5 Questions You Should Ask Before Choosing an ISP

Tuesday, Jul 25, 2017 · 2 mins


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Five years ago, choosing an internet service provider used to be a simple decision involving only prices and speeds. Finding a consistently high-speed internet connection without burning a hole in the pocket sounds like an agenda to most people.

In this post we'll walk you through the 5 questions you must ask yourself and your Internet Service Provider (ISP) before you freeze "the" internet plan that matches your requirements.

Wired broadband vs Mobile broadband

Do I need wired broadband or mobile broadband?

In order to ensure that you are aware of exactly what you are getting from your ISP as a part of your internet plan, the first decision is choosing between mobile vis-à-vis wired broadband. Generally speaking, if you would like an internet connection which is reliable, secure and has greater speed, then you should opt for wired broadband. However, if you mostly use the internet while on the move and don't necessarily need high-speed internet, then a mobile (3G/4G) broadband may serve your needs. Mobile broadband is a good choice for people with limited internet usage and low budget for the same. For instance, your parents who have newly joined the world of WhatsApp/ Facebook/ YouTube may not necessarily need a wired broadband connection.

The theoretical speeds of 4G in India are around 150 Mbps (never experienced anywhere till date), whereas in wired broadband with fiber optics the actual highest speed in India is currently around 1 Gbps (that's six times the theoretical 4G speeds). The key advantages of using wired broadband are that you can simultaneously connect multiple devices/gadgets, upload/download at the same speed without any glitches, indulge in uninterrupted video streaming and cast to your Smart TV effortlessly.

While wired broadband offers higher speed, greater bandwidth, and reliable internet connection, mobile broadband suffers from one major drawback and that is limited network coverage in some areas even in metro cities. Speed for mobile broadband (4G) ranges between 5-10 Mbps that too deteriorates to 1-2 Mbps inside houses or buildings and it is less secure as compared to the wired broadband.

Wired or mobile broadband - the decision for most users is based on their internet speed requirement, but if you do opt for wired then the next crucial thing is to choose between cable or fiber networks.

If wired, do I need fiber or copper?

Wired broadband with copper cables is very common in India and is often offered with a fixed telephone landline connection from the same ISP. It is a fairly old DSL technology dating back to the years when it was only supposed to transmit voice. Even with the numerous advancements in this space " like ADSL, VDSL, and VDSL2+, the upload speed you can get with copper is in the range of 5 " 10 Mbps, and download speed is up to 15 " 70 Mbps, that too with some fluctuations.

The launch of fiber broadband has initiated a new Giga-Era in the country with far higher bandwidth. It uses superior fiber optic technology and is built exclusively for data transmissions, and hence offers high-speed internet. The transmission losses are also drastically reduced with fiber cables so, it ensures faster data transmission and is less error prone.

One challenge with fiber broadband is its availability. Fiber optic cables need to be installed in order to provide fiber broadband to a region. This is the reason why penetration of fiber broadband is still very low in India. On the other hand, since DSL uses telephone lines, a copper internet connection is available pretty much everywhere.

Contention ratio

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What contention ratio does the ISP offer?

Contention ratio is a key metric that measures the maximum number of internet users that can concurrently share a fixed bandwidth on that line. So, despite opting for a high-speed internet connection, if the number of such users using it is large it means that the contention ratio is high and thus the resultant internet speed per user will always be low. For instance, if the contention ratio is 1:8 then up to 8 houses may simultaneously share the bandwidth. Most ISPs in India currently provide a contention ratio of 1:30. With the recent advent of Fiber to the home (FTTH) Internet in India, you can now get dedicated 1:1 bandwidth, ensuring you get the speed that you actually pay for, without any lagging or sharing.

Upload speed equal to download speed

Will I get upload speed as advertised in the ISP's plans?

The advertised internet speeds in India are almost always applicable for downloads only. Ever wondered why the upload speed is never the same? The term 'Ëœsymmetric speeds' refers to an internet connection offering equal upload and download speeds. A decade ago, people used internet primarily for downloading, so the upload speeds offered by their ISP was not a concern. However, these days users are more likely to upload content - sharing photos or videos on Social media, working from home via VPN, or doing video calls on Skype " all these activities need good upload speeds. So, before deciding which broadband to purchase, ask yourself what you intend to use the internet for. If your usage includes uploads also, you may want to check on the upload speeds offered by the ISP. Fiber optic broadband offers the benefit of Symmetrical Speeds, i.e. the upload speeds that you get are as high as the download speeds.

Monthly data limit includes uploads

Does the monthly data limit include upload also?

In India, most unlimited broadband plans are regulated with bandwidth caps or Fair Usage Policy (FUP). What is unknown to most of us is that ISPs offer FUP (monthly data limit) including both Download & Upload data usage. An extended video call or simply sharing photos and videos on social media could result in exhaustion of your data limits, even if you don't download much. Do check with the ISP if their definition of monthly data limit includes both uploads and downloads. At ACT Fibernet, data is calculated as a sum of both the upload and download limits. For example, if you are connected with a plan that offers 350 GB upload & 350 GB download limits, you will now get 700 GB (upload + download) combined which can be used as per your wish.

It is best to get acquainted with the terminologies of your internet plan to avoid common pitfalls and choose the best internet plan for your needs. Primarily everyone these days has requirements of a high-speed internet connection, merely the data usage varies pertaining to their daily requirements. The growing popularity of HD video streaming via YouTube, Netflix & Amazon Prime is poised to eat up your data limits sooner than you think. You could be a photographer who needs to upload portfolio online, a parent working from home who needs to access the company's server on the cloud, an entrepreneur with an internet based start-up working hard to carve a niche, a seller uploading products on e-Commerce websites or even a student spending hours on social media platforms, playing online games & streaming movies. Your requirements could be anything and everything.

It's frustrating to opt for a plan which is too big or too little for your internet needs. Get a fair understanding of your data needs based on the number of devices connecting simultaneously and average usage of each device per day. Monitor your data usage from your digital footprint before trying to choose an internet plan.

The key is, don't choose your ISP solely on the basis of price, consider the questions mentioned above. Take feedback from any existing users in your area pertaining to uptime, customer service, technical support etc. Select your ISP wisely and never lose out on being online.

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