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Understanding broadband speeds on fixed networks

Network

Posted on November 4, 2009

3 min read

It’s fair to say that many of us would find it difficult to live without broadband connections nowadays.

As a network engineer I have seen internet technology evolve in leaps and bounds over the past years. While networks get smarter and faster, there are some factors that may influence the general customer experience that are useful to know and I’d like to share them with you.

Fixed, or wireline, networks operate over copper or fibre cables that are either laid underground or aerially across telegraph poles in some areas.

In all cases, on the ADSL, ADSL2+ or BigPond Cable broadband networks, the customer’s equipment is a key factor affecting the speeds they will experience with their service.

  • The specifications and configuration of a customer’s PC and modem will affect connection speeds.

The customer’s location is also a key factor in the speeds that they will experience in all cases.

  • With a terrestrial technology such as ADSL, the speeds will vary based on the customer’s distance from the exchange, the type and length of the copper cable connecting the customer to the exchange, and prevailing line noise (signal interference) conditions at the time.
  • For the ADSL2+ product, availability also depends on whether the customer’s exchange is enabled with ADSL2+ technology.
  • BigPond Cable capability is only available in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Gold Coast and Perth, and the service speeds may vary between cities based on Telstra’s roll-out plans.
    • For example, the BigPond Cable Extreme® product can provide maximum download speeds up to 17Mbps in Brisbane, Adelaide, Gold Coast and Perth, and maximum download speeds up to 30Mbps in Sydney and Melbourne only.

There are a number of other factors that affect speed:

  • The number of people using a network at the one time and what they are doing on the network and the source of their content, especially when it is content sourced beyond Telstra’s network.  For example, downloading movies will use more bandwidth than sending emails.
  • Factors outside the Telstra network, such as content server delays.
  • The source of the data being downloaded can also affect download speeds.  For example, data being downloaded from international websites must travel a lot further and through many more network elements than data being downloaded from websites in Australia.

 

Note: ‘Mbps’ means megabits per second.

Next week, my Telstra Wireless colleague will write about the factors that affect our wireless networks, such as the Next G™ network. In the meantime, I’d like to hear your views and opinion on this story, or feel free to delve into some of the content at Whirlpool’s network forum.