Eir puts a figure on fair use

Broadband fibre
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Niall Kitson wonders if a more clued in customer base is essental for a quick 5G rollout

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12 August 2019 | 0

There is a theme to how the Irish broadband market has grown for as long as I’ve been covering it: underachievement. I’m drawn back to a time in the mid-00s when eir’s (then eircom) entry level package promised download speeds of 512kb/s, uploads of 128kb/s, a contention ratio of 48:1 and a data cap of 4Gb for €39.99 per month. Today the same money can get you an uncontended 100mb/s connection with an ‘unlimited’ data cap. In theory.

The reality is that spotty connectivity using a myriad of technologies from 3G to fibre-to-the-home has destroyed any notion of clarity over what can be delivered for a fair price.

The move from Edge to 3G to 4G has changed what we expect from mobile broadband where hard statistics have been replaced with promises of factors like ‘three times faster than 3G’.

The language around limits also remains vague as demands users put on ISPs offset advances in network investment. The classic example is Netflix. According to figures from Sandvine’s Global Internet Phenomena report, 15% of global bandwidth is taken up by the streaming giant, followed by YouTube on 11%. Video accounts for 58% of daily Internet traffic. The most popular application on the Web happens to be the hungriest.

As of this writing Virgin, eir, Magnet, Sky, Pure and Vodafone offer ‘truly unlimited’ data packages to the home, but what about mobile?

Conscientious
customers

Promising unlimited data is a dangerous move for operators but it is happening. Last week eir’s announced a new mobile tariff with ‘unlimited data’. It’s weird but one of its selling points is a ceiling of unlimited data of 80Gb, after which point the customer’s connection will be slowed, but not cut off.

Eir’s argument is that the data cap is largely moot. Most users, it says, won’t get near 80Gb. So why bother at all?

I’m calling this a social experiment. A nod and a wink reminding users to to go easy so everyone can get their share. If eir can get its users to appreciate the nature and cost of connectivity that would certainly free up resources to bring in more customers and maybe even invest in better networks. I’m thinking specifically here of eir’s 5G service, announced on the same day as the 80Gb limit. The strands start knitting together.

Take it handy, folks. That network upgrade will not pay for itself. If you behave, we have some 5G goodness just around the corner. The possibilities are limitless.

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