Monday, July 13, 2015

Best internet connection in Trinidad and Tobago

I would like to compare the current residential packages available from multiple providers in Trinidad and Tobago.

Bmobile: http://bmobile.co.tt/broadband/
This is probably the most widely available provider. They offer wired service through fibre and DSL on phone lines and wireless service through dongle or hotspot devices. Fibre is in a limited area and DSL is probably the most commonly available service of all. TV and phone service is also offered.

Flow : https://discoverflow.co/trinidad/internet/broadband-rates-packages
Flow deal via GATT available to everyone for an additional $59USD annual registration fee- http://www.carigamers.com/cms/
This is probably the second most widely available wired provider after Bmobile. I think once they became available in an area internet users would switch to them away from Bmobile because of their packages. They offer services through fibre to an area and then coax copper to your home. TV and phone service is also offered.

Digicel Fibre: http://www.digicelgroup.com/tt/en/play/our-services/fibre-internet.html
Digicel 4G: https://www.digicelgroup.com/tt/en/mobile/plans-services/extra/Dongle-MIFI.html
Probably the fastest growing provider right now. The introduction of their service has made the competitors refine their offerings and this is good for the consumer. They offer fibre to the home (FTTH) in several areas. Wireless service is accessible throughout the country. TV and phone service is also offered.

Amplia: http://amplia.co.tt/internet/
This company was formerly Massy which was purchased by BMobile. They are a FTTH provider only available in a limited area. TV service is also offered.

Lisa: http://www.lisacommunications.com/iservice/communication
They offer fixed wireless service throughout the country which is dependable. They mainly focus on businesses and residential customers benefit from this. Their speeds are much slower compared to others but it is traded for reliability.

Greendot: http://www.gd.tt/broadband-internet/
They can be found throughout the country providing fixed wireless internet. TV is also offered.

Air Link: http://airlinktt.com/high-speed-internet/
This wired service is only available in and around Princes Town. TV service is also offered.

Novo Communications : http://www.novocommunications.net/index.php/welcome/internet
A FTTH provider in a limited area around Penal.

RVR Networks: http://rvrnetworks.com/residential%20internet.html
A national internet and TV provider.


'Wired' vs 'Wireless'

First of all, any 'wired' provider is typically cheaper than a 'wireless' provider. When I say 'wired' I mean a wire (copper or fibre) comes to your house which is what you get with Flow, Digicel, Bmobile and Massy fibre and copper options. You can have a wireless access point from that wire broadcasting throughout your house, but reception is only in and around your house, within range of the access point. Some providers give you a WiFi capable modem or access point with their install and some tell you buy your own. The packages are 'unlimited' download with your amount of data not monitored or capped, given reasonable usage. There may not be an official Fair Usage Policy from the providers but they may throttle you down if you use whatever they consider to be too much, but it is very unlikely you will reach that.

A 'wireless' provider can offer a mobile or fixed service.
- Mobile wireless services would be Bmobile or Digicel via Wifi/USB dongles that you can carry around the country away from your home and still get service. Mobile options typically have a limited amount of data for a given period, eg 15GB per month. It is very easy to reach this with a lot of video or music playing and posting and viewing pictures. In my experience Digicel wireless can give as high as 12 Mbps in a particular area and the most your may get with Bmobile is 5 Mbps. The technology they use is capable of much faster but this is how they have tuned their networks. Maximum speeds will fluctuate drastically depending on many factors such as network load and reception.
- Fixed wireless services such as Lisa and Green Dot set up antennas outside your home and have to be in sufficient range of their radio towers in order to offer service. Packages typically allow unlimited data to be downloaded, according to a fair usage policy.  The service can be affected by weather, structures in the line of sight and RF interference. Wireless options have much higher latency (higher ping) than wired ones.

Packages

Most providers have a good package around $200 that can support a family (up to 3 or 4 devices) simultaneously despite what their marketing departments will say. They are:

ISP                 Down/ UP Mbps   $ Per Month          $ per Mbps
Flow                 100 / 20                  $ 196.00               $  1.96 (no GATT fee, web link)
Flow                 100 / 20                  $ 229.72               $  2.29 (including GATT fee)
Flow                  40 / 5                     $ 219.99               $  5.50
Digicel Fibre      30 / 15                  $ 209.00               $  6.97
Amplia               25 / 15                  $ 200.00               $  8.00
Bmobile Fibre    25/                        $ 223.88               $  8.96
Air Link              10 / 1                    $ 177.78                $ 17.78
Bmobile LTE      6 /                         $ 167.63                $ 27.94
Novo                  7 / 3                      $ 245.00                $ 35.00
RVR                   5 /                         $ 249.00                 $ 49.80
G.Dot                 3 / 0.512                $ 222.88                $ 74.30
Bmobile DSL      4 / 0.768               $ 341.42                $ 85.36
Lisa                    2 /  0.768              $ 336.38                $168.19

Notes

Bmobile DSL (Copper) and Lisa were included even though they are much more than $200 since I think they are the most usable speed options available from their respective companies.

Some users who had the GATT special package from 2017 were limited to 60Mbps and some are on 100Mbps for the same $196. The reason for the disparity is unclear. The GATT special is extended until the end of 2018.

Providers generally give reliable service. Five (5) Mbps and more download is most likely sufficient for anything you need to do. I strongly recommend you start at a lower package and test it out and if you still think you need more then upgrade it. Some providers do not allow you to downgrade a package easily. Streaming video or downloading files/torrents is probably the most demanding task for your connection. If multiple users do this simultaneously the connection may become overwhelmed. You would then need a bigger package to satisfy your demand.

I think the best value for money for a new subscriber without a connection is currently Digicel's 30 Mbps Play package, given the price per Mbps shown above as well as the free installation and modem currently being offered. You can actually get a bundle with internet, TV channels and a home phone with free Digicel calls for the same price as their lowest internet only package. Fibre technology has lower latency inherent to it as well as being on a network with less shared resources compared to Flow. The modem is capable of reading from an external USB drive, has 802.11ac WiFi and multiple ethernet ports. There is a 12 month contract and $460 security deposit. It is probably best to call them on 100 from a Digicel phone o399-9999 from another phone. It can take weeks to hear from them if you fill out the form online.
Flow would be the next best option. Digicel is available in a much smaller area compared to Flow. If you already have Flow it is not worth it to switch to Digicel since you can take the 100 Mbps package via GATT (click here for link). Most households would not saturate the 30 Mbps connections so the 60 Mbps should be taken simply because you can save $24 a month. Flow does not require a contract to be signed but they do prefer a minimum connection period of a few months. On lower packages they charge extra for a 802.11n WiFi capable modem which is not capable of reading from an external drive. They have consistently raised their packages to lead if not keep up with competitors. One major point to note is the cost of installation for the service. Digicel is currently offering free installation and modem which is $599 savings. Flow offers a free non-wifi modem to lower packages but charges for installation. You can wait until Flow has a promotion for free installation usually right before school closes for holidays.

Flow has the maximum download speed available with 1 Gbps in a very limited area. Massy is only available in a very limited area. Airlink is only available in Princes Town and environs. Green Dot, Lisa, Digicel and Bmobile mobile dongles depend on wireless reception. This means you may not get good reception if you are in an undulating, rural or crowded area.

Airlink has the cheapest package of 2 Mbps down/256 kbps up for $100.00/month followed by Flow with 3 Mbps down/1 Mbps up for $136.95/month.

Bmobile DSL offers a dial up account with unlimited hours for any DSL plan you have. This is supposed to be a backup if your DSL goes down.

The upload rate is probably not a deciding factor for you but 1 Mbps up is plenty. Take note of initial installation costs and duration of contract. Start at the top of the table above to check which providers are in your area. Also check if your house/apartment may already be wired for a service, eg the last occupant may have already run lines to your apartment which would now save you the installation cost. Talk to the provider about what you want the connection for, I believe Lisa blocks streaming video.
BMobile 4g LTE Router
If you have to get a mobile/wireless device as your only source of internet, I recommend Bmobile's LTE Wireless device, assuming you are within an area with coverage. I recommend you do a test yourself for service if possible. Perhaps ask someone with an LTE device to check if they have good reception and to do a speedtest while there. You get unlimited data at a maximum download speed of 6Mbps for $167.63 per month. No upload cap is mentioned. It is a very capable device with external antennas, ethernet ports, USB and supports up to 32 devices (Link here). All the devices will share the 6Mbps if they are on at the same time. Remember that this is enough bandwidth for multiple devices to surf the internet, facebook, twitter etc at the same time but is not enough if even one device tried to stream any videos. This is with a 2 year contract and $599 deposit. There is a additional $960+vat required if foreigners are taking the device.
BMobile 4g LTE Router
Second choice would be Digicel's dongle with 15GB per month. If this is not your primary source for the internet you may only need 5GB. Most smart phones now have a data meter to help you figure out how much data you use which can help you choose an appropriate package.

The wireless devices will need the appropriate type of reception in order to operate at their full potential. Digicel's dongles switch down to edge speeds (about 100Kbps) if they are not getting high speed service. Bmobile's dongles lose service completely when not getting high speed reception. Digicel typically has better reception (with all their services).

I am only considering the stand-alone internet packages available from these providers and perhaps over simplifying the comparison because many of them offer discounts with bundles for phone and TV services. For example Digicel's bundle as mentioned earlier or Flow's Ultra bundle. You should go through their packages and see which would be best for you. If you already have a service and are shopping around be sure to consider the installation costs. As a mobile solution you can also use the data plan on your phone by making it a Wifi hotspot for your other devices. Digicel has data plans with unlimited WhatsApp chat which means some things would not count toward your data usage. If this is all you use it for then consider that option, noting that any videos or WhatsApp sound or video calls will spend data.

If your computer - desktop, laptop, phone etc is more than 4 or 5 years old it may not be able to take full advantage of your internet connection. HD video content is intensive and a slow PC can have stuttering and other issues due to the computer itself and not your broadband connection. The biggest bottleneck in a PC is usually the hard drive so consider upgrading to an SSD as well as adding more RAM (if your PC supports these) .
The speeds offered are only peak throughput from your home to the respective provider's internet backbone connection. You can verify you are receiving what you pay for by doing a test to a Trinidad server on www.speedtest.net. You should perform this test while wired into your modem/router or while next to your modem/router to avoid poor signal reception. In some cases your wireless router/network may not be able to support the internet speed you have because of the wireless standards it uses. If you are not getting consistent results close to (more than 90% of) what you are paying for you should report the issue to the provider. If you do a test to a server on the west coast USA you would probably have a slow result. This is because the speed to download from servers on the internet would sometimes be much less than what you are paying for. The bottleneck may be along the path between you and the distant server which the internet provider would have no control of. This is the nature of the internet and must be taken into account especially for servers further away such as Europe and Asia.

If you have an issue with any of these services and your problem is not addressed in the company's own stipulated time frames you should file a complaint with T.A.T.T. who is the regulatory body for these providers and this usually hastens the resolution.

TATT has published a comparison chart also: https://tatt.org.tt/DesktopModules/Bring2mind/DMX/Download.aspx?Command=Core_Download&EntryId=861&PortalId=0&TabId=222

Now that you have chosen your awesome new internet provider or upgraded your package please check out Tech gadgets for people new to broadband.

Providers are constantly upgrading their packages so call them directly before making a decision. Sometimes promotional info is posted to the social media accounts only and not on their websites. This info is offered as a guide only. I do not work for any provider and am not associated with them in any way and this is not a paid review.

Please comment about what service you have and how it is working for you. If you like this post please support the blog by clicking on ads.

Updated Jan 11th 2018

Topics: Flow vs Bmobile broadband for desktop
Digicel vs FLOW
Most speed Blink vs Digicel trinidad internet packages
Fastest internet net in Trinidad and Tobago for laptop
Massy internet vs blink fiber
Cheapest most affordable internet plan bundle
Green dot vs Blink bmobile bundle vs Flow bundles vs Digicel bundles
Slow TSTT hotspot
Best Trinidad ISP internet service providers
Best internet package in Trinidad for tablet
Worst internet service Trinidad
Internet service providers in TT
Which is the best ISP internet in Trinidad and Tobago
Is flow or digicel worth it for phone

6 comments:

  1. Just a note on my experience with flow's internet service. i presently have their home basic pkg. i've found that 15mbps represents the speed of the connection from the home coaxial cable to flows internet servers (similar to seeing 100mbps on a home wireless LAN connx). if you do an independent speed test terminating @ servers in Fl or Ga etc you would get between 4.7 to 5mbps. its similar to blink's 4mbps pkg over copper pairs. its fairly reliable in my area. its all about marketing, but on flow's website they recommend the home basic pkg for basic surfing, emails and data transfers.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I have blink and i live development that has no over head lines and the blink wireless service sucks.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I'm presently using Flow (15 mb) and I have to say it was great at first but now terrible is the best word I can use to describe it, it keeps failing, it's very frustrating.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I'm presently using Flow (15 mb) and I have to say it was great at first but now terrible is the best word I can use to describe it, it keeps failing, it's very frustrating.

    ReplyDelete
  5. they upgraded me unknowingly to (30 mb) and it sticks or freezes. Is the 60/5 mb at 195. from Flow will be faster or better for smart TV.

    ReplyDelete