iBurst vs Cell C vs Vodacom re Internet Access

On February 23 2011, iBurst summarily (without warning) suspended my account and sent me an SMS informing me that I owe them R4318 which must be paid immediately to be reconnected. I passed. I’ve told them to sue me for it and I will defend any actions they bring. I have been with iBurst since February 04 2008 and in that time, they have previously suspended my account a number of times (I believe it is 3), and each time it was their fault entirely. The first time they did it, around July 2009, they confused me with another customer, but they still deprived me of access for 3 days and offered me ZERO compensation for being offline. They did not adjust my bill or compensate me for the inconvenience in any way. I didn’t even receive an emailed apology. Fuck all. That’s how little iBurst gives a fuck about their customers – FUCK ALL. You are a big fat fucking ZERO to iBurst, if you are their customer. A big fat fucking zero.

iBurst suspended me again in November 2009 for a longer period. They had forgotten to bill me one month and when they discovered that, they suspended me again. Even once they had received the missing payment, their system did not reconnect me and it took me days and days to finally speak to someone who fixed the problem. Again no compensation, no apology, no fuck all from iBurst. Bunch of fucking loser wankers!

Despite this absolutely shit treatment from them, I remained their customer. Obviously they are complacent as fuck, because they think they can treat their customers like shit and still have a business.

In February 2011, iBurst suspended me for the last time and claimed that they had been underbilling me for several months now, going back to about September 2010. Each month they had been receiving from me around R1735. I was on their highest wireless service the 15GB package which costs R955 per month. I had been purchasing additional blocks of bandwidth of 10GB for R390, which brought the bill up to R1735.

I checked through the statement they sent me but I can’t actually tell whether the figures are made up or in error, because of the inherent unreliability of their billing software. I may have been underbilled, but I reckon that it is their problem entirely and they should write it off. If they had bothered to install reliable billing software they would not have this problem they claim to have. But I’ll be fucked if I am going to pay in R4318 now after they suspended me again. I have previously told iBurst that if they have a problem with my account, they must contact me FIRST to resolve matters BEFORE suspending me, but they couldn’t give a fuck what I want. They suspend accounts, demand payment and then fail to reconnect for days on end. So fuck them to hell.

So I looked for an alternative Internet Access Provider and decided that Cell C offered the best deal. I decided to apply for their R299 per month contract x 12 months for 5GB of data bundle. They credit vetted me and their system approved me, but they had no stock, so I waited patiently for a couple of weeks. When they finally got stock in, their system refused to give me a R299 per month contract because I failed to meet its criteria, whatever the fuck that is.

This past week I went into a Vodastore on Monday, March 14 2011 and chatted to one of their sales reps and he told me what I needed to bring in to apply for a data contract. The next day, Tuesday March 15 2011, I went in with my bank statements and ID document and filled in an order form for a MyGig2 data contract. Their system approved me and I was immediately provisioned with a USB modem, the K4505-Z (21.6Mbps), and a SIM card. The only niggle was that the SIM card could not be activated in-store. I had to wait till the next day. The next day my SIM card was activated and I got online for the first time since iBurst had disconnected me. In the interim, I had used iCafes and a good friend had helped me get my mailing list out.

I did, however, have a problem with the Vodafone K4505-Z USB modem they provisioned me with. It disconnected continually. I went back to the Vodastore in Kenilworth Centre and got a replacement K4504-Z but it suffered from the same problem. There is a discussion on MyBroadBand which confirms that there are problems with the Vodafone K4505-Z. The bottom line is to avoid getting this modem until they have resolved the issues with it.

So I decided to downgrade to the K3805-Z (14.4Mbps) which has given me no trouble so far. My sales rep had to wait for authorisation to downgrade me, so she provided me with a loan store USB modem to use while they sent my faulty K4505-Z away. The store USB modem only operated at 3.6Mbps but it was completely adequate. More on speed further down.

The service I got from the Vodastore was top class. My sales rep said she would call me, and she did. The Cell C sales reps at two different branches (Kenilworth Centre and Cavendish Square) both promised to call me to keep me apprised of the situation and both utterly failed to ever call me. What a bunch of loser wankers they are. Obviously they don’t give a fuck about their customers. One of the Cell C reps actually got angry with me when his system kept refusing to accept my bank details. I could tell what he was doing wrong (because I’m smart and the web interface he was using was not difficult to figure out, especially after I had seen it so many many times already) and I told him what to do and he became offended that I knew his job better than him. As soon as he took my advice, their assholic system accepted my bank details. But first he had to waste my motherfucking time pretending he knew what the fuck he was doing when actually he should go back to grade school to learn to fucking read.

So I am now happily online with Vodacom. However, they are an expensive option. Both iBurst and Cell C have much lower prices, but, in my experience, they are too much fucking trouble than they are worth.

Speedwise, Vodacom’s broadband blows iBurst completely and utterly out of the water. It makes iBurst’s wireless service look like dial up. At times, iBurst is actually only marginally faster than dial up. A 56Kbps modem translates into a max download speed of 7KBps. On iBurst I would typically achieve download speeds of 10-20KBps, bursting up to 40-60KNps (for seconds at a time). On Vodacom, download speed is well over 100KBps, sometimes as high as 400KBps for sustained periods of time. Small ‘b’ equals bits, big ‘B’ equals bytes. There are 8 bits in a byte which allows a byte to store a value in the range 0 – 255. This is Computer Science 101.

If those speeds don’t mean much to you, let me put them into context for you. I use most of my bandwidth keeping up with American TV series as they are broadcast in the United States. I currently follow House MD, Californication, Spartacus Gods of the Arena (just ended), and Stargate Universe. You can’t get them now in this country any other way than torrenting them. An episode of Spartacus Gods of the Arena is 550MB (there is also an HD version of over 1GB but the 550MB one is completely fine, not blurry or fuzzy at all). On iBurst, it would take literally 4 – 6 days to get down one episode of Spartacus. That’s a long time to wait for something you wanna watch NOW! On Vodacom, I downloaded the last episode of Spartacus in just over an hour. Now we’re talking!

In addition to those TV series, I also torrent movies, which are typically 1.4GB in size (some are 700MB, but they tend to be poor quality). On iBurst, despite their slower speed, I used to download in excess of 40GB per month (they had free data from midnight till 8AM) as well as a double your bandwidth 15th of the month deal) by running my connection continuously. It was always on, whereas with Vodacom, because they are so fast, I disconnect as soon as I’m done.

So yeah, what I spend on bandwidth per month is probably going to rise to around R3620 per month (cost of 20GB) + R449 =  R4069 which gives me 22GB per month. That is a shit load of change. So now my rant becomes, why the fuck are we in South Africa still paying through the fucking arse for bandwidth when we have so many new intercontinental fiber optic pipes? Surely the price per meg could drop from the current exploitative 18c per meg to around 0.5c per meg?

If only I could get an uncapped Vodacom contract for around R500 per month? Then I would have to stock up on a couple of petabyte drives (which don’t exist yet). I truly hope that in the next 5 years, bandwidth prices in SA drop like a fucking stone, because I am beyond tired of shitty service providers and high prices when the rest of the First world enjoys top speed Internet for pennies.

I also have to remember how far we’ve come in a short 15 years. Back in January 1996, I got dialup Internet at home for the first time on a 14.4Kbps modem. Then it went to 28.8Kbps, then 33.6Kbps and maxed out at 56Kbps. Then ISDN was introduced at 64Kbps and 128Kbps. ISDN = Internet Service for Dinosaurs Network. Then came DSL. We also had some operators offering 2.4Ghz wireless Internet but they could not compete with DSL and folded within a year of its introduction.

The fastest Internet possible currently requires a fiber optic cable being laid to your premises direct from a connection hub. Fiber optic offers speeds up to 1Gbps. Google is currently piloting a 1Gbps Fiber optic service in selected US cities. I’m guessing it will be another 15 years before we see a similar service in SA, if at all.