I once saw a sports car on the narrow streets of Malé, capital of the Maldives (total population 350,000). Nothing unusual about it — except that the whole of Malé is about two square km: we can WALK the length and breadth of the crowded capital in 10 or 15 minutes. The other 1,200 islands that make up the Indian Ocean archipelago are even smaller.
That reality didn’t stop an optimistic Maldivian from investing in a fast vehicle – after all, a car (especially a sports model) is more just a means of transport.
Something akin to this plays out in the virtual world everyday in many parts of developing Asia. Many Internet users have state of the art access devices — ranging from the latest laptops and high-speed desk tops to ipads and internet-enabled mobile phones. But most of the time the users and devices are held up by poor quality internet connections. I mean patchy, uneven, really S-L-O-W ones.
So part of the time — how often and how long depends on where you are, and who your internet service provider or ISP is — we are all like that Maldivian sports car owner. Dressed up and rearing to go, but not really going very far. Because our network is overloaded.
What can you do when your broadband internet connectivity slows down, making some web applications tedious or impossible? How can you measure and compare the quality of broadband service within the same telecom network or across different service providers?
As consumers, we have limited options. We can grin and bear, and be grateful that we are among the 2 billion (and counting) human beings who regularly access the Internet. We can grumble and rant, and even complain to our ISP. But chances are that they’ll plead it was a system fluke, an exception to the norm.
Now there’s another option. The Ashoka-Tissa method, a simple and free software developed by LIRNEasia and IIT Madras, enables just that: with it, you can gather evidence before taking it up with telecom operators.At TVE Asia Pacific , we have just produced a short video in which LIRNEasia — a regional ICT policy and regulation think tank active across the Asia Pacific — sums up their experience in developing a user-friendly method to measure broadband quality of service experience. It also shows how they engaged telecom operators and regulators in South and Southeast Asia from 2007 t0 2010.
“256 kbps up and down is the minimum definition (of broadband),” says Dr Rohan Samarajiva, LIRNEasia’s Chair and CEO. “There are various people debating about it: whether it should be 2Mbps and so on, but I will give an acceptable minimum definition…Our research shows that, in fact, many broadband products that say they are giving 2Mbps don’t even meet this minimum rate.”
The former Sri Lankan telecom regulator adds: “Then of course there is this whole story of companies promising all kinds of things. 2Mbps up, 2Mbps down and various other things being promised and giving not even 256kbps. So there is almost like a dishonesty factor here. As one of my friends says, this is not broadband; this is fraudband!”
Watch Fraudband or Broadband?
More information at: BroadbandAsia.info
PS: While writing this blog post, I was frustrated by the poor quality of my own supposedly high-speed broadband connection, provided by Sri Lanka’s oldest telecom operator.