And then there were three

Betraying my Auckland roots I can say competition is finally coming to the broadband residential market.

Betraying my Auckland roots I can say competition is finally coming to the broadband residential market.

I know, Wellington has had it for years, but the biggest single residential market in the land is, of course, in the winterless north and if you're serious about residential customers you have to set up in the city of sails.

It's probably timely to compare the new offerings with Telecom's JetStream service.

I use Telecom's JetStream product. I am quite happy with its speed and cost because work pays for it. If I had to pay for it, well, I wouldn't. I use over a gigabyte of traffic each month and that makes for a hefty bill -- usually well over $100.

Installation is a big barrier to entry in the broadband world. Crack this and you're over the first hurdle.

Woosh has the edge in this because it's easy and it's fast. Buy a modem from Vodafone or Dick Smith, install the software, plug the modem in. Hurrah, you're online. Price-wise it's a hefty $399 excluding GST, but that's comparable to a cellphone. As a launch incentive, Woosh is waiving the steep-seeming $50 installation fee.

Telecom has a self-installation offer which includes a modem and is available to around 70% of users. The remainder of people will need to get a technician to install the equipment and that costs a bit more. Telecom says the wait for a technician is less than a week. Modems from Dick Smith run from $150 to beyond $1000.

What about speed? Standard JetStream does not have a guaranteed speed; however, Telecom's website says 2Mbit/s is the target in urban areas and 500Kbit/s for rural connections. I easily get 2Mbit/s. There are also 128Kbit/s and 256Kbit/s options.

Woosh has the least speed flexibility for residential customers -- any size so long as it's 250Kbit/s. Hopefully this will change. Wired Country offers 128Kbit/s, 256Kbit/s and 512Kbit/s for residential users; however, currently it is "upsizing" its speeds by a factor of 10 for free, so those are 1Mbit/s, 2.5Mbit/s and 5Mbit/s for the same price.

Telecom wins in the long term, but the others have great potential, especially Wired Country's super speed.

It's the monthly bills that really sort the wheat from the chaff, however.

To buy Telecom's JetStream you need to rent a phone line; the other options are wireless. You can get a line for about $40 a month, or $25 if it's a second line. You also need an ISP account: Telecom's own ISP, Xtra, charges $10 a month. JetStream service on top of that weighs in at $39.95 for 500MB, $49.95 for 1GB and $59.95 for 2GB, at the 256 Kbit/s speed, with excess traffic charges of 20 cents a megabyte.

Neither Woosh nor Wired Country charge for traffic usage at 250Kbit/s.

If I were using just under 2GB Telecom's rates would go through the roof on the 256Kbit/s 1GB plan. At 20 cents a megabyte for nearly 100 megabytes I'd be paying $200, but I'd probably just pay the $10 and move up to the next plan.

Even without Telecom's line rental of $25 a month, once your downloads mount up you're asking for trouble on JetStream. Technology-wise each product has strengths and weaknesses. The lack of reach will clearly limit Wired Country's appeal. Those factors aside, it's game on.

SpeedInstallModem MonthlyISPLine rental
Telecom:256Kbit/sVaries****from $150$39.95+

20c/MB**

$10 a month$25 a month
Woosh: 250Kbit/s$49.95*$448 $64.95 $0$0
Wired Country:256Kbit/s$80$202*$85*** $0$0

* currently offered free

** exceeding 500MB limit at that price

*** includes ISP charge (ICONZ in this example)

**** Telecom's full installation costs $300 plus the price of the modem, however a self-install kit plus connection costs $300 and includes the price of the modem.

Prices include GST.

Brislen is Computerworld Online'sreporter. Send letters for publication in Computerworld to Computerworld Letters.

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