Saturday, August 30, 2008

Bandwidth: Limits, Speeds, Standards?

Christopher Blizzard recently wrote about Comcast (a major US ISP) imposing bandwidth limits on their customers -- unfortunately, something those of us in Australia know all too well.

My initial thoughts, included a comment:

I don’t think it’s ‘that’s a huge pile of angry non-americans’ any more that it is ‘the rest of us, would like to welcome you, the americans — to needing to put up with what the rest of the world deals with on a daily basis’ or, consumerism.

After pondering on it for a while longer, especially in relation to local users -- I have to wonder:

  • If the average cost of bandwidth in Australia is $50 AUD for 5/GB of bandwidth, which at 1.5M p/sec equates to 3.75hrs of sustained download time -- what does an average household actually do with their internet the rest of the time?

  • Comparing the three ISPs I deal with on a daily basis:

  • Telstra, ran a TV commercial recently where they demonstrated a 'BigPond Connected Home' with 2 Adults, 1 Adult Child, 2 Children and a Dog using the internet at the same time, one for streaming TV, one for viewing Facebook, one for browsing eBay and one for booking travel.

    Presuming the family only paid the 'average' fee, $59.95 at 1.5M gives you 600M -- yes, that's Megabytes (not a typo), which excess usage charged at $0.15 a megabyte.

    Looking at the list of Telstra unmetered sites, Facebook isn't in the list, YouTube isn't, neither is eBay, which begs the question -- how much is the average family's internet bill per month.

  • SingTel/Optus come out marginally better, providing a 15GB plan for $59.95 AUD a month, with no excess data charges -- but a throttled speed of 128kbps once you've hit your limit, as well as not apparent unmetered content.

  • Internode came out better still, providing a 25GB plan at ADSL2 speeds for $59.95 with no excess usage charge, albeit a slower throttled speed of 64kbps, but provided an extensive online games and free software unmetered mirror, as well as a variety of uncapped site access.

In the last week, i'd been using my Playstation 3 at home a fair amount -- and decided to do a bit of research into how much bandwidth the average game used by running a few demos, plugging my DSL model directly into the PS3, thus removing the rest of the traffic from my LAN from the equation.

  1. Call Of Duty 4, 6-man multiplayer with a 15 minute time-limit used 23M of data the first time, and 24M of data the second time (the only difference was the map we used).

  2. Grand Theft Auto 4, 12-man multiplayer with a 20 minute time limit used 40M of data each time.

  3. The new demo for EA Sports NHL '09 came out on the Australian PS3 Network -- which I promptly grabbed, as a 'normal use case' test for the average household, at 1102M on it's own, that accounts for $169.33 AUD of excess usage charge at Telstra, or nearly a tenth of the available bandwidth at Optus using the above numbers on it's own.

After returning my LAN to the equation, I then stumbled over the following article, that talked about the USA lagging Japan in terms of aggregate bandwidth for the medium-to-long term and thought, sure -- Japan can reach the Japanese at 63M, possibly the Japanese eBay or Amazon too, but what's the speed like from there to Europe, or the USA.

I understand that is actually costs a lot of money for anything to get to Australia & the cost of cable, backchannel links and maintenance is prohibitive.

I also understand that Telstra is still in the position where they can play overlord to the communications network in this country and a mentality of 'we built the links, you paid for them, now we profit from them' is the standard, but that's the case with any 'Shareholder Concerned' business.

Maybe things would have been different (better?) if the government had forced Telstra to hand over control of the physical line infrastructure to AUSTEL 15-20 years ago, rather than dissolving AUSTEL, forming the ACA (and ACMA) instead and creating yet another mid-range government department while allowing the sole telecoms provider to become a complete juggernaut too.

They didn't -- and now we the consumers are paying and will continue to pay until either:

a) government regulates in consumers favour across the country (rather than concentrating on 'the bush')


b) the cows come home. (especially with the G9 facing resistance from the ACCC with their Fibre-To-The-Node proposal and Telstra pulling the telecoms version of an All-In-Over-The-Top-Raise, launching their own proposal for the rebuilding and revamping of Australia's telecommunications infrastructure.)

According to Chris's other comments, at least the pricing situation here isn't as bad as the one in South Africa were the equivalent of $140 AUD buys you 10GB, but that's for a userbase of around 10,000 users -- not 16.6 million.

The next few years will be interesting.

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