Optus uploads: A revolution in the making?

Optus uploads: A revolution in the making?

Summary: As Optus joins the likes of Telstra and others in now counting uploads as well as downloads in its service plans, has our new found enthusiasm for posting ourselves all over Facebook and YouTube set us up for higher prices?


news analysis As Optus joins the likes of Telstra and others in now counting uploads as well as downloads in its service plans, has our new found enthusiasm for posting ourselves all over Facebook and YouTube set us up for higher prices?

Other broadband providers, however, have been sceptical of following Optus's lead -- but should consumers move to even greater levels of uploading, then counting uploads as well as downloads could soon become the norm.

A spokesperson for Westnet said: "We have no plans to count uploads at this time in our plans. However, we will watch the down/up ratios closely, and if this becomes a major impact on cost for Westnet, we wouldn't rule out addressing it in some way in the future."

Internode and iiNet echoed the sentiment, although iiNet has suggested it would be more likely to consider plans that were capped on either uploads or downloads, depending on which was greater.

Optus is not the first company to use such a marker of online activities -- Telstra already counts both uploads and downloads in its data caps for cable and ADSL subscriptions. While reaction in industry forums has railed against such a move, analysts believe that consumers may not need to fear the introduction of upload caps.

Ian Fogg, analyst at JupiterResearch, told ZDNet Australia that as long as the caps are managed correctly, consumers won't necessarily baulk at them. "Provided a broadband market is competitive, and ISPs offer consumers clearly described choices between broadband packages with and without data quotas, then there is nothing wrong with such quotas. If there is little consumer choice of broadband packages, or quotas are imposed retroactively on existing customers, then consumers will complain loudly and persistently," he said.

Optus has already taken a more sensible route than some in defining its plans. Rather than offer a simple X GB definition of a plan, the telco has gone further, flagging different caps in terms of a suitable user: those who simply use the Internet for e-mail and light browsing or those who regularly download songs and large files as well as regularly posting videos.

For the average user, however, it's not necessarily photo sharing that would cause an unhappy altercation with their upstream caps. JupiterResearch's Fogg said that P2P will typically be the reason behind the decision to focus on uploads.

"P2P usage will be the route of ISPs' concerns, whether it is illegal file sharing, or legitimate content distribution using similar P2P techniques ... Such P2P applications essentially transfer most of the delivery cost of Internet video onto an ISP from the publisher, content owner, or TV channel. All ISPs are concerned about the impact of this legitimate P2P distribution as it becomes common on the Internet."

Torrents, for example, are one source of discomfort at ISPs, as users don't upload content once, as they would with posting a video on YouTube. Instead, it's effectively uploaded multiple times -- on each occasion another torrent user requests to download that particular piece of content.

Shara Evans, CEO of telecoms research company Market Clarity, believes that rather than making headlines for its introduction of upload caps, the Fusion plans have a more important part to play in the evolution of Australia's broadband market.

"It's a very large paradigm shift in way services are priced in Australia. What we are looking at now is a different way of pricing services: rather than having increments in speed, it's based on the data used," she told ZDNet Australia.

Evans added that the shift in counting uploads may not be the sea change many have feared. "It shouldn't matter how [broadband] is priced [to users]. It's just a question of having to take into account something they haven't had to take into account before."

Should a drive towards offering entry level packages with higher speeds become more mainstream, the impact on small businesses particularly could be tangible. With better broadband, SMBs and SOHOs could embrace collaborative working technology, such as video conferencing, and software as a service -- potentially a genuine revolution in broadband.

Topics: Broadband, Big Data, Piracy, Telcos, Telstra, NBN, Social Enterprise

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  • What I don't get...

    The thing I don't get is that uploads are by definition going to be a fractional part of an ISP's traffic -- simply because customer connections are highly asymmetrical. Customers get fat downstream pipes but severely constrained upstream.

    Meanwhile, ISPs always buy backhaul capacity using symmetric links -- e.g. 40Mbit/s in both directions, so 'cost' to them only occurs if the link becomes congested and they need to upgrade the speed of it.

    By definition, then, uploads are never going to be the bottleneck on an ISP backhaul link... so why is Optus looking at charging for uploads, other than commercial greed?
  • Easy

    The reason they would be is to slow the P2P link flooding.

    Eg. Eventually after all the customers at different speeds and times have gotten a P2P file, they are all going to be seeding it back to the internet, and counting uploads is just one way to stop that upload traffic forcing a link upgrade.

    Sucks. But on the other hand, look at the great value offering Optus have, unlimited calls for nothing!
  • history - and smart pricing models that encourage content and usage

    I was under the impression historically that part of the motivation for not charging uploads was to encourage content creation, particularly local content creation.

    Many ISP's charge/charged (for business lines) a seperate rate for international traffic versus traffic local to their network.
    Surely then they could similarly limit upload-charges to traffic that exits their local network.

    If the data sent doesn't leave their network, they're effectively charging twice for the same piece of data transfer.

    I believe at one point (perhaps it's still the case) that in the US mobile phone market, you got charged to make AND receive a call. This seems to discourage uptake and use, whereas the Australian model (receiving a call is free) doesn't have the same discouragement, as evidenced by our explosive growth of mobile use in the past decade.
    (Don't extrapolate this incorrectly though - I am not saying "receiving a phone call" is the same as 'receiving data". It's actually the opposite - the person receiving data is typically the person who requested it, and so therefore data downloads are equivilent to making a call, not receiving a call.)

    The point of the comparison? I am saying smart pricing models encourage use of a service, and the dividends flow from increased usage.
  • Optus Great Value?

    Great at bait advertising perhaps...like the time they offered me a "free dial-up account" if I transfered my phone account to them.
    Within 2 months I found I was being charged for this "free" account despite the fact I hadn't bothered to use it. ( I have DSL with another provider & wanted the Opus freebie as a backup only)
    When I complained I was informed the plan had been discontinued & they had transfered me to a paid plan without bothering to notify me.
    However a check on the Optus website revealed that their free offer was still current at that time...nice try, I guess.
  • What about upstream speeds?

    Hey I don't mind paying for upstream usage as long as the upstream speed is the same as my downstream speed. I get sick of waiting while uploading large files to my work through a 128Kps pipe while stuff comes down at Mbps speed.
    No need for infrastructure change just remove the throttling.
  • im with you on this one..

    its simply a simple analysis of user trends and an attempt to generate more revenue from users of these online services. Optus, yeah, iv had bad experiences with them myself. Id go with Netspace as a provider as they cater primarily for internet users, are reasonably priced and from experience provide services based on what their customer base want. As for VOIP use Skype, its cheep reliable and has plenty of extra tools to enhance user experience. For tips on using the internet and saving money check my blog. www.subske.com -its a bit tech but it is based on services that Austrlain users should be taking advantage of.
  • Who are you calling a Nimrod?

    With all due respect, Optus's free unlimited calls use the PSTN to transfer calls, you know - just as they are traditionally done. VoIP still has a few teething issues in regards to delays (given although the PSTN or Cable networks are obviously used for your internet connection, you still have the barrier of getting to a proper gateway before redirecting to a proper landline or mobile) - especially when those are on 64k and 128k upload. I still prefer to use a proper phone for audio quality, no echo and minimal delay.

    Also note, that only the Fusion plans are being counted for Uploads. For $99 a month where one gets 20GB Download, fastest possible broadband in your area, and a free wireless modem on their 24 month contract - that's more than I could possibly want or need, especially when my own home phone bill is $80 as it is.

    Also, VoIP still costs - even if you only pay the few dollars for different VoIP services. I suppose you use VoIP only?
  • Optus ripped us off

    My Partner went in to sign for the new adsl2 plans. Instead of telling us it wasnt available through our exchange they just gave her 512k plan to sign, now it will cost $300 to get out of it. Optusnet is getting slower and dearer.
  • HUH?

    Wake up people our isp's here in Australia a s**t
    Rather than fix it they are gonna charge more for the same crap they offer now

    Opt-arse, Helstra and the likes are all rip off merchants
  • optus is a rip off

    Oversea's plans
    3Mbps / 512Kbps
    4Mbps / 512Kbps
    5Mbps / 512Kbps
    - $19.95
    - $24.95
    - $29.95
    1Mbps / 1Mbps
    1.5Mbps / 1.5Mbps
    2Mbps / 2Mbps
    - $49.95
    - $69.95
    - $99.95

    We might catch up to the rest of the world one day...doubt it though