What’s Your Speed? Understanding Internet Speeds

What’s Your Speed? Understanding Internet Speeds

We have all heard someone ask (and I’m sure, at times, asked ourselves) the following or similar questions; “The speed test tells me I can download 4Mb of video in 3sec, but it just keeps stopping – why?” or “my download and upload speeds are 512kBps – why is skype so erratic?”. More often than not, we almost always blame the internet or Retail Service Provider. Let’s delve a little deeper though and endeavour to make this complex subject a little clearer…

By understanding all the factors involved in upload and download internet speeds, we should be able to take some of the frustration out of this problematic issue.

A basic speed test measures how long it takes for a specific data pack to get from a test server to your computer – this is how download speeds are calculated. To get your upload speed, the opposite occurs; in other words, the data pack is sent from your computer to the test server, with information relayed back to your computer. Another aspect we have to consider is the data pack size and the time of day /night the speed test was performed. Other factors that make our internet speeds fluctuate – and therefore difficult to calculate – are the dependability and quality of the connection. Are all the cables etc. performing as they should between the exchange and original source, e.g. home, business premises? Is our own personal IT equipment and the programmes installed on it functioning properly? What is the capability of the backhaul transmission (return trip) at your nearest exchange? What is the load capacity of the international cables? How many of us are using the testing sites server at the same time? Of course, the internet carriers themselves also play a part.

Australia only ranks a very low 62nd in the world for speed, with consumers only receiving 64 percent of speeds promised, according to 23,764 surveys run by Ookla, Canberra’s TransACT network. With the introduction of the NBN, our focus has again been on upload and download speeds. The NBN co has said “internet speeds are the Retail Service Providers responsibility” – simply put, the carriers must ensure they purchase enough capacity and the right combination of features to accommodate its customer’s internet use – something that hasn’t always been happening. At the moment, the majority of Australian internet users connect to broadband through copper-based ADSL networks and their plans are sold without any reference to speed, but by download limits.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) have been monitoring our Retail Service Providers and have picked up on some anomalies in the advertising and promotion of internet speeds. As a result, a formal monitoring programme will be established, which could – for example – involve a random sample of homes/businesses having testing equipment installed. This will enable the ACCC to observe whether the consumers are actually receiving what they were promised. Good news for all!

The fact is, fibre optic cables offer a quicker more dependable service than the old copper wiring or HpC cables that we have tolerated over the years. Our speed tests with NBN will improve because our speeds will improve – it’s as simple as that. Now, with the ACCC monitoring our service providers, we are guaranteed to get what we pay for – another win for NBN consumers!

One Comment

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