Friday, December 05, 2008

Codes of practice, slow broadband and fast 3G...

OFCOM has drafted a voluntary Code of Practice for ISP's. This is an excellent innitiative in my opinion and something that we could do with in Ireland. It's mainstay is that ISP's have to communicate clearer to their customers what speeds they will actually be getting for their money. Currently most, if not all, ISP's juggle theoretical speeds to dazzle customers but apart from business users nobody is really getting the speeds advertised. The Code of Practice states:
1. headline or advertised speed - This is the speed that ISPs use to describe the packages that they offer to consumers. They are often described as ‘up to’ speeds but these are often only a guide as to the speed an ISP can provide and at what price.
2. access line speed - This refers to the maximum speed of the data connection between the broadband modem and the local exchange or cable head end. This constitutes the maximum speed a consumer will be able to experience.
3. actual throughput speed - This is the actual speed that a consumer experiences at a particular time when they are connected to the internet. This figure is often dependent on factors such as the ISP’s network, its traffic shaping and management policy, the number of subscribers sharing the network at the same time and the number of people accessing a particular website.
4. average throughput speed – This is an average of actual throughput speed for each different broadband product offered by an ISP.

There's a lot more worth reading. I suggest that you download an copy and email it to your ISP's customer service desk. One fault in the Code is that it only applies to fixed line broadband providers. I think that a similar code for Wireless ISP's is even more needed. The business practices in this part of the industry need even more "streamlining".

Another interesting read is PCMag's survey of broadband speeds in the USA. It gives a good overview of what speeds are being delivered by the different "broadband" technologies:
"In the modern world of Internet service, two things go without saying: Fiber optic service is dramatically faster, and satellite service is substantially slower. Our results support these shocking statements. Among satellite services, including industry leader HughesNet and competitors like WildBlue, SurfSpeeds averaged just 145 kilobits per second (Kbps). Taken as a whole, DSL and cable connections were more than five times as fast. And fiber optic connections, including the well-publicized Verizon FiOS and lesser-known regional carriers like Utah's Mstar and New Mexico's CityLink Fiber, were 152 percent faster than that." However the most surprising bit is that the fastest provider is Surfspeeds with an average speed of just 724 Kbps. Not exactly broadband is it now?!
Anyway, go read the article, it puts everything into perspective.

Lastly here's an blog post about 3G speeds generated in an almost lab environment. Maximum speeds reached where of 5.76 MBit/s. The test were performed on the Hanover exibition ground, where both T-Mobile and Vodafone have upgraded their 3G network and their base station backhaul to support these speeds. It again illustrates the difference between theoretical and actual speeds.

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