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Bill Bennett


UFB killer app: Speed

What will move New Zealanders from copper to Ultra-Fast Broadband?

Or as we used to say in the 1990s: “What is the UFB killer app”?

Video is the simple answer. It’s not the only answer. We’ve been using video communications tools such as Facetime and Skype with success since the early days of ADSL. Video conferencing worked up to a point on dial-up connections. It worked better on ADSL and performs fine on most copper-based VDSL connections.

The same goes for streaming video entertainment. You can, at a pinch, watch it on all but the most feeble connection. True, you get a better experience on a faster connection. And there’s little point trying to watch a high definition movie if you have slow internet.

High definition video

Yet even HD video works fine on a VDSL connection. You need to have rarified tastes to need more than, say a 30 Mbps connection.

Sure, 100 Mbps plus is necessary if more than one person in your house is watching at the same time. And, yet, Vodafone does specify that you need a 100 Mbps connection to watch Vodafone TV.

Fibre improves the video experience mainly because it is faster. It’s also more reliable, less prone to outages.

Speed is the real killer app for fibre-based broadband. Faster broadband means you can do things that were either marginal or flaky with copper connections.

What about wireless?

Many fixed wireless broadband customers are able to get speeds that are fast enough to watch streaming video. Most of the time. There are issues.

First, fixed wireless bandwidth is shared. That means if you live in a neighbourhood with lots of other fixed wireless broadband connections, the performance can drop when everyone else is online. The can mean peak evening TV viewing hours.

Second, for now, the fixed wireless broadband plans on sale in New Zealand have data caps. That means you only get so many video viewing hours each month. That’s fine if you’re a light TV watcher, but is a deal breaker for many.

Even when everything is working fine, fixed wireless broadband connections tend to be slower and less reliable than fibre connections. Technology may change that — one day. For now, you can’t be guaranteed there will always be enough speed.

In today’s word, speed is the killer app.



3 thoughts on “UFB killer app: Speed

  1. I suspect that for most people, at this stage, speed will not be a big mover – other than for people who read promo blurb and feel they just have to have fibre to ‘keep up’. The problem at this point is that the overall internet experience is dragged down by the slowest link.

    I don’t have fibre, but recently I moved to VDSL. My theoretical line speed has increased 2.5 times coming down and 10 times going up.

    Now you might think this would make a dramatic difference to my internet experience, but it hasn’t. In the real world it feels very little different than ADSL. I’m hearing this from other VDSL switchers.

    One exception for me though, was earlier this week when I uploaded a 60Mb file for a book I’d designed to a printer. That went up the line tout de suite. But not many people will be uploading files anywhere near that big. And some uploads I’ve done have been as slow as ever, indicating that other bottlenecks were determining my real-world speed.

    It should all be good in five years time. Hopefully. Maybe ten years…


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