VDSL 40Mbps: Some Thoughts

So, my router is now synced up at the full 40Mbps download, 2Mbps upload. Although an engineer visit was supposedly required, it seems Sure transitioned the line a day early, and the supplied router re-synced onto the VDSL service without much input at all. The engineer is still coming tomorrow though, but for what? If the service works I don’t understand the need for it. Anyway, I thought I would therefore commence my mini-review of the new VDSL broadband service.

Now, it is being marketed as ‘Superfast Broadband’. And so the first thing I did, of course, was to run a speedtest.

The results were pretty much as expected. On average, the download speeds are around 30Mbps and the upload speeds around 1.5Mbps (this is on a fully synced line, and with a computer connected via ethernet to the router, and with no other internet use occurring at the same time). I tested it with quite a lot of different servers around the UK, as well as the Guernsey speedtest server, and they all delivered fairly similar results to the above. When I first did the speedtest, this was around lunchtime on a weekday.

However, things got a little worse later on in the day. When I did a speedtest at around 6pm, unsurprisingly the speeds decreased quite a lot. I was looking at around 20-24 Mbps on various speedtest servers, with the upload speed remaining fairly constant as before. Now I understand that Sure marketing a service as 40Mbps does not mean you are ever going to get that speed, but when the majority of users will be using this service in the evening (i.e. when they are home from work), I would’ve rather hoped for speeds a bit higher than 20-24Mbps, considering that you are expecting 40Mbps. Effectively at peak times the actual throughput to the internet decreases by 50%, from the theoretical 40Mbps down to nearer 20Mbps. I personally don’t consider 20Mbps to be ‘Superfast’ Broadband. It is fast of course, but 20Mbps is quite attainable on a synced up ADSL2+ line for example. And so in a way, the whole fuss over VDSL2 is a bit mute. You only get the benefit of the new technology really during the middle of the day, or probably in the middle of the night. But in the evening peak period you might as well be using an ADSL modem (since if the line is synced at 24, you can still get about 20 down it theoretically).

It’s certainly a very good thing that Guernsey has got faster internet. I am not complaining as such, but merely pointing out that the service shouldn’t be marketed as a 40Mbps service, when at peak times you only get 20+ Mbps. And during the middle of the day, I was only getting (and only just scraping it too) 30Mbps on various speedtest servers. What is the point in having a line synced up at 40Mbps when only 75% of it is actually able to be used for internet, or 50% of it during peak periods. Why not just sell the service as ‘Up to 30’ if that is all Sure are able to provide, and then if the end user gets more than that, they can count themselves lucky and be pleasantly surprised that they are receiving more than what they paid for.

I think perhaps one of the issues here is that Sure provide unlimited internet. There are no monthly limits or caps, and so you can download as much as you like. Also, I wonder if any kind of traffic management is used to curb the use of P2P traffic, which takes up a lot of bandwidth but often isn’t time critical. BT use traffic shaping during peak periods to try and maintain the bandwidth for other users that are trying to stream ‘time critical’ data like Youtube or iPlayer.

I also hope that Sure will continue to work on upload speeds. In the UK comparable VDSL services offer much greater upload speeds than currently available on Guernsey. I think to be fair, my download speed is fast enough for almost anything. But uploading large attachments or backing up to the cloud still takes too long and this is something that should be worked on before thinking of increasing download speeds. I think a good target would be 10Mbps upload such as that available with BT Infinity.

So my final thoughts? The new service is fast. It’s the fastest that Guernsey has seen. And the price isn’t that bad either. But it isn’t 40Mbps, and as such I won’t be declaring this ‘Superfast’ yet. After all, in Jersey you can get 1Gbps fibre. We can’t let our competitor get ahead of the internet race!


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