A question that comes up quite often is “what is the best ISP?” – what people fail to ask is what they’re looking for in an ISP? This normally contributes of 5 things:
Speed: What is the best service I can get?
Reliability: Not to be confused with internal wiring issues (more on that later).
Connectivity: Are you wanting ADSL, VDSL, UFB or some form of Wireless technology?
Service: When there is a fault what is the service like to get the fault fixed?
Price: Really, this isn’t everything.
A general rule is to pick from Spark, 2degrees or Voyager . Skinny is also a great choice for a cheaper “no frills” ISP however you do need to use their router to get any support (which is actually a great router). – note this is my personal opinion based on experience. Each ISP however is different in how they connect themselves to the internet. Also, don’t just go for the cheapest unless if you like Netflix / YouTube buffering.
The best way to determine what is right for you is to head over to https://chorus.co.nz/maps and check what service you can get and just go for it. If you’ve got ADSL/VDSL currently and Fibre (UFB) is available then get it. Don’t stick with copper if UFB is available as world class internet (seriously) is waiting there for you on UFB.
WiFi vs Ethernet:
If you’re getting Gigabit internet via UFB then just note you won’t get these speeds over WiFi. You’ll need to use Ethernet to your PC etc. A common complaint I see on ISP’s social media pages is complaining about slow speeds on UFB however in 99% of these cases it is because the customer is using WiFi. Don’t be one of those people, just understand that WiFi is best effort but you can improve your WiFi speeds by using a dedicated access point like a UniFi mounted in the right place in your house. See my Router Guide on Geekzone for a full guide on what I recommend.
My ISP provided router is crap!
Again, this is a misconception. It is only as crap as you make it out to be and all providers currently offer some pretty decent routers. The WiFi however on them is not the best. Most of the time these routers are totally fine for your average home or small office user. For example, the Huawei HG659 is actually a really decent router for your average home user since it can route Gigabit totally fine and has decent WiFi but does only have a 32 device limit. Again, you can solve this by grabbing a dedicated access point.
This is quite a big subject as some ISP’s just don’t peer openly (looking at you Spark (and BigPipe) along with Vodafone to a degree). This is one of the main factors of why I moved away from BigPipe as I am an advanced user of Cloudflare + having the ability to use their NZ PoP (point of presence) is quite beneficial for me. Personally, I am using 2degrees for this reason as they’ve got the most open peering arrangement. If you’re a gamer then the ISP best for you at at the moment is simply 2degrees given they peer very openly resulting in lower latency (ping) to most NZ services. Furthermore, they’ve heavily invested in their international network so you can expect top speeds. For most people however I wouldn’t be too worried about this. Smaller “cheaper” providers shift traffic via Auckland so the further South you are, the more your latency will be to the rest of the NZ + the world – you get what you pay for here. Sticking with a bigger provider or a provider that peers all over NZ is the best bet if you’re wanting to keep your latency low.
Again, this varies between ISP’s. If you’re on ADSL or VDSL then you can look at improving your speeds by installing a Master Filter – there is a plain English guide on what this means for you Here. For UFB it is pretty consistent between providers and the main bottleneck here is the customers equipment. I’ve seen people using crappy old routers to connect them to Fibre along with people with Gigabit internet only using an old standard of WiFi. If you’ve got an older router still powering everything and find the internet slows down when you sneeze it may be worth investing in a new router. You don’t have to go with the top of the range router from your local appliance store, in most cases you can ask your provider nicely and they’ll send you a shiny new one to keep you going.
A note / warning on MyRepublic:
MyRepublic are claiming to have the “best” speed as awarded by Ookla (Speedtest). This is in no way true so don’t fall for their tactics. Speedtest take an average of all their customers for an ISP – most providers offer slower plans where MyRepublic offer mainly UFB along with targeting customers to go onto their Gigabit plan – this is not a bad thing but they’re not being transparent when it comes to this award. For starters, going on for years now – MyRepublic have had a shady reputation of saying they’re the fastest at something. First, it was Steam downloads and now it is with Speedtest and also an ISP actually needs to pay for this award – even if an ISP gets voted to being the fastest they won’t pay for the award to show it and so Speedtest will move on to the next winner until somebody pays up so this is the first problem – the award was likely not for them to start off with.
The other problem is, most users will test to a NZ Speedtest server and Steam Downloads are served off a steam cache normally hosted with the ISP. Basically both these actions will achieve nearly the full speed of the plan you’ve got. Since MyRepublic have mostly customers on Gigabit connections (and a small number of them) this means their average is higher than an ISP with thousands of customers on mixed speed plans. This does not make MyRepublic the fastest.
I do not support any ISP who blatantly use advertising to deceive customers. If we go with real world speed comparisons to overseas we see MyRepublic lagging behind by quite a bit – take these two Speedtests as an example:
As we can see – the 2nd Speedtest with 2degrees was actually faster than the Speedtest from MyRepublic. Both were taken on the same day. But here’s the interesting thing with the MyRepublic speedtest – it was taken on a 4Gbit “Hyperfibre” UFB connection and the 2degrees one was taken on a 1Gbit plan. This is not the only example:
This one doesn’t look as good but here’s the deal – the top result is a customer based in Auckland – on a 2Gbit (2000Mbit) Hyperfibre connection with MyRepublic and the bottom result was one I just did now – on a loaded Gigabit internet connection and yet I still beat the MyRepublic result in terms of download speed. This customer has effectively lost 70% of their download speed by going over the ditch to Australia. In all cases I’ve seen, MyRepublic may be fine when testing to a New Zealand based Speedtest server but they’re totally rubbish with international bandwidth compared to most other providers – this is also consistent going on for years on multiple connections also.
So the conclusion – please don’t fall for MyRepublic’s false advertising. They’re not the fastest, and they’re also not the best value provider. You can read more stories by doing a quick Google search which will show results from Geekzone also. There are plenty of other better providers out there and if you’re interested in Hyperfibre then you’re best to wait until more providers are offering it else go with Orcon if you seriously can’t wait for that to happen.
Upgrading to Fibre:
If you’re not on UFB then it is well worth upgrading to it for a more stable service. In most cases your ISP will allow you to stay on ADSL/VDSL until you’re fully online on UFB. Ask them about this and they’ll make sure to make it work. An upgrade to UFB does take a bit to do (mine took 4 months) but it is worth it – trust me!
Bundle Deals (with Power):
These deals are often the most expensive of the lot – if your provider is offering you a Fridge or a TV for signing up then they’re making too much money off you. Broadband as a whole is a low margin product so it is best to take a look at Consumer Powerswitch to determine if your power deal is really the best for you along with keeping your broadband separate. It is not a good idea to bundle these services together unless if you want to pay more than the regular user. It is a trap. I’ve done some calculations myself and worked out I would be paying 20% more per month in Electricity if I was going to go with a provider like Orcon/Slingshot or was going to pay more (for a slower speed) if I went with Trustpower. I am personally with Flick Electric for power and still think despite the recent spikes in power pricing they’re the cheapest if you average this over a year combined with a competent ISP.
I’m rural and want better speeds:
Take into consideration how much broadband you really need each month and consider moving to a wireless (over 4G) plan. You’ve likely already paid for a local cell tower upgrade via the RBI through tax so use it. Skinny + Spark offer some pretty decent wireless broadband plans along with Vodafone + some resellers like Wireless Nation. It is more expensive however the service over it will often be far quicker than a standard rural ADSL connection.
There are likely local providers in your area also offering wireless broadband via their own infrastructure – the list for these providers is long, but https://broadbandmap.nz/home will give you an idea. You can also consult with your neighbors, local Facebook community pages etc to what wireless provider is offering services in your area also.
Pricing + Support:
ISP’s run on a pretty low margin – Chorus charge between $45-$65 per month (approx however I don’t have the figures on hand, excluding GST) for just the connection back to the ISP. The ISP then has the task of buying bandwidth (the actual connection to the outside world) and in UFB areas the gear to go in the exchanges which cost tens of thousands of dollars along with other gear to make everything work. What I am trying to say is ISP’s, after everything is accounted for are making around $5 per month profit off you. Some ISP’s promise to be the cheapest but you have to ask yourself what they’re cutting in order to be the cheapest. I can think of a few ISP’s who are literally making a loss from their cheapest plans to get you to go with them.
Going with the cheapest ISP is just asking for trouble – do you want your YouTube, Netflix, Lightbox etc to stream at the highest resolution? Do you want great support? Do you game and want to beat your friends who have paid to go with a real provider? If you answered yes then stop looking for the cheapest and go with a more mainstream ISP. A bit of a note also if you’re in a UFB area and your ISP can only offer 200/200Mbit max it is highly likely they’ve not got the capacity in the exchange to support Gigabit (which often means their connection back from the exchange, or their point of presence in your area is only running at a Gigabit) – if you do the maths here it won’t take much for that capacity to become saturated. Take a look at this thread on Geekzone of an ISP that had just that problem… I also don’t recommend that ISP if you’re asking. There is however an exception to this rule and that is Skinny who are pretty good for your more basic provider.
Going with an ISP isn’t like picking a power provider – there is a mix of good or bad and it depends what you pay. If the ISP you’re thinking of joining doesn’t have comments or ratings on their Facebook page then you’ve got to ask yourself what they’re really hiding? I bet if you comment on such pages your comments will get removed also. Do a quick Google search on the ISP you’re thinking of joining, look on both Geekzone and GPForums for feedback on that ISP and if you’ve got a bad taste in your mouth or are wondering if you should really join then it may be worth reconsidering.
Generally support of the mainstream ISP’s is good. You shouldn’t have to call them for anything after signing up unless if you’re wanting to maybe move house or change plan. In my experience the ISP’s I’ve picked above are excellent with billing, support when you need it and have good uptime on their services. BigPipe, whilst being email only support has been great in my books when it comes to support and Voyager seem to answer the phone in a matter of seconds and also offer excellent email support for those times where your query is less urgent.
My connection keeps dropping! My ISP sucks!
Most of the time if you’re on a copper connection this problem is with your connection, and your connection only. If your ISP’s Facebook page is blowing up with everyone commenting then maybe it is not you but just have a look at the other comments first before acting like a fool and posting. Maybe, fool is a harsh word as people don’t really know.
There are many things that can go wrong with a standard copper connection but most of the time it is due to your own internal wiring. I’d strongly recommend investing in a Master Filter to get your connection stable again. Just like the pipes or electrical wiring in your house anything past that little white Chorus / Telecom demarcation point on the side of your house is your own responsibility. There is also the odd time the problem is with your router however this is rare. If you’ve got a stack of routers you’ve collected over the last year and your internet problem is still not resolved then first of all stop calling your ISP to complain or better yet call them and ask to get a master filter installed if you’ve got more than 2 jackpoints in the house. Yes, it is $200 charged by Chorus but it’ll more than likely solve your problems and give you faster internet in the process.
There is also the odd chance you’re too far from your cabinet. Take a look at https://www.chorus.co.nz/tools-support/broadband-tools/broadband-map to see what you should be getting. If you’re in a VDSL area the problem is you. Do some investigation, try Ethernet to your Router (instead of WiFi), try another phone cable or even try your router on another jackpoint in your house. These are just a few (of the many) things you can try in order to rectify your issue.
Getting hit with CG-NAT:
Something to look out for is ISP’s that use “CG-NAT”. Essentially, this is one public IP address shared amongst many people for internet meaning you can’t open ports (vital if you’re hosting a game server or have a web server on your connection for example). Most providers allow an opt-out of this by purchasing a static IP address or even simply asking if you’re able to have a public IP address but if you’re just doing standard internet things, playing modern online games etc you likely won’t even know you’re behind a CG-NAT connection. This is becoming more and more common only because IPv4 addresses are incredibly expensive for internet service providers as they have simply run out. I’m not going to list providers who use CG-NAT as if this is vitally important to you then you’re best to look into their FAQ and decide for yourself.
Current known mainstream ISP’s (as from 11/11/2020) that have CG-NAT enabled by default:
– 2degrees (opt-out requires purchasing a Static IP at a monthly cost)
– MyRepublic (on their non-gamer plans)
– NOW (opt-out requires purchasing a Static IP at a monthly cost)
– Nova (no opt-out)
– Trustpower (opt-out if asked)
– Contact Energy
ISP Provided email:
Simply don’t do this – instead, sign up to a free provider like Gmail, Outlook or if privacy is important to you then ProtonMail.
IPv6 is a welcome extra with many providers – I’ve found that almost every ISP apart from MyRepublic and Spark (BigPipe, Skinny) offer it as either an option or by default. Some providers like Voyager have it as an opt-in service at no extra charge. If you have CG-NAT then IPv6 is a way to get “straight out” to the internet. If you head over to https://ipv6-test.com you can see if your current ISP / router configuration has IPv6 enabled.
Again, do not go for the cheapest – treat your internet as your main source of entertainment. What is $10 extra per month for a faster, more stable service? Have a look at https://broadband.geekzone.co.nz to find an ISP that suits you. In general it is hard to screw this up. Look at my recommendations on providers above and use common sense to picking the perfect ISP for your needs. Use forums like Geekzone and Gameplanet Forums as this will tell you of any ISP’s that often have problems.
Also be wary of ISP comparison sites as on multiple occasions these are run by the ISP’s themselves. If you want a quick list of features that an ISP offers then have a look at InternetNZ’s list: https://internetnz.nz/ispreview.