International capacity key to broadband performance gains

Quarterly ComCom report finds unbundling is slowing

The quarterly Epitiro/IDC report on New Zealand broadband quality for the March 2009 has been released with new graphs have showing national and international webpage download speeds for each main centre.

But the report shows only moderate improvements in overall broadband performance and finds international capacity continues to constrain further broadband speed boosts.

While the report notes a moderate improvement in quarter, it says congestion in key portions of the network continue to impact download speeds.

"This is particularly affecting cities remote from Auckland, which is the aggregation point for international web traffic."

The analysis shows peak download speed for national web content is around 5Mbit/s, more than double the top average speed of 2Mbit/s for international traffic.

“While there was only an incremental improvement in overall broadband performance in the quarter, some ISPs have been putting in work behind the scenes to boost broadband performance," says Commerce Commission telecommunications branch director Osmond Borthwick in a statement released today. "The report also shows more clearly that a lack of sufficient capacity on national and international connections is a major constraint on further improvements to the speeds that can be achieved by consumers. The Commission will continue to monitor the effect of these constraints.”

Earlier this year, Computerworld broke the news that a planned second Tasman cable project that could have helped resolve such issues had been canned.

The report finds New Zealand's overall broadband performance up 4% in the quarter. However, it also found that the gap in performance between the best and worst ISPs continued to widen, driven largely by investment in network performance by the best performing ISPs.

the report also identified a marked slowing in unbundling investment in the quarter.

"In September, 12,000 new unbundled connections were reported as Vodafone, Slingshot and Orcon shifted many of their wholesale customers onto their own network in areas served by exchanges where unbundling was available. In the March quarter, 4,000 new unbundled lines were reported, taking the total to 30,000."

A new measure for the report, showing the level of broadband reliability, found an average network downtime of approximately 14 minutes per month for most ISPs.

The report also found that new caching solutions, which store international and national content locally, can deliver a two to threefold improvement in international download speeds, but have only a marginal impact on national speeds.

International download speeds are usually less than half of national download speeds and national download speeds are significantly lower for Dunedin than the other main centres tested.

The report also notes measures being taken to boost speed by ISPs. Some ISPs are, for instance, turning off "interleaving", a data management setting, to increase performance for most customers.

Interleaving provides greater stability to broadband performance over longer distances, but decreases speed, the Commerce Commission says.

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