Broadband speed, measurements, metrics and why it matters.

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Broadband speed, measurements, metrics and why it matters.

Postby embleton » Wed Dec 03, 2014 2:18 pm

Most consumers believe that their internet speed should run at slightly below the sync speed of the broadband connection to every site on the internet irrespective of the protocols, remote server bandwidth, load through intersections, etc..., unfortunately this will not be the case, and especially so on a domestic broadband connections, but does it really matter?

The question consumers should be asking is not what speed will my internet connection support, but more importantly what can I do with the bandwidth available on my broadband connection, lets face it downloading even large files these days takes up a small percentage of our time on moderately fast ADSL2+ and superfast VDSL2 hybrid fibre broadband connections.

Web browsing needs little bandwidth, the majority of the time is spent waiting for a page to respond not physically loading it, so even slow broadband connections are sufficiently capable of doing such. If you're browsing the internet only, don't even bother to get a super fast hybrid fibre connection, it's just not worth it. The next step up would be listening to streaming radio or music, again this functionality doesn't need superfast capabilities, even if the whole family are listening to different sources.

A further step up would be handling photos, videos and the like when interacting on social media. This needs a moderately fast connection for uploading video or playing it back, especially if it's medium or higher quality video, doing this on a slow connection isn't a nice experience. Really you need a downstream 2Mbps connection or higher for these tasks, and 750Kbps upstream as a minimum, but its preferable for the connection to support higher upstream speeds than specified. And this is where the upstream speed really comes into play when uploading video or photos, and is usually a factoring factor in the equation when deciding on whether you should upgrade to superfast hybrid fibre, as it's the upstream bandwidth that is far better by a factor of ten or more on a super fast home broadband connection compared to standard ADSL2+ broadband.

Streaming and on-demand TV from the likes of Amazon Prime, Sky, Netflix, YouTube and iTunes among others is very demanding downstream speed wise, and really you do need a downstream connection speed exceeding 4Mbps or 8Mbps for each standard definition (SD) or high definition (HD) stream, respectively. If you're doing other tasks, such as social media interaction, browsing the internet, email, smartphone and tablet internet tasks then an additional 2Mbps downstream for a total of 6/10Mbps downstream is necessary. For most families doing all these tasks in this paragraph, then a downstream speed of approximately 12-15Mbps is sufficient unless everyone is doing streaming in the family concurrently then hybrid superfast broadband is necessary in the order of 20Mbps or greater downstream. When streaming it also depends on what protocol is used for the streaming protocol for the upstream bandwidth requirements. TCP is an acknowledgement protocol, so upstream bandwidth is also important. For ADSL2+ Annex A it is unlikely you'll be able to support more than a single video stream, HD quality, before almost saturating the upstream bandwidth requirements using TCP; YouTube uses TCP, some streaming services with the appropriate streamer run over UDP, this doesn't have acknowledged requirements, so generally it will support receiving concurrent streaming feeds on an ADSL2+ that has sufficient downstream bandwidth.

Another factor that most don't understand from the likes of BT is their fair use policy for monthly use is set rather low at 20GB a month, for streaming this is not enough for most families. My advice is don't bother going with any internet provider that has a monthly cap if you're streaming movies, TV programmes, etc... Or select a broadband package that has unlimited use, look carefully at each provider's packages when comparing, as it's not usually like for like in most cases.

Gaming doesn't really need high-speed connection speeds but low latency on the broadband line, some providers offer pro-broadband packages for ADSL2+/VDSL2 that allow the line profile to be set to gaming, and this improves that factor that's important for those playing multi-user games online. For online gaming, Virgin Media isn't the best choice because the latency is far worse than the majority of ADSL2+/VDSL2 broadband lines offered by other providers. Latency is also a factor when chatting over VoIP and using video conferencing such as FaceTime or Skype, so if you wish a nice experience in this respect pick your internet provider carefully.

Running a website, FTP, media and gaming servers among others on a broadband connection requires that the upstream has sufficient bandwidth and bandwidth isn't capped in any way. It also really needs a fixed IP address for the broadband connection concerned for the best reliability, as if this changes then your internet servers will be offline, usually, until you've reconfigured the domain. But running servers on a super fast hybrid broadband connection is now a real reality and will diversify the Internet generally and it will allow those doing so greater control over their own server(s). If you're running servers then my suggestion goes for the fastest superfast broadband connection available, and use FTTC VDSL2 hybrid fibre, as it performs better than Virgin Media's offering all round upstream, speed wise, and has fixed IP offerings which Virgin Media don't do currently.
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