September 2016 Urban Broadband Report

ISP Copper Performance Gap

ADSL and VDSL show a considerable spread in performance for NZ webpage download times, Vodafone ADSL takes twice as long as the best ADSL Slingshot,  the worst VDSL Voyager takes almost twice as long as Spark.  73% of NZ households depend on ADSL to see their favourite websites.

September saw all ISPs with fast fibre showing a clean result with the advertised speed of 100Mb/s being reached at all times of the day.

Website download times were impacted by a USA website having a bad month, impacting all ISP results and changing the comparative results between technologies to demonstrate how a bad website affects all ISPs regardless of technology.

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Index

Webpage Download Time

  • NZ
  • USA
  • AUS

NZ Download Speed by Time of Day (ToD)

  • Technology comparison
  • Fibre & Cable
  • Copper (ADSL and VDSL)

International Download Speed

  • Fibre & Cable
  • Copper (ADSL and VDSL)

Upload Speed
Glossary

Summary of Performance Measures

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.  The 9pm column is the actual average speed at 9pm for each product, for ADSL and VDSL that average is taken over all ISPs because actual speed is subject to the distance between our test points and the exchange equipment - ISPs do not influence this.

Webpage Download Time

There is quite a large variation between technologies in time to download NZ webpages, with ADSL and VDSL taking much longer than cable or fibre.  Australian webpage download times show a similar, but less extreme pattern to NZ, with USA webpage download times being more evenly distributed, because distance impacts speed across all technologies.

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, 3 Australian, and 9 USA pages (recently adjusted to reflect survey opinions).

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 websites from each connection, and compare the average time taken to download them.  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.

Max = Busy hour,

Median = the most likely time to download a page outside the busy hour,

 Min = The best time all day, ie likely very early in the morning.

 

NZ Webpages

NZ websites increased in complexity this month, taking a little longer to download, with our scale changing from 2s to 2.5s for the average download time.  For most products that meant little change, especially in the order of best to worst.  However, the extremes were quite different, Australia's TPG download times increased by 25% and the Vodafone median almost doubled to 2s from 1.1s last month.

The gap between best and worst is even greater for NZ ISPs.

  • ADSL Slingshot panelists can download all websites in 6.7 seconds, but Vodafone panelists take 13.8s
  • VDSL Spark can download all websites in 3.6s but it takes Voyager almost double that at 6.4 seconds
Chart 1: NZ Average Webpage Download Time - in seconds

US Webpages

We download 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.

 

Large changes in the Live US webpages led to an increased download time for all technologies, greatly reducing the relative difference between technologies.

The interesting impact is that all technologies and ISP results are very similar.  This is likely to be due to the San Francisco Chronicle website running so slowly that it impacts the average.  This result demonstrates how much a website performance can impact all connections, Fibre included, and not just ADSL.  That website has now greatly improved since these measurements were taken.

Chart 2: USA Average Webpage Download Time - in seconds

Australian Webpages

We download 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 almost no detectable change from last month.  TrueNet measurements time the download of a website directly to all of our panelist connections around the country.  However, the range of ADSL results from Australian websites suggests Vodafone has a problem with connections to Australia.  Spark, Slingshot, Orcon, and 2Degrees ADSL are all roughly the same with only small changes from last month.   Flip remains slightly ahead with more consistency than Slingshot.

Chart 3: Australian Average Webpage Download Time - in seconds

Speed (File Download Performance)

Consistency in performance has returned with most technologies measuring at, or above advertised speeds, at all times of day.

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, although these days with higher caps we can use a 1MB file.

International tests take the result from each test run from Dallas or Sydney. 

Update 12 October:  Many tests were updated mid September to 2MB or 5MB, so new reports will be based on 2MB tests for faster connections to allow for ramp-up (the time taken to reach the fastest speed possible on a line, which varies by ISP and technology). 

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

Cable & 100Mb/s Fibre delivered above advertised speed again in September, with the 100Mb/s services less affected in the evening busy period.

200Mb/s Fibre delivered at, or above 180Mb/s  - 90% of advertised speed - and had less peaks and dips when measured by time of day (ToD) during September.

ADSL and VDSL had another very stable month, reflected in the Technology chart, and the Time of Day (ToD) charts for ADSL & VDSL ISPs below.

Chart 4: Fibre, Cable, and Copper (DSL) File Download Speed

Fibre & Cable Comparison - File Download Speeds

September results show absolutely no congestion from our server to panelist connections, with all ISPs included in TrueNet's measurement achieving the advertised speed of their products at all times.

Generally, Time of Day performance has been flat for September.  Vodafone Cable dips in the evening, but remains equal, or better compared with the speed of the Fibre ISPs.

Chart 5: 100Mbs Fibre & Cable Performance from NZ

DSL Performance by Time of Day (ToD) Indexed speeds

We use an index for copper reporting because ADSL and VDSL are sold using the phrase "as fast as your line will allow", so we find the maximum speed, and compare each result with that maximum.

High Speed Copper (VDSL) File Download Speed

VDSL performance was slightly better this month on August results. Each ISP improved a little with the exception of Orcon, which held steady. Vodafone still had an evening dip, however improving from 86% to 91%.

Chart 6: VDSL File Download Speed by Time of Day

 

Low Speed Copper (ADSL) File Download Speed

ADSL had excellent performance throughout the day in September. Each of the NZ ISPs in Chart 7 stayed within 95% of max speed. TPG (Australia) had only marginally more variation.

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Chart 7: ADSL File Download Speed by Time of Day

International File Download Speed

TrueNet tests File Download Speeds from our overseas servers to measure performance from our international neighbours.

We ensure the download file is not held in New Zealand (cached), so that the test truly measures international performance.  Test file sizes were increased to 2MB for this test during September.

High Speed Fibre & Cable Time of Day

Implementing the 2MB file size improved the speeds reached in the Sydney test by allowing more time for ramp-up, however not all ISPs are able to utilise the increased time.   The Time of Day curves for Vodafone fibre, Cable 50 & 100 Mb/s, and Spark fibre have similar shapes, especially 50Mb/s Cable and Spark. These services each exhibited a drop in speed in the busy period, less so for 2Degrees and Orcon, suggesting congestion in a common location for Vodafone and Spark.

Chart 8: Australian download speeds for High Speed Connections (2MB file size only)

 

ADSL & VDSL (Copper Connections) - File Download Speeds

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. 

 

VDSL

Downloads from Sydney had minor Time of Day (ToD) effects in September. Orcon improved over August results up from 30% to 50%. Overall results are consistent across the day. Voyager continues to have the quickest download times from our Sydney server, while Vodafone is notable for the much slower download speed when compared to their own NZ speeds.

Chart 9:  VDSL ToD performance from Sydney Australia (1MB & 2MB Files used)

 

ADSL

Download speeds from Australia showed improved ToD performance. Flip is the only NZ ISP with a pronounced dip in the evening period although it is better than last months performance of 40%.  Slingshot also improved from 49% to 65% with the evening dip completely gone.  TPG (Australian ISP) also had a dip in the evening.   Please note these are download speeds from NZ, indexed to TPG's Australian download speed.

Chart 10: ADSL ToD performance from Sydney Australia (1MB & 2MB files used)

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 / Service Speed

Upload speeds are generally very consistent in our testing, and after years of testing we expect to see speeds equivalent to the advertised upload speed being measured almost every time.

Chart 11: The Upload speed of the main technologies and service speeds remains consistent with previous months. Fibre tends to average over the advertised speed, with the exception of 50Mb/s Uploads. 10Mb/s Cable and VDSL typically average under 10Mb/s.

Chart 11: Upload Performance by Technology

Upload Speed - by ISP

The average Fibre and Cable upload speed by ISP and Service is shown in Chart 12. Note that Trustpower 20Mb/s upload service averaged right on advertised speed, up a fraction from last month, while each of the other 4 ISPs' 20Mb/s services reduced slightly, but remained above advertised.

Chart 12: Fibre & Cable Upload Speed by ISP

 

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