April 2016 Urban broadband Report

NZ Internet now Better than USA

This month we compare webpage download speeds with those reported by the FCC (USA's equivalent of the Commerce Commission), who use nearly identical methods to TrueNet.  In New Zealand, ISPs performance in copper delivery is far superior to that of their counterparts in the USA. The worst NZ ISP is well ahead of the best USA ISP for Time of Day performance.  

Actual speed performance is almost double that of the USA, with TrueNet measuring an average 11Mb/s for ADSL; while the USA ranges from 2 to 6Mb/s for various ISPs, and those speeds are fixed to the pricing for each speed offered.

Fibre in the USA is only offered by a couple of major ISPs, and the best speed in the most recent test was just 50Mb/s, which equates to 110% above the advertised speed.  The NZ equivalent weighted average speed is 53Mb/s. 

This month we compare ISPs, not Brands, so for example Vocus appears in place of Slingshot, Orcon and Flip which are brands of Vocus, or for example Spark and BigPipe are combined.

Index

Webpage Download Time

International Download Speed
NZ Download Speed
Upload Speed
Glossary

Comments

Summary of Performance Measures

A reminder to readers that this month's results now group ISPs not their pre-merger Brands. Therefore care is needed in comparing figures between this month, and last month for Spark and Vocus.

ISP  Brands
Vodafone  TelstraClear, Paradise, Xnet
Spark  Spark, Skinny, Bigpipe
Vocus  Slingshot, Orcon, Flip (Woosh & Maxnet previously)
2Degrees  Snap and 2Degrees

 

Voyager 100Mb/s Fibre and Vodafone Cable again reached 100% of their advertised speed throughout the day.

Unfortunately, we have insufficient panelists to continue reporting TrustPower 50Mb/s fibre service this month due to changes in our panelists.  However, note that with all  TrustPower fibre panelists combined, the actual speed compared with advertised speed is very much improved compared to March (see Chart 7)

The NZ Livepage download speed results in Table 1 are much slower than the USA and Austrailian results because the NZ Livepages are considerably bigger, and have  more graphics resulting in much longer time needed to download entire pages.  Next month we will increase the USA websites.

Table 1: Summary of Performance Measures

*Note - Cable and Fibre speed comparisons show minimum hour (slowest) speed to Advertised Service Speed; ADSL & VDSL compare minimum hour (slowest) speed to the hour with maximum (As fast as your line will allow) speed.

Webpage Download Time

Methodology

Responsive website browsing is valued by most Internet users, and conversely, slow-loading sites can be extremely frustrating.

TrueNet tests Internet browsing by downloading a selection of Live Webpages from NZ, Australia, and the USA, measuring the time to fully download all files on the page.  These pages are changed from time-to-time. This month there are 7 NZ pages, 4 Australian, and 4 USA pages.

The charts in this section have three points for each ISP entry showing the Min. Hour (minimum time to download a webpage); the Max. Hour (maximum time to download a webpage); and the Median of all hours.  The best ISP has a low median, and a short arrow showing the spread between peak and off-peak performance.

We download 7 popular NZ websites from each connection, and compare the average time taken to download all websites.  This test replicates daily activity for many people, and we group the websites into regions, NZ, Australia and USA, so that readers can compare ISPs based on their own preferences.

NZ Webpages

A small increase in browsing time is showing this month across all tests due to webpage changes, but has no impact on the relative performance of ISPs.

Variation in download time of NZ webpages is better than in March, with services of VDSL, and fibre/cable are showing almost no spread in minimum to maximum hour results. (exception being 100Mb/s Other ISPs)

Preliminary results for 200Mb/s services are included for the first time.  Although the number of panelists for this service speed is small, it is interesting to see that there is no difference in performance compared to other fibre or cable speeds. Our on-going results have shown that the difference between webpage download times of 30Mb/s and 100Mb/s services is small.  Moving to 200Mb/s does not offer further improvement to measurement results, because webpage download times hit limitations due to the small size of the files being downloaded. As a result, the 100Mb/s, and 200Mb/s services never reach close to their advertised speeds when downloading small files.

Chart 1: NZ Webpage Download Time - in seconds

US Webpages

We download 4 popular US websites from each connection, and compare the average time taken to download all websites.   This test replicates daily activity for many people, but to provide the ability for readers to compare between ISPs based on their own preferences, we group the websites into regions, NZ, Australia and USA.

 

There is minimal spread within each technology, and only minor differences between technologies, but the scale becomes more extreme when smaller ISPs are included.   Other ISPs in ADSL and 200Mb/s fibre show much varitation by time-of-day.   Note the similarity in performance across all fibre speeds to the USA.  

Chart 2: USA Webpage Download Time - in seconds

Australian Webpages

We download 4 popular Australian websites from each connection, and compare the average time taken to download all websites.  This test replicates daily activity for many people, but to provide the ability for readers to compare between ISPs based on their own preferences, we group the websites into regions, NZ, Australia and USA.

 

There is a slight reduction in webpage download times this month, which could be due to Webpage content changes.   There is a small increase in the variation between minimum and maximum across technologies other than ADSL. 

Chart 3: Australian Webpage Download Time - in seconds

Speed (File Download Performance)

For TrueNet's speed tests each panelist's probe regularly downloads a 1MB or 2MB file from Auckland, Wellington, Dallas and Sydney.  The faster the connection, the larger the file we need to download to ensure that the maximum speed is reached during our test. 100Mb/s connections easily reach full speed before 2MB of data is downloaded.  Slower connections can test accurately with much smaller files. Our tests on Satellite, Wireless and ADSL can tolerate a file size of just 300k.

New Zealand tests take the best of each test run from Auckland or Wellington.   International tests take the result from each test run from Dallas, or Sydney. 

Our reported measure is the average hourly speed as a percentage of the best hourly speed in the month, this measures the ISP performance rather than the technology performance.

International File Download Speed

TrueNet tests File Download Speeds from our servers in Dallas & Sydney to measure performance to our international neighbours.

We ensure the download file is not held in New Zealand (cached), so that the test truly measures international performance.  The results are selected from the 8pm to 10pm evening busy period, when any congestion is most likely to be observed.

 

Fibre & Cable

We researched what is important to consumers in our online survey, and found that the US download speeds are considered to be more important than Australian, so we have updated Chart 4 to better show speeds from the USA on the right axis.   They are now sorted according to US results, Vocus (Flip, Slingshot and Orcon), and 2Degrees had the top Fibre speeds for both their 30Mb/s and 100Mb/s services.   For 100Mb/s fibre, Vodafone and Spark (Spark & BigPipe)  had very similar results, while Voyager, all Other ISPs and MyRepublic were on a lower tier.   

From Sydney, 2Degrees, Vocus and Spark had the best download speeds.

Chart 4: Fibre & Cable File Download Speed - Dallas & Sydney

ADSL & VDSL (Copper Connections)

Copper connections (ADSL & VDSL) have a speed that is dependent on the distance between the home modem, and the exchange equipment which means that ISPs do not have any influence on the peak speed of each connection.  To overcome this limitation, the Australia, and USA speeds are referenced to the average NZ download speed of the respective ISPs.  The speed reported is from the 8pm-10pm evening period.

 

ADSL: Vodafone from both the USA and Sydney is the best performed ISP.   Vocus from Sydney came in just under 70%, lower than in March, where both Orcon and Slingshot were about 80%.

VDSL: Results from the USA show little change from last month, with Voyager having the best performance downloading our file from the USA.  Voyager and Vodafone both have better Sydney results than all other ISPs.

Chart 5: ADSL, VDSL File Download Speed - Dallas & Sydney

New Zealand File Download Speed

Comparing performance by time-of-day is important as it shows the service degradation when everyone is using the Internet during the evening hours of 8pm to 10pm.  TrueNet uses the best of a pair of Auckland and Wellington download tests to calculate the median NZ results by hour over the month for each monitored connection.  We take the average of all median results with each ISP for each hour.

A poor result typically shows the line drop below 90%, which usually occurs in the busy period between 7pm and 10pm, i.e. if this is true, the average user for that ISP is getting less than 90% of their line capability.

 

Technology Comparison

A small improvement in the evening performance of Copper (ADSL, VDSL), and 30Mb/s Fibre is evident this month.  However, 100Mb/s Fibre and 100Mb/s Cable speeds are both below 90% during the busy hour, a similar Time of Day (ToD) performance to March.  Our new 200Mb/s median has improved for most hours of the day.  As shown below, copper is extraordinary compared to the best ISPs performance in the USA.

Chart 6: Fibre, Cable, and Copper (DSL) Download Speed

Fibre & Cable ISP Comparison indexed to Advertised Speed

       Lets compare with USA

Speeds are measured by the FCC (similar to the NZ Commerce Commission) in the USA using almost identical measurement methods to TrueNet.  Actual speeds may surprise, USA copper (ADSL) average speeds range from 1.8Mb/s to 6.2Mb/s, they also have some mixed ADSL/VDSL services (AT&T U-Verse) which has an average speed of 16.4Mb/s.  The New Zealand average for ADSL is 11Mb/s and VDSL is 30Mb/s.  The main reason for this is the difference in marketing, in the USA, DSL is sold as specific speeds, all the way from 512kb/s, (apparently 1Mb/s is very popular in the USA!)  whereas in New Zealand, speeds are sold as "Fast as the line will allow" which allows a lot more headroom for speed.  Chart USA 1 shows the actual average speeds by technology and ISP.  

Chart USA 1: The speed of the Internet in the USA

 

But despite selling by specific speeds, ISPs in USA are unable to match NZ ISPs.   Chart USA 2 is a comparison of peak and off-peak speeds in the USA ( from here FCC) where the scale is re-interpreted to match TrueNet scales.  The AT&T - U-Verse DSL is a mixed VDSL and ADSL service, and is being compared by the FCC as though it were ADSL, hence it achieves over 100%, even though its average speed is just 16Mb/s.  It should be noted that VDSL is rarely sold as a seperate service in the USA, but simply as part of another service (U-Verse is a package where the ISP decides whether you will receive VDSL or ADSL for the same price, much like 2Degrees does in NZ).

Chart USA 2: USA Speeds as a percentage of Advertised Speed

There are just two Fibre suppliers with only Verizon averaging better speed than they advertise, very like Voyager and 2Degrees.   However, despite having six Cable suppliers only half of them reach advertised speed in the peak usage period. Compare that with Vodafone Cable in NZ which averages well above 100% for all panelists at all times even between 7 and 11pm, on a par with one of the best USA Cable companies, Mediacom.  

In Chart 7, Vodafone Cable, and 2Degrees & Voyager Fibre again averaged at, or above advertised speed.

In our second month for Trustpower, they made a significant improvement in the late afternoon / evening performance from 70% of advertised speed at 8PM, to almost 90%.  Unfortunately, Trustpower panelist numbers fell below our limit for the 50Mb/s service, but we have been able to combine all Trustpower panelists in Chart 7.

MyRepublic ToD also improved this month, possibly due to an improvement in Latency (see our latency charts), though they continue to slow significantly in the evening.

Chart 7: Fibre & Cable Performance as Percentage of Advertised Speed

 

DSL Performance by Time of Day (ToD)

High Speed Copper (VDSL) File Download Speed

VDSL performance was steady again this month, with most users receiving better than 95% of maximum-hour speed throughout the month.  

Compare this with Chart USA, where the best ISP Centurylink averages 87%, despite delivering constrained speeds on DSL by slowing the actual line speed to the advertised speed.   In NZ all ISPs sell by "as fast as your line will allow", so achieve an average speed of almost 10Mb/s for ADSL and 30Mb/s for VDSL.  ( from here FCC)

VDSL is continuing to be updated to higher speeds by Chorus which is causing a "jagged" curve, relating to changes in connection optimisation during the month.  This impacts the Median, which is sensitive to sudden changes.  

There is a little change from last month, and all ISPs provide better than 90% of Min. to Max. speed.

Chart 8: VDSL File Download Speed by Time of Day

Low Speed Copper (ADSL) File Download Speed

ADSL shows very little variation this month.  TPG (Australia) is the only ISP shown with much Time of Day (ToD) variation.  All NZ ISPs achieve better than 90% of Min. to Max. speed, and are significantly better than the results shown in Chart USA.

Chart 9: ADSL File Download Speed by Time of Day

Upload Speed - Performance

Upload speed is important to users sending large amounts of data through the Internet, or loading files to the Cloud.   TrueNet's upload test sends a 1MB file to our Wellington server, and records the results using a similar method to the download tests, but measured from Wellington only.

 

By Technology

The long-term Upload speed performance has been quite consistent over many months. In general, there is very little evidence of congestion in the upstream direction, though there has been congestion from time to time.

Chart 10: Upload Performance by Technology

Upload Time of Day Performance - by ISP

The 50Mb/s Other ISPs lifted because a small number of 2Degrees panelists are now included in that category.  Historically, 2Degrees and Orcon have averaged close to advertised speed, but the average of all other ISPs is typically down near 40Mb/s.

Each of the named ISPs achieved above the 20Mb/s advertised speed, while Other ISPs were just under the advertised speed.

Chart 11: Fibre & Cable ToD Upload Speed by ISP

Volunteers are needed in the following Technologies: 

  • ADSL - 2Degrees, Spark, Vodafone;
  • VDSL - Slingshot (Vocus), Vodafone, Voyager;
  • Fibre - TrustPower 50Mb/s, Voyager 100Mb/s

Volunteer here

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