Cool Ideas Fibre ISP: Review, Packages, Speed Test

I’ve had Vumatel fibre at my home for 3 years now and all this while, have used Cool Ideas as my Internet Service Provider. This article is intended to share my experience with Cool Ideas.

My neighbours and I were courted and wooed by various ISPs as Vumatel completed their fibre rollout in my neighbourhood. Cell C was the most aggressive. They had tents, distributed flyers, made telephone calls and even went door to door. The choice of Cool Ideas was, however, an easy one for me.

The Good

Cool Ideas has been very good in a lot of ways. They advertise and deliver an uncapped/unshaped service. I have listed some of their other goodness below.

Pricing

Being a tech-savvy person, I balanced their price with their speed offers. More so, I had heard and read nice things about them in my tech circle. I was not interested in the cheapest fibre broadband offer. While they are not the cheapest, they are by no means the most expensive either. Their pricing is decent.

Fibre only

The biggest deciding factor for me was the fact that they were solely a fibre ISP. They don’t offer Internet connectivity over 4G LTE mobile broadband, xDSL nor any fixed wireless technology. Just fibre. My reckoning was they would be better at this since they are focused on fibre. Their entire business focus would be on improvements since there are no distractions with other business units.

I also didn’t want a big multinational provider for whom I might only be a number.

Delivery

I didn’t opt for their “free” router. I’m too savvy for a basic router. I had already bought the specific router I felt could meet my technical needs, before subscribing to Cool Ideas.

Getting online was easy and straightforward once Vumatel’s contractors had installed the fibre into the house.

I was online shortly after choosing Cool Ideas from Vumatel’s customer portal.

Peering

One other deciding factor for me was their extensive peering relationships which they have since increased since I joined them in 2017. They currently peer on 11 Internet Exchange Points (IXPs): all 6 of the major ones in South Africa, 2 in London (UK), 2 in New York City (USA) and as far-flung as IX.br in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Peering is an important factor that can influence network speeds positively.

Speed

In all the years of usage, the speed has been super stable though one can attribute this mostly to the efficiency of fibre broadband technology and Vumatel’s quality infrastructure.

However, I can say confidently that Cool Ideas has delivered their end of the bargain. I started with 100 / 100 Mbps and later upgraded to 200 / 200 Mbps once that option became available. I have never experienced a lower speed than I paid for when running a speed test from a laptop or desktop using an ethernet cable connected directly to a router. I always got slightly higher than 200 Mbps with the uploads speeds being even higher. The same applies to speed test servers outside South Africa as you would see below. All the tests were conducted using speedtest.net

Cool Ideas speed test on own network
Cool Ideas speed test on own network
Cool Ideas speed test to Cell C Johannesburg
Cool Ideas speed test to Cell C Johannesburg
Speed test from Cool Ideas to a Vodafone UK server in London
Speed test from Cool Ideas to a Vodafone UK server in London
Speed test from Cool Ideas to a Sprint server in New York City (USA)
Speed test from Cool Ideas to a Sprint server in New York City (USA)
Speed test from Cool Ideas to an i3D.net server in Sao Paulo, Brazil
Speed test from Cool Ideas to an i3D.net server in Sao Paulo, Brazil
Speed test from Cool Ideas to a Singtel server in Singapore
Speed test from Cool Ideas to a Singtel server in Singapore

The speeds are relatively consistent despite the higher latencies to the international speed test servers. The effect is that all my video content stream with no buffering: Netflix, YouTube, YouTube TV, Showmax etc.

The Bad

It hasn’t been super rosy. I list some slight inconveniences so far.

Support

I had opened a support ticket to complain about a critical problem in February 2020 and got no response for over 48 hours. I had to call Cool Idea’s customer care with the ticket number, to get some action. The problem was actually from Vumatel and I am happy they escalated and followed-up even after Vumatel had fixed it.

Other cases

  • Ticket opened in August 2018. They responded in less than 4 hours.
  • Ticket opened on a Friday evening in July 2017 with a non-critical query. I got a response after 50 hours on the next Monday morning.

No IPv6

IPv4s are running out rapidly. Many ISPs outside Africa already support IPv6 aggressively, to varying degrees. There is some complacency about this from South African ISPs. I am not aware of any local ISP, big or small, that supports IPv6.

IPv6 deployment in Africa is very low
According to Google, IPv6 deployment in Africa is still very low

In fairness to Cool Ideas, they own a large IPv6 block and seem to have an IPv6 transit relationship with a leading carrier, Internet Solutions.

Fun Fact
According to public records, they own a /32 IPv6 block. This translates to 79,228,162,514,264,337,593,543,950,336 IPv6 addresses.
In English, seventy-nine octillion two hundred twenty-eight septillion one hundred sixty-two sextillion five hundred fourteen quintillion two hundred sixty-four quadrillion three hundred thirty-seven trillion five hundred ninety-three billion five hundred forty-three million nine hundred fifty thousand three hundred thirty-six IPv6 addresses.

This is slightly beyond Cool Ideas but I am placing this here considering they can influence Vumatel to upgrade and support IPv6. It is the unavoidable future.

Peering

Yes, they are peer extensively on 11 IXPs but their presence on those IXPs does not automatically guarantee they can peer with all the “big boys” – being a mid-size ISP.

The complications around the politics of peering are beyond the scope of this article.

A traceroute from Cool Idea to Safaricom, Kenya
A traceroute from Cool Idea to Safaricom Kenya showing traffic going through the UK and the UAE before reaching Kenya.
A traceroute from another network in Johannesburg showing traffic directly from Johannesburg to Nairobi with a much lower latency.
A traceroute from another network in Johannesburg showing traffic directly from Johannesburg to Nairobi with much lower latency.

It is only slightly annoying that traffic to two Kenyan networks I have noticed so far go through Europe thus at higher latency when I can reach those Kenyan networks through a more direct route when I test from major South African networks.

This is not an important factor for 99% of regular internet users.

The Ugly

Cool Ideas experienced a number of Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks in 2019. They were in 2 major waves and massive enough to cripple their network for days. International traffic was mostly affected while content that could be accessed within South Africa were okay. While the attacks were no fault of theirs, they rose to the occasion by increasing their international bandwidth and enforcing more rigorous IP security measures to mitigate the industry-wide nuisance.

The Ugly path was their initial poor communication when the mess started. They did not proactively send any communication via email nor SMS. There were only a few updates on Twitter.

A screenshot showing part of Cool Ideas' DDOS mitigation announcement.
A screenshot showing part of Cool Ideas’ DDOS mitigation announcement. The zombie angle was their attempt to simplify the highly technical phenomenon.

They, however, sent a detailed apologetic email after the DDOS attacks had abated or their DDoS mitigation worked.

Conclusion

While Cool Ideas offers good prices, focus exclusively on fibre broadband technology, deliver excellent network speed when they are not under attack, their customer service and communication could use some improvement. Would I recommend Cool Ideas? Absolutely, yes. The will to identify inadequacies and seek to improve is what counts.

Are you a Cool Ideas subscriber in South Africa? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section.

1 Comment

  1. I’ve had Cool Ideas as my ISP for several years. Initially their service was outstanding. However my Internet connection has become progressively worse, and it seems to be impossible to even get through them telephoncally with eternally long waiting periods. Appalling customer service and no backup.l Will be looking to finding a better service provider.

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