management protocols and made it impossible for Telecom to continue to offer the service.

The end result was Bittorrent got shaped very effectively, but the Megaupload (which happened to go mainstream around the same time) and SFTP/VPN users were free to go crazy.

bit of an apparent contradiction here from Orcon.

they say they really needed Pacific Fibre to work to be able to give good plans, yet here they are with $99 unlimited data and calling.

so either they were lying/wrong about pacific fibre being necessary, or they were correct about it being necesary and the unlimited plan will be terrible because they won't be able to afford enough bandwidth.

so which is it orcon?