The Truth of Broadband Speed!

9 08 2009

When was the last time you bought a commodity, called Broadband Speed from leading service provider and after few days of usage realized that the product itself is a big crap. The hype surrounding the speed of 3.1Mbps, as promised in the advertisement of the product, is utterly a fake claim and now what you could get maximum of few hundred kbps only. If this isn’t not enough, when you complained about it to service provider, you got a prompt professional reply, “We just don’t guarantee the advertised speed”. If you are among those people who are turned down by all these events, there’s good news for you, “You aren’t alone!”

 

Of course, every claim can be refuted when technology in hand can do it easily for you, but the question here isn’t about fake claims or not even speed, it’s simple. If you are paying for 3.1 Mbps, why you shouldn’t get it? Why am I allowed to compromise on speed, when every month I spend more than 700Rs for it? This debate is sparked by my friend, who recently bought Reliance’s Broadband+ card and despite many attempts his card failed to show even 2Mbps speed. So after number of complaints, he decided to uncover the story of speed behind the claims, himself. So he started taking snapshots of speed he was getting while using card, which he then sent to Reliance CC (Customer Care). At the end, Reliance agreed upon the speed lapse, but then he didn’t stop there, he wants every claim of the company should be fulfilled for every user, if users are paying for it. What’s wrong in it?

Nothing actually! Many believe that broadband service providers selling, say, 3.1Mbps service should be required to set aside the same amount of capacity in order to fulfill, IMPLICIT service level agreement (SLA). In short, if you are paying for 3.1Mbps, it should be there when you need it. But reality is different- networks are always oversubscribed in the sense that service providers will always sell more capacity than available.

Is it a rational thing to do? Perhaps yes! It is widely known fact that broadband service provider sell few thousand percent more capacity than they have. It just reflects the typical usage pattern of broadband networks. But then when high prices are coming into picture should I really bother about it?

I remember few things during the discussion with my friend. Whenever he used complain about low speed to service providers, just after that, his device showed speed up to 2Mbps+ for short time. But then it was only for short time. “How’s that possible?” He asked me. It’s difficult to answer it, but then he was quite sure that if he could get speed of 2Mbps+ for short time, it’s fairly possible to get 3.1Mbps all the time. It’s tough to answer those sporadic high speed peaks , but even for me, the question compelled me to go back in time to find answer. What’s really holding service providers from giving speed of 3.1Mbps? Are they really capable of it? If yes, then why can’t they fulfill the promise?

It was in 2006, at Tata Institute, we had got 4Mbps leased line which was fairly good enough at that time. I don’t remember the amount our institute used to pay for it, but during night time, I often saw speed peaking up to 2Mbps myself. Then what it has to do with current scenario? I know now, what might have made leased line provider to go up to 2Mbps with given capacity of 4Mbps! Its money, institute was paying for leased line, which ensured that you were given the allocated dedicated bandwidth all the time. It was mutual implicit agreement between institute & service provider. But then how are you going to ensure the same for end users who are buying you products (Not leased lines) at comparatively lower price tag?

Let’s do some calculations! On an Avg you end up paying 700Rs for 3.1Mbps (let’s assume this is avg cost of broadband in India) per month. This amounts to just 0.0035Rs per bit per month for users, which is fairly cheap. There are many GPRS/EDGE based products which guarantee speeds of few kbps in downlink with very good pricing options. But then, when my institute paid a hefty amount for leased line, it wasn’t only for infra, it was to ensure the dedicated capacity for users, which also ensured that uses will always get speeds of 2Mbps minimum all the time.

So what’s the conclusion? It’s fairly possible for broadband service providers to ensure the advertised speed of 3.1Mbps for users, provided users are willing to shell out some extra money for that dedicated capacity. And perhaps, when you end up paying more than 700Rs per month, you just don’t justify it. You may smartly say that, leased line forms a separate business case than a mere end user. It’s true! But then that’s not the difference when you have to ensure speeds, only difference I could sight, one has paid more amount for dedicated capacity bandwidth, other hasn’t  pay that much amount. The reason broadband service providers oversubscribe their networks and don’t make minimum speed guarantees is that “they must deliver high speed services at fairly cheap prices”. And you know now! It’s not about speed promised- it’s about money you shell out for bandwidth! Rest is assured! So in the end always remember that, whenever you buy broadband cards from any service provider in the market, make sure that you ask him minimum speed guaranteed by device. No one will guarantee the advertised speed for you, as an end user. But then be prepared to shell out some cash if you really want that much of speed. As I told to my friend, it’s not the speed you are paying for- it’s dedicated capacity you are paying for.

(Source: This article was originally written for SiliconIndia)

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