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Spark's Bigpipe outperforms other ISPs on debut

RAW DATA: Commerce Commission monitor TrueNet's August 2014 Broadband Report.

Sat, 23 Aug 2014

(TrueNet is contracted to the Commerce Commission to monitor broadband performance. It uses a network of probes attached to 400 volunteers' internet connections to rate ISPs — Editor.)

CallPlus' Flip continues to outperform other ISPs with the best live webpage download times for New Zealand and Australia combined, with Slingshot a close second. 

A new ISP, Bigpipe (a Spark sub-brand) joins the report this month with some excellent results. It tops all other ADSL providers for NZ webpage download times, as well as having the best performance for file download speeds during peak hours.


Summary of Performance Measures

During July TrueNet increased the range of webpages used to include some Australian webpages that require downloading from their servers in Australia.  This ensures that ISPs must maintain excellent performance within both NZ and from Australia.

Combining results from NZ & Australian webpages placed Flip Slingshot as the best ADSL suppliers whileVodafone & Orcon were the best VDSL suppliers.

Bigpipe ISP topped the ADSL NZ webpage downloads results for July in their first appearance this month. Unfortunately, we did not have sufficient Bigpipe probes reporting Australian webpage download times for them to be included in overall rankings.  BigPipe also turns out to be best for providing service at the same speed at all times during the day.

Flip (ADSL) and Orcon (VDSL) were the leaders for Australian webpage download times.

iiNet (ADSL)the only Australian ISP with sufficient probes to be accurately reported, had the poorest ADSL performance for downloading both NZ and Australian websites.

Time of Day performance has Orcon and Bigpipe best for ADSL, and Snap best for VDSL.   Slingshot has deteriorated slightly, with congestion driving peak time speed to just 87% of the speed available.

Both Telecom and Xnet contacted us to change their brand names to Spark and WXC respectively. However, WXC volunteer numbers have dropped below the threshold for reporting this month.

Table 1: Summary of Performance Measures

(Click to zoom)

Webpage Download Time

Slow webpage downloads can be one of the most frustrating experiences when using the Internet, thus forming a large part of user satisfaction (or otherwise!)

TrueNet uses a selection of Live internet Webpages to measure performance, downloading them the same way as a standard computer. The choice of pages is updated on a regular basis. This month we include a group of four popular Australian Webpages as well the usual eight NZ webpages.


NZ Live Webpages

Performance in downloading the 8 NZ Live webpages is given in Chart 1. We are pleased to include Bigpipe in the ADSL results this month. They were top closely followed by Slingshot, and Flip. The Australian ISP, iiNet, had the longest download times - not surprising given distance, and international bandwidth.

Fibre services and Vodafone's 130M cable service are the top performers, downloading all 8 pages in under 2 seconds. Orcon was best for 50Mb/100Mb, and only marginally faster than their 10Mb/30Mb offering. Snapfibre services 50Mb/100Mb & 10Mb/30Mb had nearly identical results irrespective of service speed.

Vodafone was best of the VDSL providers, followed closely by Orcon

SITES: Blogspot, GrabOne, NZ Dating, Radio NZ, Real Estate, The Warehouse, Trademe Homepage and Wikipedia

Chart 1: Live NZ Webpage Download Time - in seconds


Australian Live Webpages

In Chart 2 download results of the Australian webpages show very similar trends to NZ live webpages. iiNet'sADSL performance is closer to the NZ ISPs,  although significantly slower, suggesting their problem is not with the Trans-tasman link.   Flip achieved the best ADSL result, Orcon and Vodafone have about equal VDSL results, and Orcon 50Mb/100Mb had the quickest fibre result.

SITES: Bureau of Meteorology,, 9News and SMH (Sydney Morning Herald).

Chart 2: Live Australian Webpage Download Time - in seconds

Speed (File Download Performance)

For TrueNet's speed test each volunteer probe downloads a 1MB file from both Auckland and Wellington either hourly, or every 5 hours depending on the data made available by each volunteer.

The best download speed from Auckland or Wellington is used from each test run, and the data points in Charts 3-6 below are the medians of these in Mb/s.

Fibre - Cable - VDSL Comparison

In Chart 3 Fibre and 130Mb Cable are well clear of other options in download performance, as expected. BothOrcon & Snap Fibre services had a small increase in speed compared with June results. Vodafone 130M cable performance is similar to last month, but with a more extreme drop in speed at 8PM.  Note that Snap offers a 50Mb/s download service, but there are insufficient volunteers to include their results in TrueNet's monthly report.

Orcon and Snap results show almost identical speeds for 30Mb/s customers, with the overall VDSL service achieving marginally slower speeds.

Chart 3: Fibre, Cable, and VDSL Download Speeds


DSL Performance by Time of Day (ToD)

VDSL & ADSL testing also measures the best of Auckland & Wellington downloads as described above. DSL speed is strongly related to the length of the copper line between the user's modem, and the cabinet or Exchange.

VDSL File Download Speed

In Chart 4 VDSL ToD Performance remains excellent, with Snap & Vodafone vying for top spot this month.  All ISPs remained above 90% of maximum speed over the month.

Chart 4: VDSL File Download Speed by Time of Day

NB: Truenet corrected the June chart for Vodafone data on research into a statistical anomoly due to one probe improving performance by 100%, but exactly in the middle of the month, altering the median results unfairly.  That probe is included this month.

ADSL File Download Speed

In Chart 5 ADSL performance remains very good across the ISPs but has declined compared to June with five ISPs achieving less than 95%.  Orcon and newcomer Bigpipe achieving an impressive 98%, or better at all times of the day.  

Slingshot service is still experiencing a dip to 87% during the evening high use period.

Note that the iiNet performance is for tests downloaded from our Sydney server to provide fair speed comparisons with NZ ISPs.

Chart 5: ADSL File Download Speed by Time of Day


Upload Speed Performance

Upload speed is important when sending files and content to the internet.  Upload speed impacts the time taken to upload a photo or synchronise data with the cloud.

TrueNet's upload test sends a 1MB file to our server in Wellington, and records the results using a similar method to the download tests, but timed from our Wellington server only.

File Upload Performance by Technology

The upload performance across technologies is given in Chart 6.

50Mb/100Mb Fibre has improved approximately 10% since our last report in May 2014. 10Mb/30Mb Fibre, and 10Mb/130Mb Cable achieve almost exactly the advertised speed, with VDSL Upload speed a bit lower on average.

Upload test results indicate virtually no network contention. Time of Day variation is minimal, at around 3% for the highest speed Fibre and Cable services, and virtually no variation in the other services. 

Chart 6: Upload Performance by Technology

The message remains patently clear, upgrade your technology beyond ADSL, and your upload speed will improve significantly.

Quarterly Feature - LFC Speed Comparison

Local Fibre Companies (LFCs) have been rolling out Fibre-to-the-Home in line with the government's UltraFast Broadband (UFB) programme.   TrueNet compares the performance of the four LFCs (ChorusEnable,Northpower, and Ultrafast Fibre) over various ISPs.   ISPs are reliant on the fibre access network via the LFC's to deliver their services, and are potentially limited by LFC network performance.  Reports in May and last November compared the download speeds of the 3 largest LFCs,  noting that not all are reaching the top "advertised" speeds of the 10Mb/30Mb and 50Mb/100Mb plans.

The performance of ChorusEnable, and Ultrafast fibre (UFF) are shown in Chart 7. Unfortunately, we do not have sufficient Northpower probes to include in the report.

UFF and Enable have a significant lead over the Chorus 50Mb/100Mb service.

The speed of all three LFCs' services has increased compared to April 2014, though none achieve the advertised maximum speed of 100Mb/s.

In the entry level 10Mb/30Mb services, the performance of all three LFCs is almost identical, with speeds of about 27Mb/s. Compared to April, this represents an overall reduction in speed, and is below the advertised 30Mb/s at all times of day.

Chart 7: LFC Speed Peformance by Product and Time of Day

Unfortunately, consumers cannot choose their LFC, as these companies enjoy a monopoly in each region they operate. However, they are required as part of their contract to meet performance measurement criteria.  From the agreement for Chorus which is available here;

The LFC contract with Crown Fibre Holdings (CFH) defines: "Ultra-Fast Broadband means a minimum uncontested 100 Mbps downlink and 50 Mbps uplink;" (p67) And "meets or exceeds the UFB policy minimum (30Mbps downstream, 10 Mbps upstream with 2.5 Mbps CIR) residential product;" (p158) in the Network Infrastructure Project. 

TrueNet will repeat this measurement quarterly.

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Spark's Bigpipe outperforms other ISPs on debut