“Net users in south Asia get less value for money”

M. Dinesh Varma

“Download speeds from international server would only be in 200 kbps range”

“A good broadband connection must satisfy other metrics than speed”

Chennai: The broadband experience in India is akin to zooming on a highway for a short while before hitting a slow-moving queue at a toll plaza, according to the findings of a study by LIRNEasia, a think tank on Information and Communication Technologies, and the IIT-Madras.

It found that while internet users connected to the Internet Service Provider (ISP) server in no time, significant milli-seconds were lost in the onward journey through different operator routers. The broadband quality survey was conducted across five metros in India, along with Colombo in Sri Lanka and Dhaka in Bangladesh.

Mapped in terms of Round Trip Time (RTT), or the time taken for data packets to leave user, reach destination server and return to base, the speed of broadband suffered most while accessing an international server.

“The implication for consumers is that though a user may get close to the speeds advertised by the operator while accessing servers within India, the download speeds from an international server for even a supposedly fast broadband connection would only be in the 200 kbps range,” said Timothy Gonsalves, Head of Department of Computer Science and Engineering, IIT-M, and co-founder of the Telecommunications and Computer Networks Group (TeNeT) — research partner for the study.

The International Network Latency (or the round trip time to the first overseas entry point) was much higher than the minimum requirement of 300 ms (which is the standard in Singapore) for peak hours. In other words, while the national download speed was well above the minimum of a broadband plan, the international equivalent barely reached the minimum in most cases.

The solutions lay in tuning operator gateways, expanding international bandwidth and encouraging more caching or hosting of content in India. The study found that a south Asian received far less value for money than counterparts in, say, North America.

Apart from infrastructure limitations, an important reason is that unlike users in Japan and China, internet users in the South Asian region habitually accessed content hosted on servers in U.S. and Europe, leading to clogging of international bandwidth. “Though speed is an important determinant, a good broadband connection must satisfy other metrics,” Chanuka Wattegama, senior research manager at LIRNEasia told The Hindu.

This is why the research group applied six parameters for its broadband quality of service study using the Attester software developed at IIT-M.

The parameters included throughput (download speed), RTT, Jitter (variation in RTT) and midway packet loss. Broadband connections were evaluated over multiple tests at different periods of the day and the week.

According to Mr. Wattegama, the study recommendations that have been accepted by Telecom Regulatory Authority of India include directing ISPs to maintain a contention ratio of 1:30 for business users and 1:50 for residential users (to denote the number of users who can simultaneously access a link).

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