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Need for speed

With Internet services catching on and home computers becoming cheaper, broadband is the way to go for consumers. But services can be patchy and charges confusing. We help you find a way through the maze. Ruchi Hajela reports.

india Updated: Feb 04, 2008 23:22 IST
Ruchi Hajela
Ruchi Hajela
Hindustan Times

Broadband is simply speaking, Internet at faster speeds. Given the origins of the Net in slow dial-up connections accessed over conventional telephone lines, broadband has come to mean a direct link at higher rates of downloading data that helps surfing and accessing content.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India identifies download speeds above 256 kilobits per second as broadband under its Broadband Policy framed in 2004. As per TRAI’s broadband policy, the estimated number of broadband subscribers in India is expected to reach up to 20 million by the end of 2010. Until now, India is far behind the target. It was estimated that by 2007-end there would be about 9 million broadband subscribers. However, there are only 3 million of them now, despite the year 2007 being named the Year of Broadband.

India adds about 80,000 broadband connections per quarter as against China that adds about 33.2 lakh , according to a report released by Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.

What can broadband do for you?

It may not be the best experience to fill up an online form and discover that the page expired due to a runtime error (delay in connecting with the network computer, called the server) or else spending hours uploading or downloading files with a memory of a few MBs.

Broadband or high speed Internet can basically help you surf the Net at faster speeds with a much shorter response time.

For instance, Web pages will open about four times faster if you have a 256 kbps connection than if you have a 64 kbps link. However, if you are one of those who download the freebies available on the Net, or if you are a YouTube lover who likes streaming videos, you certainly wouldn’t want to be put off with waiting for long hours. Similarly with movie downloads, most of us are used to leaving our computers switched on overnight while a movie worth some 700MB get downloaded.

Streaming or download times can reduce with faster speeds. For instance, a three minute song is usually about 3-4MBs and it may take up to 20 minutes to download the same over a 64 kbps connection whereas on a 256 kbps connection the same may be a matter of less than five minutes.

Most service providers are also foraying into IPTV (Internet Protocol TV), or TV content streamed via the Internet. Now you can’t imagine of enjoying those services on your 64 kbps connection.

Services like Internet telephony also depend on good data speeds to allow a lag-free conversation. Experts involved in the Internet telephony business claim that a 256 kbps connection is decent enough to support Net telephony.

Which plan to choose

Now, with rival Internet service providers(ISPs) offering an array of plans, which one do you choose?

While service providers compete to give you faster speeds, as high as even 8mbps nowadays, it may be wise to go in for a plan that balances your usage pattern and pocket and not just get lured by faster speeds.

Unlimited usage plans that come at a fixed monthly rental are ideal for those who are into heavy downloads of content like games, music or movies – or those who run small businesses needing constant or frequent connectivity. However, if your use is restricted to browsing the Web only for a few hours every day, it may be advisable to get into a fixed usage plan.

Some fixed usage plans offer unlimited night usage options as well. Those are ideal if you are a nightbird. A post-paid plan offered by Reliance that gets you about 1 GB of bundled usage for a 2 mbps connection for Rs 299 per month could spell value-for money. Howver, if you do end up exceeding the bundled usage limit, you will have to shell out an additional 90 paise for every extra MB that you use.

Sify offers a plan of 256 kbps with 150 MB of download per day with unlimited use between 10 pm to 8 am everyday and between 8 am and 10 pm on weekends. All this, at a monthly rental of Rs 513.

Unlimited plans of speeds as high as 2 mbps and above are more useful for SMEs (small and medium enterprises) or the local cyber café that uses it to serve multipler customers. For individual users, anything between 256 kbps and 512 kbps is decent enough. If all that one needs to do is surf the Internet with very limited download requirement, even a 128 kbps is fine.