Saturday, February 21, 2015

Business, or Consumer, Few Actually Benefit from Really Fast High Speed Access

With the caveat that a business customer’s use of bandwidth differs from the pattern typical of a consumer customer, small business customers of Cogent Communications tend to use about 12 Mbps of the 100 Mbps services bought to replace T1 connections of about 3 Mbps, said BTIG researchers.

According to Cogent, only about 12 to 24, out of perhaps 17,400 customers ever have reached 50 percent utilization of the 100 MB pipe.  Likewise, customers who buy gigabit connections have usage that does not likely differ materially from 100 MB customers, according to Cogent.  

One might well argue that consumer consumption is growing faster than business customer usage, certainly. But Sandvine data suggests U.S. median household data consumption over a fixed network connection is about 20 Gb a month. Granted “Gbps” is a measure of speed, while “Gb” is a measure of consumption, but monthly consumption of 20 Gb does not suggest most households likely are taxing their access downlinks.

To be sure, households with faster connections tend to consume more data. But that might be because households consuming more data disproportionately buy the faster connections. As more locations are able to use connections operating from 40 Mbps up to 1 Gbps, we should get a better idea of how much a “typical” user consumes, when access speeds exceed the ability of far-end servers to respond.

A study by Ofcom, the U.K. communications regulator, suggests that beyond about 10 Mbps, local access speed is not the experience bottleneck.

The study found that “access speed” matters substantially at downstream speeds of 5 Mbps and lower. In other words, “speed matters” for user experience when overall access speed is low.

For downstream speeds of 5 Mbps to 10 Mbps, the downstream speed matters somewhat.

But at 10 Mbps or faster speeds, the actual downstream speed has negligible to no impact on
end user experience.

Since the average downstream speed in the United Kingdom now is about 23 Mbps, higher speeds--whatever the perceived marketing advantages--have scant impact on end user application experience. Some 85 percent of U.K. fixed network Internet access customers have service at 10 Mbps or faster.

Investing too much in high speed access is, as a business issue, as bad as investing too little, one might argue.

Average access speeds in the United States are 10 Mbps, according to Akamai. Average speeds are 32 Mbps, according to Ookla. Another study shows that average Internet access speeds in the United Kingdom and United States are equivalent, in fact.  

The point is that, in terms of user experience, faster marketed speeds (gigabit, 100 Mbps) actually do not improve end user experience.

As someone who recently was able to upgrade from about 15 Mbps to 105 Mbps, I would confirm, as an end user, that the upgrade has made no apparent difference in my browsing experience.

For that reason, I will not be buying a gigabit access connection, which I could do. There being no apparent change in experience at 100 Mbps, I cannot see the advantage of upgrading further, to 1 Gbps.

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