ADSL: Capped or Uncapped?

ADSL: Capped or Un-capped? The choice is yours

Un-capped ADSL service in South Africa was greeted with relief from an online ADSL Caped or Not graphiccommunity stuck with our national infrastructure provider’s desire to limit us all to 3GB per month. Yes, there were ways around it, but they cost…

Now un-capped ADSL has become as common as, well, as dial-up once was.


The term un-capped is somewhat misleading. Don’t take an un-capped package and expect to use as much as you like, not at any realistic data speed anyway. ALL un-capped packages (at least in SA) are ‘SHAPED’ which means your service provider decides how you use the internet. They may well allow you to surf the net and send umpteen e-mails, but try downloading more than a few GB of data per month and you will suddenly find your connection speed is as bad as or worse than dial-up.

Fine for most home users, not so good for businesses, tech-heads, and those of us who use more upload/download data than anything else.

Of course we must remember ISP (Internet Service Providers) are in business to make money, and they have to pay for the data you use, and how you use that data affects their costs.

Surfing the net is based on irregular low-volume packets (think of an envelope – light and doesn’t take much space. Inside are several pages) Your browser sends Envelope graphica request to the website you want to surf, and the website server sends the required data to show you a page, then it rests. While you are reading the page, someone else is able to use the available bandwidth to get the page they want to see. If it doesn’t send the whole lot at once, that’s fine too (back to  the envelope – although your letter has several pages, you only read a portion of each on at any one time.), your browser will handle the smaller individual packets, and sort them out on-screen for you.. A good easy to see example; google a request for a 3 pages graphicphoto or image for lets say ‘trees’ a number of photos are loaded into the Google photo results page, and the incoming data stops. However, scroll down the page, and more information starts loading in your browser window, and so on.

Not so with downloads… Once your browser has requested the download, and the connection has been made, the packet (this time think of a box – larger, and bulkier, and cannot be broken down into smaller pieces or your download may be unusable). (Yes, there are download managers to overcome this issue for slower connections). However, the point is, in simple terms, while you are Box graphic downloading a 600MB service pack from Microsoft or a massive movie you found on a .ru server, your download is taking priority over the ADSL connection, just like first class courier delivery.

This is JUST ONE of the reasons why, if you monitor page loading speed, you will see that very often the download is coming in much faster than your normal page load speed… A good example is; do a big update from Microsoft, when their server is relatively quiet (This example uses 3G connectivity but the principle is exactly the same…) The page containing the information can be seen to load at around 250kbs. Once you have clicked update or download, it often comes in at the highest rate available, on 3G when not too busy, over 3Gbs, or more than 10 times faster.

OK, your un-capped provider has made allowances for the occasional use of this type of connection. However, if you use upload/download to the extent we do in our business (and many other business too) they won’t be so happy… Their service charges are based on this phenomenon; of users sending sporadic Many Hands secretary graphicrequests for pages, and being served pages intermittently. This allows their server which like a good secretary can do multiple tasks at once, to be utilised more fully.

The primary target market for un-capped is the normal home internet user. In the words used by one South African ISP manager, “Uncapped is our basic entry-level service”.

If you are a business or bulk data traffic user, with volumes much in excess of 3 or 4GB /month, you may be better off going with a CAPPED UNSHAPED service. These are only slightly more expensive, and depending on the package and ISP, you won’t get your data speed throttled back (SHAPED) if you go over the limit, they will simply charge you for excess usage (often Pro-Rata based on your package).

The old adage, caveat emptor, applies here as to anything in life or in business; buyer know what you are getting before signing on the dotted line.

Understand the differences, the benefits and the limitations of what you are paying for, especially with these techy things, so you can make the best choice possible.

We hope this article will be helpful to those of you complaining about poor ‘Uncapped’ service. If you find you are regularly getting throttled, speak with your ISP people, they are there to help you. Their sales people usually speak your language, and if you don’t understand something they say, ask them to explain it in more normal non-technical terms.

by Mike Otgaar

  1. Wow, amazing blog layout! How long have you been blogging for? you make blogging look easy. The overall look of your website is fantastic, as well as the content!. Thanks For Your article about ADSL: Capped or Uncapped? Graphiclineweb .

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