Monday, July 16, 2007

Internet Speeds: The big illusion

As consumers, there are few things we can accept and others we will not bend over for. When we decide to accept a cheap product, we have to inevitably accept that it may be inferior in quality. Similarly, when we pay for service, we should expect to get a certain level of service.

No matter the scenario, we should never accept being fooled. We must insist getting what we paid for. However, in reality, there are many occasions when this does not happen, especially when we are not in control of the situation.

A very common situation, where many can relate to – car maintenance. Many workshops attempt to take advantage of vulnerable car owners by advising them to change parts that really never needed to be replaced. Many of us have blind faith that “if the mechanic says so…then it should be right”. The question then is - Should we take the risk? Should we be so trusting?

Yet another common experience is internet connectivity. Many service providers proudly claim to offer significantly high internet speeds. We, in turn, get excited with their various promotions offering 30Mpbs or even 100Mbps. I am sure this is prevalent in most countries.

Unfortunately, many fail to realize that these speeds are rarely reached. There are many elements that will effectively bring the internet speed down. On average, you will probably hit speeds of 1-2Mbps. Elements such as distance from your terminal (if you are on wireless), number of simultaneous connections, type of modem and type of wireless device….all have an impact on the internet speed you can attain. Those on ‘shared’ broadband services (such as Starhub), also have to contend with the fact that if there are more subscribers in their area, they may have lower speeds.

In such cases, you have a right to be upset. These elements are usually never explained to you explicitly. We can probably accept if those speeds cannot be attained due to technical limitations. However, when we are not informed of the other elements, we are effectively being fooled!

If you are already concerned about what speeds you are getting, I invite you to check out Speedtest . It’s a fantastic tool to measure your internet speed at different times of the day. Try it and please share your experiences with me.

On my system, based on the time and, I do not know what other parameters (maybe even the weather!), my speed kept fluctuating between 1Mbps to 13Mbps. The same system, the same network, the same measurement tools got me a swing of 13x!!! That is ridiculous.

Imagine driving your car and you realize that your speed varies from 10 mph up to 130 mph.... Of course, traffic congestion influences your speed. It is the same on internet.

As a consumer, we have the right to know. Mister providers, Singtel, Starhub of this world (for singapore), please be honest and treat your customers with respect.

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