Rural Broadband - June 2017 Update

Grassroots improvement!

Rural broadband has mainly been served by ADSL, VDSL and more recently Fixed Wireless services, where the old copper network was underwhelming for users. Through the Governments RBI funding and other investment, rural performance has improved over time, as can be seen in the trend graph in Chart 1. 

The chart shows that Rural ADSL and VDSL have all improved to achieve at or above the 95% of Best Hour speed throughout the day on Peak Speed tests. This does not mean that all rural users necessarily get "good" speed, but overall the service has improved. This compares to our reporting over recent years on improvements in Time of Day performance of technologies in the urban environment, and indeed the past several months have shown that Urban copper and fibre services are achieving excellent results, hopefully Rural will follow suit.

Fixed Wireless was added to our measurements more recently, so the trends are less well established, and we have recently increased the number of Fixed Wireless panelists. Chart 1 shows busy hour performance reducing this quarter to around 58%,( though this could be due to new panelists), and compares to an Urban result typically 70% to 75% in recent months. Further measurements should clarify the true trend. It is worth remembering that actual speeds on Fixed Wireless tend to be higher, so that busy hour speeds on Fixed Wireless are similar or faster than ADSL speeds.

Chart 1: Long Term Trend of Peak 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.

 

Measuring the average speed in loading NZ Webpages is a neutral method of testing and comparing ISPs, as popular NZ webpages are used by most users and should have equal access across the ISPs. Chart 2 compares Rural ADSL, VDSL and Fixed Wireless services with the equivalent Urban service. VDSL provides the best average speed performance again for Rural users, with RBI funded areas slightly quicker than other rural VDSL results. Note however that even RBI funded VDSL is slower than the Urban equivalent, which is likely due to longer copper line lengths in Rural areas. Many rural users won't have access to VDSL in their area, so the only alternatives are ADSL or FIxed Wireless, each of which are slower than VDSL and slower than their Urban equivalents as shown in Chart 2.

Chart 2: Comparing Rural with Urban Technologies on all Webpages

Chart 3 shows that for NZ webpages in the Rural Sector, VDSL averages about twice the speed of the other technologies measured, with RBI Funded VDSL achieving the top average speed. Fixed Wireless has higher speeds than ADSL in the middle of the night,  7-8Mb/s, but then reduced throughout the day to less than ADSL average speeds. Rural ADSL and those in RBI funded areas have very similar results, still sitting below that of Urban ADSL.

For this test in the Urban Sector, ADSL averages almost 9Mb/s, and Fixed Wireless averages 7-9Mb/s.

Chart 3: Live NZ Webpage Average Speed​

Chart 4 webpage downloads from the USA are in general slower because of greater distance, with the average speed of the different technologies closer to each other. RBI funded VDSL is again about twice the speed of ADSL and Wireless (in waking hours).    

Fixed Wireless is faster compartively to ADSL, being faster or just equal at evening peak hour.

Chart 4: Live US Webpage Average Speed

Chart 5: Australia is an important source of NZ internet traffic, in these results Fixed Wireless rises to be quicker than Rural ADSL at all hours, and sits  above Urban ADSL average speeds at the best hour (10.5Mb/s). RBI Funded VDSL is again the quickest, consistent through these Webpage download results. Note also the Urban ADSL average speeds are above those of Rural ADSL services, as can be expected based on greater access distances in the rural areas.  

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.

 

Peak Speed results of Download and Upload are shown in Chart 6, below. (Click on Upload and Download in the Chart to toggle between results.)

VDSL had the best Peak Speed of the technologies measured, and RBI funded VDSL clearly gave superior speeds to rural VDSL - approximately 50% faster. Next best is Fixed Wireless, with Peak Speed averaging over 16Mb/s. Fixed Wireless is only a little slower than VDSL in Upload speeds, and was significantly faster than ADSL for Upload.   

 

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.

 

As illustrated in the Trend (Chart 1 above), rural time of day performance has been improving, escpecially for ADSL users. In the June quarter Fixed Wireless experiened an evening busy period speed reduction to 58% of best hour speed, down from 78% in the previous quarterly report. Rural ADSL has at times had speeds reduce to around 95% of Best Hour peak speed,  but ADSL and VDSL performance is excellent. Note that Rural VDSL was equal or better than Urban ADSL for time of day consistency.

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

Some Connections are Faster than Others

To compare technologies we have shown the spread of speeds we see in testing for each. Chart 8 shows the percentage of test results for each technology, in the speeds they achieve. (say 4-8Mb/s). The chart shows a considerable range of speeds on both sides of the "average" for each technology, again highlighting the fact that although improved overall and with brilliant results for a few, some rural customers still have poor broadband performance.

Note how Fixed Wireless is comparing to ADSL and VDSL, some connections get VDSL median like speeds, but the average speed of VDSL we quote above is caused by those that get extraordinary speeds.  So if you are in a location where ADSL or VDSL does not provide you with high enough speeds, it may be worth considering Fixed Wireless, although check out the time of day differences which are growing.

Chart 8: The Spread of Speeds for each Technology

This chart shows that the difference between the Government RBI funded connections (RBI VDSL) and not yet upgraded connections (VDSL) is getting smaller. When a new RBI funded project is completed, the area itself is upgraded, but speeds are still related to the distance to the exchange equipment (often a cabinet) this means more connections are closer to the equipment, which does not show in our chart. Our earlier reports showed a difference because we had a lot of connections that were far away from the equipment, but many of these have been upgraded due to the RBI funded projects. The long and the short of it - this means NZ Rural is getting a better service!

We compare Time of Day performance because that is what can be improved by ISPs effort.

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