Rural Broadband - February 2017 Update

Rural Broadband Catches Urban 

Rural suppliers have improved Time of Day performance considerably over the last 12 months to now match ADSL and VDSL in Urban areas.

Time of Day variances on Fixed Wireless are worse than ADSL, but the actual speeds overall are faster.  TrueNet has reported Time of Day as a critical performance criteria, and ISPs serving the Rural sector have responded by matching standard connections with Rural Broadband Initiative (RBI) funded connections as shown in Chart 1 - TrueNet promotes better than 95% as excellent.

The RBI is not only resulting in significant improvements to the availability of better line speeds, but continued monitoring is ensuring capacity is consistently available to match those line speeds.

Fixed Wireless is now a viable, and successful technology in the rural space, placed between ADSL and VDSL in performance.  As Fixed Wireless gains in popularity it's expected to suffer from some congestion as demand grows, so it's good to see that the Rural wireless speed in Chart 1 trended down for a bit, but has settled around 78% of Best Hour speed.

We are VERY keen to recruit more Rural panelists, we provide answers to your questions on what it means to volunteer here

Chart 1: Long Term Trend of Speed Performance on Rural connections

Webpage Average Speed

Webpage average speed is the best method for comparing technologies or ISPs, and TrueNet's tests are simple and effective.  We simply measure the time it takes to download a large range of websites, calculate the amount of data downloaded, and from this we use the computed speed for every download to calculate the average of each download.  We then take the median for every hour and every probe to arrive at these charts.

TrueNet uses live Webpages from NZ, Australia, and the USA, measuring the time to fully download all files on the page.   The webpages are the same group as used with Urban panelists, but over the past three months.   See the Glossary for a list of sites from which we download a single, active page.

 

NZ webpages are often directly linked to by ISPs, or linked via the internet exchanges in Auckland or Wellington.  This means the speeds should be optimum for all ISPs or technologies. Chart 1 demonstrates the differences between technologies, with VDSL leading the speeds as expected from our experience with Urban connections.  However, VDSL is only available to those close to cabinets or exchanges, and most rural consumers must accept ADSL or Wireless.  

We do not test enough PtP (Point to Point) wireless connections, where the aerial is specially designed for long distances, but we do test enough RBI funded Fixed Wireless connections on the Vodafone network to be included in this comparison.  Fixed Wireless connections are mainly based on smaller ISPs and rely on a wholesale cellular solution. They are offered using the 4G technology in pockets when it is available.  We have recently published an Urban study on Spark/Skinny Fixed Wireless here

Chart 2: Comparing Rural with Urban Technologies on all Webpages

 

Chart 3 shows that on NZ webpages in the Rural Sector, the average speed for Fixed Wireless is 5-6Mb/s,  similar to ADSL at 5Mb/s.  

For this test in the Urban Sector, the average speed for Fixed Wireless is 8Mb/s, with ADSL averaging 7Mb/s.

Chart 3: Live NZ Webpage Average Speed

 

In Chart 4, webpage downloads from the USA - Rural VDSL and ADSL are a bit slower than their Urban counterparts, but have a reasonable result given the greater distances.  

Fixed Wireless is close to 4Mb/s in Rural, and only a little bit faster at 5Mb/s in Urban.

Chart 4: Live US Webpage Average Speed

 

Chart 5: One of the most forgotten sources of NZ traffic - and likely the most important is Australia.  

Rural Sector: This time Fixed Wireless at 6-7Mb/s, is better than ADSL which drops to 5Mb/s.  

Urban Sector:  ADSL Urban is somewhat quicker at 8-10Mb/s.  

Chart 5: Live Australian Webpage Average Speed

Rural File Peak Download Speed

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. The median time to Upload to the Wellington server is used for Upload Speeds. Rural results are calculated for a 3 month period to give a quarterly view.

 

Click on Upload to see the interactive nature of Chart 6 and take a close look at Fixed Wireless.  

Download and Upload speeds of rural technologies are shown in Chart 6.  ADSL and VDSL speeds are much the same as previously reported.

VDSL - where available from RBI-funded cabinets - is far and away the fastest technology in the results.  Fixed Wireless provides service speeds in between those of ADSL and VDSL, and can serve locations beyond VDSL coverage.

Fixed Wireless upload, averaging 6Mb/s, is substantially faster than ADSL for those sending content upstream.  Upstream traffic is important for many tasks, including video chat, and saving files to the cloud.

Chart 6: Rural File Peak Speed by Technology

Time of Day Speed Performance in Rural

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 three months for each monitored connection.  We take the average of all median results with each ISP for each hour.

 

Time of Day (ToD) performance of rural technologies and Urban ADSL is shown in Chart 7.

Compared to previous quarterly updates, the ToD performance has improved - see Chart 1, with the fixed line technologies staying around 9% of Best Hour speed most of the time. In particular, there is almost no difference between Urban ADSL, RBI-funded ADSL, and Rural VDSL, which all show excellent results.

In comparison, Fixed Wireless sees slower file download speeds during periods when most users are awake. This is very similar to the performance of Urban Fixed Wireless  (refer to the monthly report). This dip in speed might be noticeable when updating software. 

However, the minimum speed at 9pm may be better than that available from ADSL, see charts 1-4 above.

Chart 7: Time of Day Performance of Rural Technologies and Urban ADSL

We are VERY keen to recruit more Rural panelists, and we provide answers to your questions on what it means here.  Your data helps everyone understand what is possible in the rural community - and we provide you with access to live results from your connection.

Glossary Link

 

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