Monday, April 28, 2008

Broadband Speed Increase

Living in Lowry Bay, we've been accustomed to relatively low broadband speeds of not much more than 1Mbps. This despite having a cabinet less than a km away. A couple of years ago while trialling IPTV services this annoyed not just myself but also my family as I was trying to get them to watch Video on Demand services with frequent buffering.

Up until now, I was of the opinion that this was a 'laws of physics' issue - copper wasn't in good enough condition to carry the bits fast enough. This was also because the modem I had was a Cisco unit which I considered to be state of the art - I mean if Cisco couldn't make it work, who could?

Until last week that is - I have been doing some work sourcing new modems for Telecom and thought I would try one out at home. Primary reason was that I had a separate Cisco WiFi point and modem and this was causing some clutter in the home office, so I thought an integrated device would make some sense.

I connected one up (brand yet to be disclosed - we haven't finalised commercials yet) and I was stunned to find I was operating at better than 4 Mbps. And I know we haven't been upgraded to DSL2+ yet.

Research indicates that the primary reason for the speed increase is that the modem is using a Broadcom chipset which matches what we use in the DSL cabinet down the road.

I have a few thoughts on this

1. I wanted to fix one problem and got a significant extra benefit for *free* - my clutter is seriously reduced and I have at least 3 times the broadband speed from previous. If that isn't keeping a customer happy then what is?

2. My experience in mobile is strangely much more robust - devices pretty much operate at maximum bandwidth. This is because they all have the same Qualcomm chipset (small exception where Nokia was operating their chipset for a while for CDMA 1x). While the Qualcomm model is more monopolistic it does ensure standardisation - which means things work better and more consistently. We all fear this from time to time, but the downside of choice is that you have to integrate more and more things go wrong. Having one supplier at either end of an important link makes things work better.

3. Taking the mobile argument on another step, I used to think that CDMA was a fragmented standard (it is - trust me), however broadband is much more so. It has not matured yet to the state where it is like GSM - hard to know whether what you have bought (or what your Telco has recommended) will work that well.

4. The speed makes a difference - streaming video from local sites is snappier, sites load faster, and I can even stream sport in watchable quality. Might even consider getting a faster upload plan now.

Overall lesson - check your modem has a Broadcom chipset. If not consider upgrading to one that does - you'll be pleasantly surprised.

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