StarNet faces hold-up

Users wanting to subscribe to StarNet, Ihug's wireless Internet service, will have to wait at least until the end of March for a new connection because of problems in Australia, where Optus is worried about possible 'data collision' between a new PanAmSat satellite to be used for StarNet and an existing service.

Users wanting to subscribe to StarNet, Ihug's wireless Internet service, will have to wait at least until the end of March for a new connection because of problems in Australia with a new satellite.

"PanAmSat and Optus are in negotiations at the moment because [PanAmSat's] PAS8 has been launched into a southern slot," says Ihug director Tim Wood.

Optus is worried about possible "data collision" between the new satellite and an existing service. "There isn't such a thing," says Wood, "but that means there's a delay in us moving bandwidth from PAS2 to PAS8, so it's slowing our service down a bit."

Existing PAS2-based StarNet users with line-of-sight to the Sky Tower in Auckland should be unaffected.

At the other end of the technological spectrum is the question of wording in newspaper ads. Ihug's new print ad includes the words "stay online as long as you want for just $45 per month". Heavy Ihug users will know that the ISP disconnects users who stay online for more than three hours at a time.

"It's only if all the lines are busy and that rarely happens," says Wood. Users can log back on immediately. "If users want a full-time connection then they need a leased line."

Wood says wording the service in an ad is a tricky business. "We used to call it 'flat rate' but other ISPs were offering flat rates that were only 30 hours of connection a month." The Ihug marketing people came up with the term "endless Internet" to describe the service after deciding against terms like "unlimited access" which the service does not offer.

But David Russell of the Consumers Institute is less than happy with the wording of the ad. "If they're advertising a service as 'stay online as long as you want' but then cut you off after three hours, then I think they are very close to the edge."

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