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Choosing Your Broadband Internet Provider
The choices for high-speed Internet access have expanded beyond cable and DSL to wireless broadband. So which one is best for you?
By Sherwin Chan
It was bound to happen. It was never a question of why, only a reckoning of when. Tommy mustered all his courage, cleared his throat, and began mouthing, “Daddy, I want Internet access.”
Daddy ponders about his son’s request. “Maybe it is about time”, he muses. Growing up on a 56K dial-up and busy lines in between, Daddy almost gets misty eyed. These days, there are cable Internet, DSL Internet, mobile 3G Internet and – still dial-up. He’s unsure of how to go about deciding.
It seems technology grew faster than his hair and now he’s at a loss on which service to choose. With lots of brands vying for his hard-earned money, he has to make a good decision. While he’s happy with the cost control of prepaid Internet cards, he realizes that it’s getting harder to control Internet use.
What should he choose?
Boom with no bust
According to a recent Yahoo and Nielsen study, there are an estimated 20 million Internet users in the Philippines. According to the study, “85% of all online users from total urban Philippines are from the Class D and E socioeconomic class while the rest are from Class ABC”. How the Internet is accessed is a different story. Most of those in the lower socioeconomic sectors access through Internet cafés. On the other hand, “majority of Class ABC respondents said they have a computer at home (88%) and have home Internet access (77%),” states the report.
Filipinos use the Internet mostly for online games, social networking, checking e-mail, and sending instant messages. Filipinos comprise a significant percentage of membership and usage in Friendster and Facebook. There’s also a growing prevalence of online micro-entrepreneurs on sites like Multiply.
With these as premise, providing affordable Internet access will become one of the cornerstones of growth for cellular network providers, not just for DSL and cable Internet providers. Recall that this industry enjoyed spectacular growth after offering prepaid services for mobile phone users. So it’s a no-brainer that the very same companies are adopting the same strategy in marketing their wireless Internet services. In fact, the recent growth of wireless broadband devices has been phenomenal, with all three major wireless providers offering prepaid and postpaid mobile Internet access.
Flurry of choices
So what are the options? There are basically these three: cable, DSL, and wireless. Let’s look at the pros and cons for each as well as what kind of speed and cash out you should expect.
If you are a speed monger, you might want to look at cable Internet. One of the providers of cable Internet is Sky Broadband. According to its Web site, “instead of using phone lines…cable lines carry more data and have higher bandwidth.” They advertise that they can go up to 12Mbps download speed.
Their plans are divided into SkyCable and non-SkyCable subscribers. The rates are the same, but the speeds are not. For example, at a monthly rate of P999, non-subscribers get only 1Mbps while the cable subscriber gets 1.5Mbps. With the P1,999 plan, the subscriber enjoys 3Mbps speed while the non-subscriber gets only 2Mbps. They also have bundled plans, which includes subscription to SkyCable Gold cable TV and SkyVoice Plan 100 phone service, for P3,999 (6Mbps) and P5,999 (12Mbps). There’s no installation fee but there’s a cable modem deposit of P1,000 (waived for the last two premium plans). There’s also one-year lock-in period.
The rival provider is Global Destiny Cable, which offers a 999 plan for speeds from 256kbps to 1.5Mbps.
Be aware though that cable Internet has its flaws due to its infrastructure setup. With the cable setup, if a lot of users in the neighborhood are sending and receiving data from the Internet at the same time, then you will notice your speed start to bog down. Quoting from an Internet source, “cable modem services share bandwidth among subscribers in a locality”. So if a lot of your neighbors are connected to the cable provider, there might be no difference in terms of speed with DSL.
DSL has now started taking over the realm of dial-up. Since most of us have phones anyway, adding a modem seems like a practical idea. The three providers that come to mind are Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company (PLDT), Globe Telecom (Globe), and Bayan Telecommunications (BayanTel).
PLDT myDSL offers three plans – Xperience (Plan 999), Xcite (Plan 1995), Xcel (Plan 3000), which come with a free modem. The speeds are as follows, respectively: 1Mbps, 2Mbps, and 3Mbps. They also offer a Plan 990 (384kbps) and 1299 (512kbps), which are bundled with a free landline phone service (modem fee of P1,200).
On the other hand, Globe Broadband offers various packages, namely Explore: Internet@Home, with a Plan 795 with speeds up to 512kbps and a Plan 995 that’s up 384kbps but with a free bundled landline phone service. The Extreme: Internet 2 the MAX packages are Plan 995 (1Mbps), Plan 1295 (1Mbps plus landline), and Plan 1995 (2Mbps plus landline). Globe also offers Tatoo, a broadband prepaid kit for P1,895 with a per-use charge of P5 per 15 minutes, at speeds up to 2Mbps.
Bayan DSL (formerly Sky DSL), on the other hand, offers three types of plans: Plan 899, Plan 1699, and Plan 2699. The speeds are 384kbps, 768kbps, and 2Mbps. If you want a phone with that, the packages go up to Plan 1199, Plan 1999, and Plan 2999 respectively. There’s a one-year lock-in period and a P1,999 installation fee. They also offer you a 15-day money back guarantee.
Since the packages offered by the service providers are almost at parity price, it will all redound to the customer service that one gets from them. According to online reviews, Bayan DSL is a favorite in terms of customer service. And with their money back guarantee, who can beat that?
You should consider though that since most people still use PLDT as their landline, the infrastructure advantage of PLDT is still there. So it’s something you should consider.
Wireless Internet is ideal for people who are on the go. It’s also ideal for travelers, writers, and even photo bloggers. However, wireless Internet is not for people who love watching online videos, downloading files, or playing online games.
Recently, the bevy of TV commercials has been from Globe and Smart Communications (Smart). Also silently starting is Sun Cellular (Sun). The two biggest providers have been heavy in their marketing efforts evangelizing everyone to switch to prepaid wireless Internet access with their promise of “speeds of up to 2Mbps”. One commercial even spoofs the Heroes television series.
With wireless Internet, only Smart and Sun offer unlimited usage. Globe breaks down its Visibility packages as follows: with plans 799 (free 40 hours), 999 (free 60 hours), and 1499 (free 100 hours). There’s a one-time P1,000 installation fee. The pre-paid plan has no monthly fees, just a per-use charge of P5 for every 15 minutes for speeds as fast as 1.8Mbps, but averages 400-700kbps (for HSDPA).
Smart on the other hand has 799 (free 60 hours) and 999 (unlimited). With Globe, depending on the signals (HSDPA or 3G) the speed can range from 384kbps to 2Mbps. With Smart, plan 799 has speed “up to 3Mbps”, while the plan 999 is up to 384kbps only.
Sun offers a 999 wireless plan that gives you both a modem and a mobile phone plan 350. If you don’t want the mobile phone plan, just get their Easy Broadband plan of 799. Both the 999 and 799 plans offer unlimited use of internet. For plan 799, be prepared to shell out P2,500 as a one-time modem charge. Sun also offers a plan 649 for existing Sun mobile subscribers.
In terms of value, Sun wins hands down; however, the 24-month lock-up for plan 999 might be a bit long for some. Smart locks your contract for only 12 months. If you’re the type of person who is in control of your urges, then the best option for you is the prepaid service – Tattoo or Smart Bro Prepaid.
Smart and Globe’s marketing though can be confusing. Consider the following marketing language of the two. With Globe, they charge “P5 for 15 minutes browsing.” With Smart, they state it as “P10 for 30 minutes.” Do the math and you’ll realize there’s no difference.
There is a difference though of ease of reloading. With Globe, you can just reload using regular call and text cards of Globe. With Smart, you need special Smart Bro Load Cards or a Smart load via retailer.
Choosing the right one
In the end, the word to the wise is that we base our decisions on our needs. What is our objective for a certain fixed expenditure? Marketers are very good in convincing us to go for what we want and sometimes, it’s not what we need. It’s always good to know first what you need before you visit the shop.
Why’s that? If you would take note, one of our biggest expenses are fixed expenses that we can do without. Do you really need that many postpaid cell phone lines and landlines? Is the mobile plan you took the right plan? Do you need to turn on the air-con for more than eight hours? These are questions that we often neglect to ask ourselves.
Tommy’s Dad is using a more pragmatic approach in selecting their Internet provider. On average, he notices that their costs for using prepaid Internet cards sum up to about P700 a month. However, he also realizes at that price range, most of the service providers only have limited hours for that package or it has slower speeds.
In the end, he chooses a DSL plan without naming his preferred brand.
So what’s the best value for your money? Rates (as of March 31, 2009) do not include any installation fee and modem rental charge.
|Global Destiny Cable
|P999 (non-SkyCable subscriber)
|P999 (SkyCable subscriber)
|P1,999 (non-SkyCable subscriber)
|P1,999 (SkyCable subscriber)
|P3,999 (SkyCable subscriber)
|P999 (SkyCable subscriber)
|P990 (with landline)
|P995 (with landline)
|P899 (or P1,199 with landline)
|P1,299 (with landline)
|P1,699 (or P1,999 with landline)
|P995 (or P1,295 with landline)
|P1,995 (with landline)
|2,699 (or P2,699 with landline)