Ihug scraps flat-rate for high-speed service, sets 1.8Gb limit

In the same week as commercial ADSL arrived on the New Zealand market, flat-rate high-speed consumer Internet has, for now, disappeared. In a move apparently aimed at knocking its wireless StarNet/Satnet service into shape to take on Telecom's JetStream ADSL offering, Ihug will limit customers to 1.8Gb of download data traffic a month.

In the same week as commercial ADSL arrived on the New Zealand market, flat-rate high-speed consumer Internet has, for now, disappeared.

In a move apparently aimed at knocking its wireless StarNet service - which seems to have been rebranded under the Satnet name the company uses in Australia - into shape to take on Telecom's JetStream ADSL offering, Ihug confirmed yesterday that it will limit customers on those services to 1.8Gb of download data traffic a month, or 60Mb a day.

A message from product manager Ted Grenfell to customers says the company has been "concerned about the usage patterns that some users have been displaying for some time now.

Grenfell says the StarNet/Satnet service was developed to provide Web browsing, FTP and high speed burst traffic and is provisioned with bandwidth on that basis.

"A number of customers have been using this premium service as a means to stream data continuously. What this means is that these people get an unfair percentage of the available bandwidth and degrade the overall service to remaining users. The number of people dominating the bandwidth is small, 10-15 users per day. They are however almost always the same people."

Grenfell says from August 1, customers on the service will given given the 1.8Gb limit and, if they exceed that in a month their daily usage will be "assessed" and any traffic over 60Mb per day will be charged at 10 cents per minute. Charges will only be made if the monthly total exceeds 1.Gb.

Australian Satnet users will be allowed a limit of 100Mb daily

Ihug also yesterday deleted information on existing StarNet pricing - formerly $70 monthly flat-rate - from its Website. Text on the site now says new pricing, presumably based around direct satellite using new DBS-based cards and the forthcoming Ihug Digital TV service, will be available in "a few weeks".

Customers with a need for very high download volumes are also being urged to move to Ihug's StarNet business services, which remain flat-rate.

The changes have, not surprisingly, generated a hostile reaction from some StarNet/Satnet customers, including those who received warning letters before the general announcement. Some are threatening to return their StarNet dishes and cards or pondering legal action in the company's newsgroups.

One user said he had been told by Grenfell that Ihug would, if requested, buy back the StarNet card (for e$300, or $350 for those whose accounts are less than three months old) but not the dish. The six month contract for the service would also be waived.

The new limits are still more generous than Telecom's. Those on a basic JetStream account pay $69 monthly plus about $20 in additional ISP charges for a maximum of 600Mb a month, and 35 cents a megabyte over that.

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