Internet-TV-Home Phone Bundle Review: Suntel Networks
Instead of paying for your Internet, TV and Home Phone services separately, have you considered subscribing to a services bundle to save money? Even if you are already saving money by getting all your services from a single provider, have you ever looked into if a cheap Internet bundle exists? If you say no to either question, you could be missing an opportunity to save some serious cash! Please take a moment to review the Internet-TV-Home Phone bundle below and guess how much it costs per month.
- Internet: 150 Mbps download and 15 Mbps upload speed (unlimited bandwidth).
- TV: Channels including all local news channels, TSN, Sportsnet, Discovery, National Geographic, HGTV, Food Network, YTV, Treehouse, Knowledge Network plus 70 channels from China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and the USA. Exactly 100 TV channels overall. Video-on-demand service which features movies, drama, etc.
- Home Phone: Unlimited calling within Canada plus 600 minutes of free calling to China, HK, Macau, Taiwan, and the USA. Calling features such as call display, call forward, voicemail and more are included.
In addition, this particular bundle includes free equipment rental, free installation, free home phone number porting and free of any other fees except for taxes. There is also a 30-day money-back guaranteed.
So how much do you think the bundle is per month?
The answer is… under $70.
You might be wondering if this offer is real because the cheapest 150 Mbps Internet service in our region (BC) goes for around $60 per month. In other words, paying $6.88 more would get you 100 TV channels with VOD and home phone service with unlimited Canada calling. Just so you know, the deal is authentic because a friend of ours has subscribed to this bundle and is using the services as we write this article.
So who is offering this Internet-TV-Home Phone bundle for a seemingly ultra-low price (in BC anyway)? How are their services? Are there any catches? Should you get it? We will tell you all about it.
Who is Suntel Networks Inc.?
To our surprise and perhaps a red-flag to some people, Suntel’s website does not contain any information about the company itself. Their website simply lists all its pricing plans; emphasizes its 30-day money-back guaranteed and posts photos of three Suntel staff with their names and job titles. After performing some research about the company, we found out Suntel started to offer Internet, TV and Home Phone services in BC in 2015. So it is a relatively new company. Its original Internet-TV-Home Phone bundle was advertised as low as $39.99 per month with 25 Mbps Internet speed. In 2018, it has two storefronts in two cities in Metro Vancouver. Both locations are situated in malls where the majority of the visitors are Chinese. Many of their ads also have placements in Chinese paper/prints. Over 70% of Suntel’s TV channel lineup is from Asia so it’s clear who their target audience is.
Free Installation & Equipment Rental
Upon signing a service agreement with Suntel (more about their plans later), a technician is scheduled to visit your residence for the equipment installation. The installation is free of charge so everything will be taken care of for you. During the site visit, the technician will install a cable modem and a wireless router for the Internet service; connect an ATA/VoIP adapter for the home phone service, and set up an Android TV Box for your TV service. The installation process took 30 minutes for this particular appointment. All the equipment are provided to you free of charge. However, you must return them within 7 days of canceling the services. List and models of Suntel’s equipment below:
- Cable Modem: Technicolor TC4350
- Wireless Router: TP-LINK Archer C1200
- VoIP Adapter: Cisco SPA112
- Android TV Box: Damai Box DB1016US
How well do Suntel’s Internet-TV-Home Phone services perform?
Below are our impressions of Suntel’s 150M Internet + TV + Phone Service Pack. The reviews are broken down into 3 sections for your ease of reading.
First of all, Suntel does not charge for porting of your existing phone number (they will let you pick a new number from a pre-populated list if you currently don’t own a home phone). A Cisco ATA/VoIP phone adapter (SPA112) is supplied to you at no charge. The phone adapter is pre-configured so it works right out-of-the-box with all the standard calling features.
We tested the sound quality using a cordless handset and made calls to both landlines and mobile phones. The sound quality is a mixed bag. Some calls are quite clear but we also experienced jittery voices occasionally. For instance, calls were made to a mobile phone, the jittery voice was detected on the mobile device while the home phone side was free of any distortions. The occurrence is random. We suspect the voice quality may be affected by the amount of Internet bandwidth used when the calls are made. Given that Suntel’s home phone and TV services are both powered by the Internet; when the TV service is demanding high Internet bandwidth, the voice quality of the home phone may suffer as the result. Again, this is just our assumption. One positive note is that no echoes or other noises were noticeable during all our phone calls.
Although Suntel says its home phone service includes 600 minutes long distance calling to select countries for free, it is for calls made to “landlines only”, so please be aware of this subtle difference.
Suntel delivers its TV service via IPTV. IPTV stands for Internet Protocol television. Basically, it means delivering TV contents over the Internet using continuous video streaming. According to Suntel, all their local TV channels are sourced from a company called Cipher TV.
The TV service is carried out by a Damai Box (an Android TV Box which has been configured with proprietary Apps and locked down by Suntel). Once an App (called EasyTV) is launched, the channel guide displays major channel categories (photos below). You simply pick what you want to watch like regular cable TV service with the remote control. There is no lag navigating between the menus. The channel starts as soon as you select it which is a decent surprise. One drawback is the Damai Box does not have any recording capability which could be a deal breaker for some people.
The maximum picture quality of all Canadian and US channels is 720p. Depending on the source and the Internet connection speed, the picture quality may dip down to 480p (standard TV definition). We watched an NHL game on CBC Hockey Night in Canada for our test. No buffering was ever experienced while the game was on. The picture quality was mostly 720p, although degraded picture quality was detected a few times. The most annoying issue is the sound and the video was out of sync so we had to exit and select the channel to correct it.
As for TV channels from Asia, most have 480p picture quality. Also, it’s more a hit-and-miss with these channels because some channels we tested were either buttering a lot or unavailable (offline).
Aside from the Chinese channels, below is their Canadian channel lineup under the 150M Internet + TV + Phone Service Pack:
A big bonus with Suntel’s TV service is its complimentary Video-On-Demand service (VOD). It features movies, drama, educational shows for kids, etc. (mostly in Chinese). Some videos include subtitles in Chinese. The only video that had English subtitle was a Korean movie we picked at random. The selection is decent but slightly dated as expected for this type of VOD service.
A Technicolor cable modem (TC4350) is included to support the Internet service up to 150 Mbps download speed. Like many Internet resellers in BC, Suntel’s Internet service piggybacks off Shaw Communications’ cable infrastructure. This is a positive because Shaw’s cable Internet service is fairly stable. The only drawback is that their Internet speed fluctuates. The following speed figures were the average obtained on a Saturday night in an apartment setting with a wired connection. The download speed hit 100 Mbps a few times from our observation but mostly stays within 75 – 85 Mbps range)
Please use these speeds as a guideline as your location and time of the day for testing may fetch different speeds. As you can see, the download speed was not close to the advertised download speed of 150 Mbps but this could be attributed to the fact the TV box was running and a few mobile devices were streaming as well. The supplied wireless router (TP-LINK Archer C1200) works fine in a smaller house, townhouse or an apartment. However, it may not provide enough coverage for a larger home. One note about the supplied wireless router, an online source states you must use Suntel’s router in order for the Home Phone service to work properly. We apologize for not being able to verify this claim during our testing.
What plans are available to me?
Suntel offers Internet-only, Internet + TV, and Internet + TV + Home Phone services.
If you require Internet only, there are no contracts. Speeds available for Internet-only service are: 30 and 150 Mbps (not sure why 60 Mbps is not available)
For all the bundles, there are three pricing options.
- No contract (monthly payment, slightly higher monthly cost than 1 & 2 year contracts); $250 deposit + one time network activation fee of $80
- 1-year contract (prepayment of 12 months service required); $100 deposit + one-time network activation fee of $80
- 2-year contract (prepayment for 24 months service required): No deposit, No activation fee
The bundle reviewed in this article is called 150M Internet + TV + Phone Service Pack. On Suntel’s website, this bundle is advertised at $85 per month at the time of this writing. However, our friend signed up for under $70 per month at one of the locations in person. Our research found the same or similar deal was offered by Suntel for $60 per month during their Mid-autumn Festival promotional period in 2017. To pay the lowest price possible, you need to make a prepayment of around $1,800 for a 2-year contract (taxes included). The monthly cost works out to be $75.
It is hard to argue Suntel’s 150M bundle (under $70) is one of the more competitive Internet-TV-Home Phone bundles you could find. However, the old adage of “you get what you pay for” is quite fitting for this bundle. Our view is that all the services offered by Suntel actually perform well enough for its price point. If you’re looking for consistency, superior TV picture quality, voice quality and stable Internet speed, a larger telecommunication company may serve you better because their equipment is more robust and the delivery method is more stable.
If you still plan to sign up, ask yourself these questions first: How much money will you save? Are you willing to pay $1800 in advance for two years of their service? Can you tolerate the fluctuation in Internet download speed? Will you be happy with TV picture quality ranging from 480p to 720p? Can you live without recording TV shows?Do you have any uses for a home phone? Does inconsistent home phone call quality bother you?
So many things to consider but each person’s situation is unique. Therefore, you need to compare your priorities and act accordingly. As for us, forking out $1,800 upfront for a 2-year contract with a relatively new company seems risky. Also, we prefer a little more consistency and speed for the bundle despite the competitive pricing. If we must subscribe, we would rather pay a slightly higher monthly fee without locking into any contract because it would still be a good bundle deal ($5 more per month). But that’s just our opinion. In any case, this cheap Internet bundle was tempting enough for our friend to part with his hard-earned money in advance.
We hope you found this article useful. If you are interested in watching free TV channels or live sports online. Check out these articles:
- Excellent price and value
- Free equipment rental (includes cable modem; wireless router; phone adapter; Android TV box with remote control)
- Free installation (beneficial for customers who are less tech-savvy)
- Canadian & US TV channels are stable
- Chinese viewers will appreciate there are 70 Chinese channels to choose from
- Free Video-On-Demand service (VOD)
- 2-year prepayment is needed if you want the lowest price, that’s a big commitment!
- Inconsistent home phone sound quality
- TV Box does not have the capability to record
- No 1080p TV picture quality
- TV picture quality varies from 480p to 720p
- Most Asian channels are in 480p
- Some Asian channels buffer a lot or unavailable
- Only 24 TV channels are in English (although it covers a wide variety of TV categories such as news, learning, home, and sports)
- VOD is mostly in Chinese and few videos have English subtitles
- The website states you can add a premium channel from $1.50 per channel but the list is not available
- Suntel’s website does not offer any information about the company itself
- A forum post indicates you cannot use your own wireless router because Suntel’s supplied TP-LINK wireless router is specifically configured to work with its Cisco ATA/VoIP phone adapter. Unfortunately, this claim is not verified in this review
Notes about our Review
Our review was based on services subscribed by a friend. All the services were tested in person except the ordering and installation process which were done prior to our review and strictly based on details provided to us by our friend. Lastly, customer or technical support are not included in this review as we did not encounter any. However, we encourage you to email or call their customer service and judge the level of service for yourself.
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