Broadband speed: how far behind are we?

From all the talk, you would think that we were far behind on broadband speeds. I tested that speed from home (click here) to San Francisco. I now tested it from here in the US (in Georgia) to San Francisco and got download speeds of 1.4Mbps (as opposed to 2.7Mbps from Australia). Interestingly, the same speed was recorded from Georgia to Melbourne. This surprised me as I ‘felt’ that broadband in the US was faster.

The big difference is in upload speeds. I got 0.7Mbps from the US but only 0.23Mbps from Australia.

This all suggests to me that the issue may be as much network configuration and engineering in Australia as capacity in the ‘last mile.’ There are lots of moving parts to broadband and focussing on just one is likely to be a bad idea.

4 thoughts on “Broadband speed: how far behind are we?”

  1. It isn’t the ‘bandwidth’ you should care about. It’s the latency the time it takes a packet to travel to the server. this isn’t bandwidth specific.

    bandwidth is important if you want to download a movie, or something which has a lot of data.


  2. We have a couple of cables slinking their way across the Pacific from Australia’s east coast to the US, but occasionally they get dug into by underwater wombats, so depending on which ISP you’re with, you lose access to US Internet sites.

    The majority of the data you’re talking about downloading from San Fran to Australia has to squeeze through this relatively narrow “pipe”, rather than across the expansive land-based network that exists in the US.

    Are you going to start campaigning for more bandwidth to the US now?

    If you are, you might be pleased to see how far wholesale Internet Protocol networks like Agile have come in connecting Australian cities. Unlike last-mile connections, redundancy in these long-distance links is desirable.

    The two transpacific cables, however, are run by a monopoly, Southern Cross Cables Network, serving 240 gigabits per second, with capacity for a terrabit per second. Well, I suppose it’s not a monopoly, since Internet traffic can go through Asia and other routes to get between Australia and the US. It’s just the most direct way to get from the east coast of Australia to Silicon Valley

    Apparently Telstra isn’t happy with paying someone for that traffic, and wants its own private terrabit cable to the US. Would there be any public policy rationale for forcing it to share its transpacific network with other Australian ISP’s?

    I like to be simple and think happy thoughts: a competing transpacific cable means more than double the bandwidth to our favourite US web sites/file servers/peer-to-peer file sharers. Perhaps Telstra’s new cable would help our latency issue?

    Some lower latency to the US would be great for Australian video game players and, I suppose, VoIP users. But the current 200ms round-trip is more than sufficient for web browsing and, well, pretty much anything else.

    Having said that, you noticed that the Internet felt faster in the US. I would say this is because the latency from Georgia to San Francisco must be something like 30ms. That is, quicker than you can say “Jack Flash”.

    It might be unnecessarily fast, but it is nice.


  3. I have recently moved to Runcorn, Brisbane. As an IT person, I would get a broadband connection. Before I applied for TPG service, I checked the Telstra web site to see whether ADSL was available in the area. I got confirmation from the Telstra Website that ADSL was available for the phone line I have in my new house.

    Later, I got a reply from TPG. I was told that because of the pair gain phone line ADSL2 was actually not available. So I asked TPG to contact Telstra to remove pair gain phone line to get ADSL (not too bad), but following that further tests revealed that ADSL was not available in my local exchange. Telstra then replied that they did not have any plans to upgrade the local exchange in near feature. Consequentially I had to cancel the application.

    So, no ADSL, no cable and no wireless in Runcorn. People suggested ISDN and Satellite but they are not broadband and are extremely expensive. As Runcorn is a massive residential area, I can hardly imagine after so many years (say around 6 years) Telstra still haven’t done their job for a suburban area in close proximity to the city. What is the concept of 6 years in the Internet world? It is total different age, comparable to the time gap between black and white TV and colour TV.

    The building of the Internet infrastructure have been so far behind other developed countries, it is so amazing. This reminds me of one thing. Why the Liberal government have been so keen to sell Telstra?

    Until now I have not cared about the political rows around the sale of Telstra. Recently, I have noticed that the federal government has been reluctant in pushing broadband. This can be associated with Liberal’s enthusiasm for selling Telstra.

    The Howard government just wants to sell Telstra at higher price, to prove how correct it is and how beneficial it is to sell Telstra.

    Without being pushed by the government and the markets (because of Telstra’s monopoly position), they can expand the present infrastructure slowly hence making their profit figures look more attractive and then the Howard government can sell at a higher price.

    But these are at the cost of poor coverage of broadband in Australia.


  4. Pat,

    Besides the Southern Cross pair of cables there are low capacity links out of Perth to the US via Asia and, more importantly, the Reach cable pair running from the Australian east coast to the US via Japan, which is substantially owned by Telstra. This is the route that my ISP (not BigPond) usually uses,

    It is initially 40 Gb/s with upgradable design capacity to 640 Gb.

    Both S/Cross and Reach are “self-healing” cables, in that if one cable of the pair is dug up by a trawler, traffic is supposed to seamlessly switch to using the other cable.

    There is no way to reduce latency, which on a broadband connection to California is about 170 ms. Photons won’t travel any faster down a fibre cable even if you put them on an Australian Workplace Agreement. Latency to the US east coast is closer to 240ms and the UK via the US is over 300.

    Interactive game players who want sub-20 ms need to use an ISP that supplies its own local game server.

    We’re on aa nominally 12.5 mb/s ADSL2+ link and I have occasionally seen that speed when downloading files from a local site, but most times access speed is limited by server bandwidth and latency.

    Telstra could have deployed ADSL2+ several years ago but I suspect they didn’t because it would have undermined their now aborted fibre-to-the-node grand plan.


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