Thursday, July 17, 2008

Slow speeds sting UTOPIA FTTH - Une vitesse réduite gêne des abonnements de UTOPIA

Utopia-BoxI'm in the US for a wedding in Portland and I helped the groom move his things out of his current house in Utah this week. I found out he had a UTOPIA FTTH connection so I asked him if I could take a look. I snapped this picture of his installation in the basement and I was excited to try out the connection.

Luckily he had given me some warning so I wasn't too disappointed. It was very slow and I was unable to get more than 3 Mbit/s download from speedtest.net to an ISP in Utah. Sure there are a lot of factors at play with these speed tests but it did get me thinking. UTOPIA (and iProvo) face some serious challenges and it will be very difficult to convince consumers to switch to fiber if the offers and services aren't better than the one I tried with UTOPIA. In fact, it took us over 10 minutes to upload the pictures I took of the installation to a mail account. The ISPs need to do much better than that if they want these rollouts to obtain high penetration rates and cover their costs.


Now contrast this US FTTH deployment with an apartment LAN fiber test I did in Korea the month before using Powercom. I was able to achieve 12 Mbit/s down and 20 Mbit/s upstream all the way to the server in Japan on a Sunday afternoon (screenshot below).
Korea-Broadband-Speedtest
I believe the only way to make FTTH projects viable is to offer fast enough speeds to differentiate the offers from DSL and Cable. Sadly, UTOPIA didn't have to stretch too far to outshine cable and DSL but the service I saw wasn't even able to do that.

5 comments:

Cory Turner said...

Something is not right with your speed. Who is your service provider? Do you have a firewall in place that could be slowing you down? I just did a test on my UTOPIA connection to speedtest.net and the results were 28.4Mbps down and 64.7Mbps up.

Jesse Harris said...

Seriously... check the ISP. XMission is probably the best of them and they own the SLC speedtest.net location. Mstar has recently fallen on hard times (and reportedly lost its last engineer) and may not be able to perform all that well. Nuvont is small but gets its bandwidth from Veracity, a larger business-class ISP. From everything I've heard from users, your experience is highly atypical.

Tad said...

Hello Cory and Jesse,

Thanks for the comments. I'm sorry if that post came across against UTOPIA as a whole because I didn't mean it to. I've followed the project for years and I was really excited to try a connection.

That excitement turned to frustration when I was in a rush to upload the photos I'd just taken of the installation with a friend's camera to a number of different online storage sites. I didn't have much time in between trips up the stairs with boxes.

Hopefully I'll be able to get back there and use my own equipment to do another test. I knew it could be an issue so my results certainly have to be interpreted with caution.

However, I think this does highlight a difficultly facing operators of open networks. Their reputation can suffer unfairly when ISPs using the network have problems. I was excited when I found out the groom had fiber but he responded back, "but it's not that great".

No operator needing high penetration wants to hear that from a 30 year-old male subscriber because word of mouth seems to be one of the best marketing tools for fiber projects in Europe. One unsatisfied customer's opinion has a way of spreading - even if it turns out not to be the ISP or network operator's fault.

This is one of the "complaints" I've heard tossed about during the iProvo debates as well. When things stop working it's difficult for subscribers to locate the source of the problem. It is the NetCo, the ISP or "user error"? Sometimes vertical integration has an advantange.

I've had similar experiences with an unbundled line in France that went down. It took 2 weeks (without service) for Free and France Telecom to sort out whose problem it was and have the line repaired. In the end it was a physical line problem (France Telecom) but Free often takes a credibility hit as well in these situations by no fault of their own.

I'll post any subsequent tests or information I can get.

Ben said...

Hey, I recognize that closet, oh wait, I live in that house.

I recommend you come back after the wedding with your own equipment and test again. I'm guessing you were using the "Groom's" computer that is notorious for slow speeds.

After I read your post I did my own tests. On my desktop connected via LAN. I got just over 11Mbit/s download speeds and a disappointing 3.7Mbit/s upload. However my laptop connected via Wifi hit just over 9Mbit/s upload but only 5Mbit/s download. Maybe not up to par with some other regions and countries but not as dismal as your original post suggests. I'm going to say the hardware was the bottle neck on this test.

Happy testing. . .I'm sure I'll see you in Portland.

--Roommate of the Groom

Jesse Harris said...

Something else to consider is the router. Even on a dinky cable modem, I noticed a substantial increase in speed when I went from a Linksys router to an old PIII running as a Linux router.