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Thread: mobile data caps in Saskatchewan

  1. #1
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    mobile data caps in Saskatchewan

    Hoping to understand better the situation of mobile/wireless data caps in Saskatchewan -- from a technology (e.g. "smart" network management), policy (corporate & regulatory) and customer/end-user experience perspective.

    First, am interested in the bigger picture here. While I have my own challenges with connectivity and service in Saskatchewan, the motivation is to bring some new ideas to the conversation such that all can benefit.

    Second, I believe it is useful to disclose one's own personal circumstance -- to shed light on more specific details, and to understand better the triggers that fuel the motivation to initiate a conversation. In my corner, I am located in rural Saskatchewan; situated in a valley, where line-of-sight and fixed-mobile solutions aren't available, so it is also a bit akin to a "remote" situation; and in terms of services, am particularly interested in the upload/download/latency metrics as VoIP is very important, as are cloud services (i.e. Netflix is nice, but not the be-all-and-end-all).

    Third, I see in a previous thread that there is a link to this conversation on SaskTel's own community forums. That's fine, but it would be nice to see if Howard Forums could structure forums by particular geographic areas, rather than by carrier. SaskTel ain't the only game in town (e.g. Telus, Rogers, Xplornet, others), and the issues that get raised often extend well beyond the carrier.

    Fourth, my salvation for connectivity has been the mobile wireless data solution. I happen to have been grandfathered with SaskTel's supposed "unlimited" mobile data plan (ha!), using a Novatel MC679 stick (direct connection to Wilson antenna, but no booster). Account-wise, I get 10 GB download per month, after which I get "throttled" to 256 Kbps download speed and 128 Kbps upload speed. Performance-wise, in ideal circumstances I get 5-7 MBs download and 3-4 MBs upload, with latency that averages in the 50-75 ms range. Since I am at a lake (resort area), the summer just past has produced some very different results -- those download and upload speeds are more in the range of 1-1.5 MBs, with latency still in the critical < 100 ms range.

    Fifth, there is a very different reality when I exceed that cap. Here I am, paying the top rate, and once I reach the cap, I get "punished" with a massively significant reduction in my speeds (roughly double dial-up, in the most ideal of circumstances). In this scenario: (1) VoIP becomes highly unreliable as to render it nearly useless (pure coincidence, I'm sure, with the designation of those threshhold levels -- bundling issues, anyone?); and (2) I can do nothing -- absolutely nothing -- to get "more Internet". Nada. True, I am not getting charged anymore for this reduced speed experience. But even if I wanted to PAY MORE (hello SaskTel?! additional revenue -- get it yet??) for additional speed and data, I cannot. I feel like I am being sent to the corner, to reflect on my malfeasance. Bad person, using all that Internet. Bad.

    Sixth, here is a scenario to contemplate, which I think makes a mockery of this "dumb" (i.e. not smart) approach to network management issues that SaskTel is apparently committed to. With my supposed "unlimited" mobile data plan, I could choose to use run Netflix every Friday and Saturday evening until I run out of my 10 GB allotment. Peak, prime time, making life difficult for all others, but perfectly allowable under the current policy path. Then, I would simply content myself with checking email for the remainder of the month. How does a "data cap" -- blunt instrument (think, very dull knife in the drawer) -- address what are supposedly real-time network management issues?

    Finally, some suggestions to redress this situation. SaskTel, why not get with the program and install some kind of "smart network management" solutions that deal with load-balancing, real-time? Why not distinguish between those that are without "other options" (i.e. in remote areas, without other carrier solutions), offering them increased data caps because of this fact, but only when they are connected to the particular tower in their remote area (i.e. sort of a fixed-mobile approach, where you can verify/validate physical location)? As one of the few remaining "crown corporations" in the telecommunications biz, surely "citizen access" must still be a part of your mandate. And in the existing scenario (i.e. customer has used up his or her data cap), why not offer additional "data packs" (Telus does this with its "Travel Packs"), which can be exercised in non-peak periods?

    Thoughts? Suggestions?

  2. #2
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    I totally feel for you. I'm in the same boat.

    When SaskTel came out with their USB stick I was blown away that they had finally decided to lead instead of follow the other carriers like they had been doing for so long. It wasn't long before I was disappointed again. The 10GB cap is laughably small for even the most average Internet user. Now with them shutting down their wireless antenna towers and moving everyone over to satellite, it's just more of the same.

    It seems like if they can check off as many boxes as possible while providing the bare minimum amount of service, that's the direction they're going to take. I was proud when I worked as a SaskTel dealer back in the day, now I'm just feeling embarrassed.

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