The Fifth Column: Surfing The @lantic
After almost a year, my 3G experiment has come to an untimely end. I started off with 8ta which was fine for a few months and then died. I sold off my sim card and remaining bandwidth and then moved on to Cell C which was also fine for a few months until it too died. This has brought me full circle and back to the loving arms of Telkom.
I was not keen to go back to ADSL, primarily because of the extortionate double charge for the bit of copper that connects to my house but I really had no choice. My wireless technologies had abandoned me, twice, and I needed Internet access. I had an accurate idea of my bandwidth usage and my main need was good latency for Xbox Live, some web surfing with a bit of light downloading on the side. Given that I am on a fairly tight broadband budget I was not aiming to get a 4Mbps uncapped account, even though the pricing has never been better.
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My previous ISPs were WebAfrica, Afrihost and MWeb. I never had any problems with their services and had capped accounts with the first two, with Mweb I had signed up for the 1Mbps uncapped account. With my new line I was determined to trim my costs to the bone which led me to Plugg and @lantic. The Plugg uncapped 1Mbps account costs R199 and allows two concurrent logins. If I could find someone to share the account with, I would be able to half the cost but I did not really feel like going through the hassle of trying to find someone to go halfsies on it so I moved on to @lantic.
@lantic has an uncapped offering that really sounds too good to be true. For R59/month you get all you can eat, after hours Internet access from 6pm to 6am in the week. But there is more, your uncapped access extends to all day on weekends but excludes public holidays. Given the low price and the reasonable sounding terms, I really thought that there had to be a catch. With this in mind I decided to do a bit of research. The forum posts that I found identified two issues. The one was that there appeared to be a problem with the transition from the standard capped account to the uncapped account at 6pm/6am. This problem occurred when the service was first launched and appears to have been resolved. I found no problems with the change over from my 1Gb capped account to the uncapped bolt-on account or vice versa.
The other problem is the manual sign up process which is a bit of a pain. Given that you are dealing with an ISP, I had hoped that the entire process would be electronic but unfortunately this is not the case. I had to provide three months bank statements, a copy of my ID as well as a proof of address. The one redeeming feature was that I did not have to provide certified copies of any of the documents. In the end I downloaded my bank statements from Internet banking, took a photo of my ID and scanned in a copy of my rates bill. I emailed the documents along with the application form that I had to complete, manually, and within a few hours my account was setup.
The account works brilliantly. I spent most of my weekend taking advantage of the double XP on offer in Black Ops 2 and I did not encounter many problems with lag. On speedtest.net my best ping time was 37ms and my worst was 57ms, which was miles better than either of my 3G accounts. The faster ping responses also created the effect of a faster line because websites responded much quicker when they loaded. I have used the account for a week and have thus far not encountered any problems at all.
There are, however, a few hints that I would like to share which will help if you decide to sign up with @lantic. First off the uncapped account is a Bolt-On product which means that you have to sign up for a capped account as well. This is not a problem because the Gig4Gig account gives you 1GB free and charges R15/Gb once you exceed your free quota. Once my account was created, they emailed me the login details but in order to access the customer portal I had to phone their Helpdesk. This was not a hassle but I would have preferred to have all the credentials emailed to me. @lantic also has the most secure login process this side of Internet banking. Each time that I login, they sms me a One Time Password (OTP) in order to complete the login process which seems to be a bit extreme for a customer portal.
In summary @lantic’s Bolt-On account is the cheapest uncapped account on the market. The ping response as well as the gaming performance on Xbox Live is exceptional. I was also able to achieve full line speed in my torrent and news server download tests which seems to indicate that their is no shaping or throttling on these protocols. Provided that you do most of your Internet activity after normal business hours and on weekends, the @lantic Bolt-On uncapped account cannot be beaten for price or performance. As I pointed out earlier, the paper-based sign up process is a minor snag but is the only real sticking point in an otherwise attractive product. I will do more testing in the coming weeks so feel free to drop me a line to find out how it goes.