Rain has launched a new “unlimited” 4G data product, offering subscribers a 10Mbps service with low-resolution video streaming (360p) for R479 per month.
This product complements its existing “unlimited off-peak” service, which offers subscribers uncapped data between 23:00 and 18:00 daily.
While these uncapped products were widely welcomed in the market, consumers are unhappy about the speeds and video quality being throttled.
“All of a sudden, all streaming platforms are struggling to load above 720p on the normal 4G 19-hour package,” said one user.
“The 10Mbps ADSL we have is functioning better for YouTube and streaming than this 55Mbps Rain package now.”
“This type of shaping is new. The speed is limited to 1.5Mbps on YouTube. I connected to a VPN extension and got 15Mbps,” another user said.
Rain CEO Willem Roos recently confirmed this streaming resolution limit, however, stating that the 4G unlimited off-peak service’s speeds and streaming quality vary due to Rain’s network policy and load.
“Given the expected increase in daytime traffic, we have started to limit users to 720p,” Roos said.
Unlimited versus Uncapped
Rain’s label of “unlimited” for its data products is a contentious issue.
When a broadband provider claims to offer an unlimited service, users do not expect the service to be limited in any way.
In a recent MyBroadband poll, over 80% of respondents said if a product is called “unlimited”, a company should not be allowed to put any limitations on it.
The Advertising Regulatory Board (ARB) also shares this view. While uncapped products may have some limitations, unlimited products are not expected to have limitations.
The directorate has dealt with a number of cases featuring claims of unlimited and uncapped data and has accepted that in the case of uncapped products that some limitations will apply, particularly throttling of speed of delivery of data.
In the case of unlimited claims, it is generally accepted that there should be no limitation.
The ARB also previously stated that while words like “uncapped” are accepted as jargon by consumers, the word “unlimited” has a clear definition of “without limits” or “without any qualification or exception”.
“While [the ARB] accepts that consumers may grow to understand certain jargon (such as ‘uncapped’), the word ‘unlimited’ is not jargon. It is an ordinary word with an absolutely clear meaning.”
Rain’s decision to market its products as unlimited instead of uncapped may, therefore, be behind the unhappiness from subscribers.
Rain CEO explains
Roos told MyBroadband that their “positioning is to provide a range of unlimited products to our clients, and so remove the worry of unexpected high data costs”.
“To provide these products at affordable price levels, we structure around times of use, speed levels, and video quality,” Roos said.
“We are very clear in our advertising and selling process on the website on what we offer.”
Roos said for all their unlimited 24/7 products, they clearly state what:
- The maximum speed would be which they endeavour to achieve.
- Streaming quality a user would experience.
“It is thus not hidden in some fine-print T&Cs page, but clearly part of the ‘headline’ when purchasing the product,” said Roos.
“Customers elect to subscribe to a service at a specific performance level and within the limitations of this product they can consume as much data as they like.”
He added that Rain does not limit the overall data usage on any of the products, and they do not implement throttling of speeds after a certain usage threshold.
“We do sometimes address individual clients clearly abusing the network and impacting other users, but this is limited to a very small number,” he said.
Roos added that Rain does not throttle speeds on its unlimited off-peak product.
“We do, however, manage our network to ensure that all users achieve the best possible aggregate experience, and this might impact streaming resolution,” he said.
“The current spike in day-time usage with increased working from home is an example of this. This is in line with Rain providing a best-effort service on all its products.”
“I think this is a clear and transparent way of building products people want and can afford,” Roos said.