One of the most common questions we are asked from our customers is “How do we get a Fast Internet connection?”
I guess the best way to describe this is by drawing a parallel to the automobile industry. When we look at fast cars there are many different types of fast cars depending on the intended purpose, for example you wouldn’t attempt to use a rally car on a formula 1 circuit and expect it to be competitive.
Fast Internet in many ways is very similar to the fast car analogy and what needs to be understood is what actually determines a fast connection in the customer eyes. In New Zealand we now have a number of ways to connect to the internet (depending on your location), but this may have little effect on the appearance of a fast internet connection to the end user.
Basically when we look at the connecting to the internet a chain (from the consumer to the end point) of services connect together to provide the end solution to the end user.
Firstly we have the router or firewall, this is the device that is located on your site and manages the traffic (deciding on what local traffic inside your network is, and what traffic needs to go to the internet). The router or firewall is sometimes referred to as a CPE or Customer Premise Equipment device. These devices can sometimes be provided by the internet provider or by the customer but be warned, a slow router can badly effect your connection!
Secondly we have the “Last mile connection technology”, this is what is used to connect your premises to your internet service provider. This could be ADSL, VDSL (which is generally a copper or analogue phone line type solution) or a UFB (Ultra-Fast Broadband Solution) which is generally delivered over fibre optic cable.
Thirdly there is the Internet Service provider (ISP), this is the company that connects you to the internet. While for most, the ISP provides the above services, in most situations the last mile connection is contracted to a third party. In the case of ADSL and VDSL Chorus is generally the supplier while fibre is whoever the company is that has the local ultra-fast contract to supply services. The ISP then takes that “last mile connection” and effectively supplies internet at their prescribed rate.
What needs to be noted here is in most cases ISPs buy traffic based on how much international capacity they require (expensive) and how much national capacity they require. Basically the ISP buys “pure” capacity and divides it amongst their customers. The more they divide the bandwidth up, the worse the contention ratio (ability to overload the connection) becomes.
So now that you understand the process of how the internet is delivered to your premises you can understand the complexity of actually delivering a fast internet connection.
The next thing we need to look at is how we measure what a “Fast Internet” connection is. This can vary from customer to customer depending on the user scenario, but it is important to understand some of the common terminology used to measure an internet connection.
Some of the terminology may be:
This is how wide your pipe is open, in theory the wider the pipe the more data than can be delivered and the faster the internet appears. (Not always the case)
This how long it takes for the traffic to get from your device to the endpoint. In some situations this is more important than bandwidth when looking into fast internet.
This is a measure of latency over time. To explain this simply we might measure latency and get a latency result of 30ms, 5 minutes later we measure the latency again and get a result of 40ms. The difference between measurement first and second measurement (10ms) is called jitter. Real time applications like games and VoIP do not perform well with jitter.
To measure your current connection, a good place to start is to use the “Speed Test” application that is freely available (http://www.speedtest.net).
So to put this all into perspective, if you’re a “downloader” (movies, large files and the likes) latency actually doesn’t matter. What you want is that big pipe that can continually stream data. Conversely if you’re an online game player then latency is important. This is because applications like games carry out a lot of “chatting” backwards and forth across your connection.
So which is the best way to connect to get fast internet?
As explained there are many pieces to the puzzle. We are hearing many telecommunications companies argue that fibre is no better bandwidth than copper. While this may be correct (depends on the fibre connection you purchase) the latency is far lower and the jitter will be constant across fiber and therefore to the customer has the appearance of a faster internet connection.
Another common technology for connecting customers to the internet is via some type of radio link. This is not to be confused with internal wireless access to a local network, the radio I refer to here are the links from the customer premises to the internet provider. While radio can boast some huge capacity the latency and jitter can make it appear very slow. This generalization does not apply to the licensed commercial grade radio equipment which is not generally used to connect customers to the internet. (These radio links usually start at about a $10,000 install cost!)
The long and the short is that a fast internet connection is a combination of three things,
1. Biggest bandwidth
2. Lowest latency
3. Lowest jitter
I guess another way to look at this is would you rather have a copper (ADSL / VDSL) based internet connection running at full speed to get your connection or a fibre connection running at idle?
At Logical Solutions we choose not to be an ISP, we believe that this is a specialist task and needs some high level expertise. In saying that we have developed a good relationship with “Lightwire” due to their ability provide good solid connections at a reasonable price with a high level of technical expertise. They deliver fast internet services over a number of different mediums.