Broadband internet is increasingly the power behind many consumer services, but there remains plenty of room for confusion, writes Julian Clover.
It remains one of the mysteries of IPTV in all its forms that as a delivery mechanism it is far from economic as opposed to the traditional terrestrial transmitter. In our midst are the generation that are prepared to sacrifice quality for convenience, from the iPod to the mobile phone, it may not sound as good but the delivery is on your terms.
In conversation this week with Andrew Ferguson and Sebastien Lahtinen of the Think Broadband website we worked through some of the potential issues. Although there are a number of sites that test the speed of your internet connection, Think Broadband is one of the few that can be described as genuinely independent. It is also potentially the only site capable of sizing up the various DOCSIS 3 offerings, including Virgin Media’s 50 Mbps service, up to 300 Mbps. Lahtinen says the actual cut off point is at around 250 Mbps as certain applications begin to misbehave at that point.
Broadband connections can be difficult to measure, some online services taking the highest speed during the measurement, rather than an average during a given amount of time. Lahtinen says it is impossible to rely on users, Think Broadband having abandoned the idea of producing Top 10s of the best performing operators, and the site has become reluctant to publish data unless it can be confident of its robustness. Lahtinen expresses disappointment in the recent Ofcom survey that concentrated largely on the big operators and within that he believes the regulator did not venture deep enough into the differing experience between individual packages. A smaller ISP might be able to offer better customer service, one operator mentioned even goes so far as to text users with latency updates, but if you have fewer subscribers the personal service becomes somewhat easier
There is much that can get in the way of a broadband connection before it can even reach the giddy heights of DOCSIS 3. Personal experience suggests that if your broadband connection is failing it might be sensible to check the router or the local wiring. All this will be of little comfort to Granny if and when she finds herself hooked up to a Canvas-powered iPlayer.
If Digital Britain envisaged broadband as becoming akin to electricity as a public utility, then it is perhaps already there as a commodity, although despite his enthusiasm for broadband Ferguson does not agree that online government services should be made mandatory. He senses potential problems if an area were inadvertently disconnected from the internet for any length of time.
For all the benefits of high speed internet Ferguson believes that at the end of the day the purchase decision will come down to the price. As with Ryanair people may complain about the service the carrier is offering, but if the price is right, they will continue to book their flights.