Our internet connections to the outside world are getting faster. At least if you squint your eyes and look at the spreadsheet funny.
THE GOOD NEWS
The Commerce Commission’s latest quarterly Broadband Quality report, covering July to December 2009, finds “a large improvement in international web browsing speed”, with speeds more than doubling over the previously surveyed period.
The report draws on benchmarks carried out on its behalf by Epitiro, plus statistics provided by international caching operator Akamai.
THE HMMN, SO-SO NEWS
The commission does not put the international speed boost down to the Southern Cross Cable boosting speed and lowering prices, or otherwise turning on the tap (although there have been elements of both over the period).
Rather, the watchdog says the “critical” element of caching (storing popular international pages or files on local servers) is most responsible for the rise.
Four of the big five ISPs surveyed by the commission (Telecom Broadband, TelstraClear, Vodafone, Orcon and CallPlus/Slingshot), four (it doesn't say which) are making better use of caching.
In TelstraClear’s case, its attempts to cache YouTube and other international files have at times gone haywire, causing connections to slow down rather than speed up, as chronicled by Geekzone’s Mauricio Fretais. But overall, more caching is seen as good.
THE BAD NEWS
To quote directly from the report: “The commission has set a benchmark of 1.5Mbps as a reasonable speed for international web browsing.” Speed has more than doubled (see chart above), but off a miserably low base.
Many would regard 1.5Mbit/s as a totally crummy speed; certainly it is relative to the average connection to a New Zealand-based website via a DSL connection (which ranges between 2Mbit/s and 5Mbit/s in the commission’s national tests; that seems slow in the age of fibre to the node, but the commission reckons many are not taking advantage of the fastest plans on offer).
Regardless, only four of seven surveyed ISPs manage to average greater international speed than 1.5Mbit/s.
One ISP manages a much higher average international connection speed than the rest, pushing 4Mbit/s.
The commission does not name individual service providers in any of its domestic or international rankings. All we can tell you is that it’s “ISP 13”.
The full horror
Without local caching - that is, measuring an international connection's true speed - a horror show of sub 0.5Mbit/s results are revealed:
Beyond its international connection finding, the latest report treads familiar ground.
A number of qualifiers over test site locations and interleaving aside, it finds Auckland and The 'Tron the fastest locations for broadband, with cities further from the Southern Cross Cable's landing point (in Auckland) faring worse (see charts below).
In the global village, distance still counts.
The commission noted a lack of infrastructure spending during the period, outside of Telecom. However, the local loop unbundling seen perked up toward the end of the year as TelstraClear began moving its DSL gear into multiple Telecom exchanges. And the New Year has seen CallPlus begin to unbundle Hamilton exchanges, among other intiatives.
As ever, Epitiro's tests record the fastest speeds for LLU (local loop unbundled) plans - or those that run on an ISP's own DSL hardware inside a Telecom exchange - as these central Auckland benchmarks show:
CITY-BY-CITY DOMESTIC RESULTS:
MORE: Read the commission's full report online here (PDF).
Tue, 18 May 2010