ISP Review - Expectations - Unmetered Usage

We investigate the common misconceptions surrounding unmetered use

Expectations - Unmetered Usage
By Mark 'Winter' Jackson : March 27th - 2002 : Page 1 of 5

"One of the key issues is that of how much we (the customers) expect from an ISP verses what they can actually deliver"


It's nearly three years since Screaming.net became the first UK ISP to launch an affordable off-peak unmetered ISP service. While they were ultimately doomed to fail, the turbulent motion spawned within a difficult industry would eventually turn into an access revolution.

Today the UK is a hotbed for unmetered access with well over a hundred such providers making use of a multitude of set-tariff mediums to produce affordable unmetered (dialup) services.

Unfortunately all is not as it appears, internally at least; there are still a number of problems causing instability. One of the key issues is that of how much we (the customers) expect from an ISP verses what they can actually deliver. It's for this reason that ISP Review has written this article; to better explain what most aren't aware of - the hidden limits of unmetered access.

Doing The Math

In a recent survey we asked our readers what their expectations were for the maximum monthly surfing hours of a typical 24/7 unmetered ISP costing £14.99 Per Month (PM). The results (at the time of writing) were voted on by a total of 1,349 people and are as follows:

  • 50 Hours Per Month = 2.4%
  • 75 Hours Per Month = 3%
  • 100 Hours Per Month = 7.9%
  • 150 Hours Per Month = 9.9%
  • 200 Hours Per Month = 15%
  • 275 Hours Per Month = 6%
  • 300+ Hours Per Month = 55.7%

Interestingly the survey shows that more than half of the voters expected an ISP costing £14.99 PM to allow for 300 hours or more of usage. In reality the 17.8% voting for 100 / 150 hours were closer to being correct, leaving the vast majority expecting far too much, but why?

How Much Does It Cost the ISP?

To find out more we need to understand the costs involved. ISPs pay between £100 and £200 per month for a single 64Kbps port, which is able to carry one connection at a time. Obviously customers wouldn't pay that and so the end-user cost is done by allocating a contention ratio (number of users to any one port).

Contention ratios only work because Internet access is variable; you're never likely to be online 24/7 and if you were it'd cost the ISP up to £200 PM to sustain you, thus ports are allocated to a set number of users in order to split the costs.


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