Upgrade From The National Broadband Scheme

The National Broadband Scheme (NBS) is an initiative to bring usable Broadband to rural areas in Ireland where there was none before. It’s been up and running for a few years now and the mobile company 3 were awarded the contract to provide services under it. I’ve been on it for a couple of years now and it’s been fine for me up until recently when I started to go over my monthly bandwidth limit. The limit is not too bad at 25GB and should be fine for most people but I’m a web designer!

While moaning to 3 support about kicking me offline without notice, I happened to ask them if there was any way to up the monthly limit and was told they had another package I could switch to called 3 Broadband Pro which was only a little dearer per month at €30.49 but had a 60GB monthly limit, way more then the NBS deal and something even I should find it hard to go over. Turns out this package is one of the best available on the Irish market at the minute in terms of Data Limit V Price as you can see from this comparison.

National Broadband Scheme

So the moral of the story is that many people living in rural areas including me seem unaware that there are better broadband packages than their local NBS offering and that they aren’t tied to just *NBS. Contact your broadband provider today and see if you can get on something a little better.


*PS – Strangely, 3 told me that once I switched to 3 Broadband Pro, I couldn’t go back to NBS. Not sure why, maybe they were trying to scare me off. The fact that no-one seems to know you can upgrade from NBS maybe suggests that they don’t want people leaving it?


3 Broadband Data Usage Stats

Despite living and working in Leitrim, I’ve had proper broadband now for about 4 years, either via landline/Eircom or (currently) 3 Mobile Broadband under the National Broadband  Scheme but this week is the first time I’ve ever gone over my monthly data allowance. I only found out when I was unceremoniously and without any warning kicked offline by 3 in the middle of a working day. But only after they let me go over the 25GB limit to the tune of €40!

It’s all prompted me to check out my data usage in more detail and try get some feedback from other users similar to me to see what the average monthly usage might be so I can sign up to the right package.

I guess it’s kinda surprising that I didn’t go over it before now because I’m a Web Designer and I’m online all day. Here’s some of the typical things I do online on a day to day basis:

  • Download/Upload smallish files related to web design,
  • Browse the Internet heavily,
  • Use Email heavily,
  • Use social media apps on the PC & Phone,
  • Watch the odd youTube video,
  • Download the odd video or piece of software,
  • Make a few Skype calls a week,
  • Stream music while having food.

That’s about it. Wouldn’t have thought it was too heavy even for an IT person?

Anyway, I’ve knocked together a spreadsheet below with data taken from the itemised bill for the month in which I went over the limit. It shows the average daily usage, the highest day, lowest day and highlights weekend usage when I’m not at the pc but still on the smart phone a bit.

Feel free to download it and put your own figures in to find your own usage pattern.

Broadband Stats

PS – I’ve asked 3 if I can be switched from the National Broadband Scheme to one with a higher monthly data limit as the NBS can’t be raised from 25GB and I’m waiting to be switched to the ‘3 Broadband Pro’ offering which has a 60GB pm limit and is about €30 pm. Not sure why I wasn’t told about this initially. Seems country folk only get the piss poor service?


Eircom, 3, Broadband and Phone Contracts

A few weeks ago, I had a brainwave. To counter some financial problems I thought I’d have a look at my business and house outgoings and see if I could cut some of them out or reduce them a little. I fully expected to find a pile of bills/services that we might be able to do without…services we might have signed up to without consideration when times were better. I suspect there’s a lot of people in the same boat now! I started off looking at the biggest bills, ie – rent (couldn’t change that), tax (couldn’t change that either..), etc, etc.. Unfortunately, I didn’t find too many bills that could be lowered but the phone bill, always shocking when it comes in and so easy to overspend on, started to stand out for me as a large leak that needed plugging..

It’s a fairly common conception especially among business owners that you need to have a landline to run a business. People will tell you that you wont be trusted if you’ve only got a mobile number on your business card or website and that the only proper broadband is DSL/Phone line. I say, feck that.. In fairness, when I moved to my current address and realised that for the first time since I moved to Leitrim, I would have access to ‘proper’, fast (7MB) broadband, I was happy as Larry. Then, 3 things happened..Money got very tight, Phone bills increased and Three installed a broadband mast locally as part of the National Broadband Scheme.

I decided to grab a Three mobile broadband dongle on a 2 week trial and see if it compared to my Eircom service. It compared very well! While the rated speed of the Three device was actually slower than Eircom, it just felt a lot faster, possibly due to contention ratios. Also, the upload speed, important to a web designer like me, was way faster. It averages out at about 3 or 4Mbps down and 1 or 2Mbps up. I also tested Skype out on it and it was crystal clear and stable. Three’s service worked out at only €15 per month (cheaper if you already have a Three mobile pay monthly plan, which I did).

The next obvious step of course was to ring Eircom and cancel my line completely. I had signed up to a monthly package on Skype, got my Skype landline number replacement and was all set to go without my landline when the guy in Eircom cancellations said I had a ‘contract’ until March next year and if I chose to break it, I’d have to pay the remainder of the recurring fees.

Apparently you sign up to a 6 month contract for the phone and 12 months for broadband. The fact they are kinda co-dependent on each other but have different contract periods is a bit weird? Your contract also seems to get restarted whenever you change your package which is even more annoying.

All of a sudden, my feeling of pride at having identified and executed a saving of about €125 per month went out the window. Now I’m no stranger to phone contracts or even breaking them but for some reason I didn’t expect landlines to be the same as the mobiles ones I’d had in the past. Also, when I moved into this house, I just knew I needed a phone line and broadband and wasn’t aware that I was signing up to an unbreakable contract. I have no recollection of seeing or even signing a contract or having anyone tell me I was entering into one. In fact, I just transferred my account from the old house to the new one and the old account had been running for at least a year or 2.

Basically, if you want to have a phone in this country, whether mobile or land based, you need to enter into an unbreakable and lengthy contract. You have no choice. That’s just the way it is. And sometimes, you’re not even made aware you’re entering into one. Not fair I say?

In the end, it was suggested that I reduce my Eircom bill to the bare minimum €49 per month for the remainder of the contract and have mobile barring activated on the line to try help keep the bill at no more that this monthly amount but it’s still €49 pm more that I want, need or can afford to pay. It also costs €25 to downgrade a package!

* UPDATE After getting on to Eircom support again over my contract issues I was told that moving house or changing package shouldn’t have changed my existing contract and if it did, I should have been told this at the time. I was also offered a contract get out without penalty so it might pay to complain! But contracts still exist.

Mobile Phone Masts

Went out to the bank today and spotted a mobile mast being erected in Drumsna, Co. Leitrim no more than 30 feet away from an existing one, same height, same eye sore. The existing one used to power my O2 broadband and phone 3G connection before we moved from Drumsna so I’m guessing this one is for Vodafone, Meteor, etc or maybe part of the 3 broadband rollout.

Seems a bit strange that existing masts can’t be used by multiple carriers the same way Eircom have been forced to share their infrastructure? Would save a bit of money, time and eyesore?