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Ding-dong, the cap is gone!

Ding-dong, the cap is gone!

| On 28, Jan 2013

Big announcement from Bell today. Although there are a few catches, you can now again have unlimited Internet service, added as a $10 option to any Bell Internet service package. The biggest catch is that you have to be a subscriber to Bell Internet and at least two more Bell services (home phone, cell phone, TV, and Internet). If you only have one more service, the step up is $30. The small print actually defines the cost at $30, with a $20 credit if you have two additional services.

This enables Netflix subscribers to go back to full quality and for iTunes, Movies Unlimited or Xbox Video viewers to worry less about the number of movies they rent per month. It means no warnings to your kids, and that you won’t think twice about leaving streaming radio on all day or watching YouTube all night long. As the Internet and particularly media consumption on the Internet becomes more important to Canadians, this is a positive step. It’s worth remembering that back in the day Bell’s packages were unlimited, or limited but not monitored.

As one of the major factors encouraging subscribers to move to faster packages was increased bandwidth, does this mean that you should rethink your Bell package? Absolutely. For most consumers on packages higher than Fibe Internet 15/10 ($49.95*) which includes 60GB usage, it’s worth considering a downgrade. The 15Mbps service offers plenty of throughput to stream video, audio and just about everything else. This won’t work for everyone (like those readers who don’t need my advice) but could save most customers precious monthly dollars, while offering increased flexibility and peace of mind. After all, no-one wanted to pay excess bandwidth charges.

For the time being, by my calculations, most subscribers will be well served with 15Mbps service. At 15Mbps, it takes less than ten minutes to download a gigabyte. HD movies are four to six gigs in size. So, at 15 Mbps, it’s less than an hour for a six gig file. Since most streaming players (like AppleTV) start playing when roughly 2% has been downloaded at that speed, playback starts in less than a minute.

Netflix recommends 5Mbps for HD quality playback. Netflix’s “best” quality is 2.3GB per hour for HD, so 15Mbps service still provides 100% overhead. Note that by default in Canada, Netflix sets throughput at “good”, or .3GB per hour. Time to adjust that setting.

I’m sure that Rogers will follow suit shortly, but it’s worth noting that the Rogers Internet packages typically promise higher speeds at slightly lower prices and slightly lower bandwidth caps. Of course direct comparisons are impossible.

Canada’s ranks 33rd on the global rating for Internet service speed at netindex.com, at 16Mbps. Ontario’s average is slightly higher at 17.6Mbps. Canada’s fastest ISP is Rogers (29.41), Bell is in tenth place at 13.17Mbps – it would be nice if Bell Fibe customers were identified seperately. These are live statistics, so it’s worth checking from time to time.

The other catch is that this service is only available to customers where Fibe is available. You can verify availability at bell.ca  

If you currently have the $5/40GB extra usage feature on your Bell Internet service, it’s likely worth upgrading that to the $10/Unlimited offer. Bell’s existing package, which offers an additional 40GB for $5 remains in place.

Bell’s margin on this offer is likely nearly as high as the margin on unlimited texting. The costs of providing this additional transfer is somewhere between low and non-existent. If this encourages you to stay with Bell, or to transfer one more service to Bell, then this is a huge win for Bell. I’d rate this news as positive for Bell share price, Bell’s stock is up slightly this morning.

*All Bell prices are “bundle” prices. You’ll pay more if this is the only Bell service you have. Jan 26 8 13h30 updated to confirm continued availability of Bell’s $5/40GB usage feature.

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