AT-Tester


The Pacific is a tough environment for ICTs. Small populations scattered across thousands of islands over one third of the earth’s surface. More or less the opposite of South Asia. But distance does not make the need for broadband less. One requires more access when one is far away.
On May 9th and 10th, LIRNEasia presented a selection of its research on Bhutan and of potential relevance to Bhutan at events organized in Thimphu. The following news report indicates that BICMA the Bhutan regulatory body is acting on one of the findings of the diagnostic tests run on broadband connectivity in Bhutan that showed poor connectivity among Bhutan ISPs. Broadband users can now self-regulate the bandwidth provided by the operators with the help of software which will be made available for free. Bhutan InfoComm and Media Authority (BICMA), in a move to facilitate the operators give better services and to emphasis evidence-derived regulations, tied up with LIRNEasia, an ICT policy and regulation think tank. LIRNEasia is based in Sri Lanka but works in all the South Asian countries and some South East Asian countries.
When we started on measuring broadband quality back in 2007 along with our colleagues from IIT Madras, there was little else beside speedtest. Then the FCC got on the bandwagon. Now another tool. Everyone talks about being more customer-centric these days. And the incentive for focusing on customers is growing in part because customers are becoming more empowered by technology than ever – even when it comes to things like guaranteeing broadband connectivity levels.
We thought up the idea of crowdsourcing broadband QoSE, but could not make it work because the AT Tester was too complicated. In the US, they came with the idea two years later but made it work. Now someone has added value to that product. Given many governments in the region (e.g.
LIRNEasia CEO, Rohan Samarajiva, was recently invited to the 12th  South Asian Telecommunications Regulators’ Council Meeting in Tehran, Iran, where he made presentations on intra-SAARC roaming charges (mentioned in this post) and broadband quality of service in the Asian region. LIRNEasia has been involved in broadband quality of service testing in the Asian region for a while now.  The most recent tests using the AT-tester, a diagnostic tool developed by IIT-Madras and LIRNEasia, were conducted in October 2010. Rohan argued that delivered speeds with the local domain were above those advertised, the opposite was true in the international domain. Furthermore, broadband services in Asia offer lower value for money than in North America,  likely largely  in part due to high international backhaul costs.
LIRNEasia will be releasing the beta version of the Mobile AT Tester software on 13 February 2010. All bloggers (Sinhala/Tamil/English) are welcome to participate the event. The soft launched is at Renuka City hotel and will commence from 9:30 am to 12.00 noon followed by lunch. For further informaton please click here.
It is nice to know that we at LIRNEasia have been ahead of the curve on Broadband QoSE, including on understanding it as more than simply download speed. Professor Gonsalves’s paper on the subject is here. The NYT today carried a story that says many of the things we have been talking about for the past two years. Tracking the speed of Internet service is becoming more and more important as everyone asks the Internet to do more than handle e-mail messages and Web pages. A few lines of text can take its time arriving, but applications sending voice calls or streaming video become unusable if there is too much delay in delivery.
The looks may deceive, but this is a radio station. Prabhavi Community Radio – the first Internet community radio in Sri Lanka comes from Prabhavi Resources Center, Weranketagoda, Ampara – the post-conflict district in Eastern province (8 hours travel from Colombo). It operates from a Nenasala, one of the 500 odd telecenters funded by the World Bank under e-Sri Lanka program. A brainchild of Ajith Karunarathne, it runs as a nonprofit venture entirely by volunteers Asiri (red shirt, first photo) and his team. Strangely, this radio station connects to Internet thru a 128 kbps pipe.
Is broadband quality a subject of interest only to urban top-of-the ladder users? Not necessarily. With the latest developments in telecom services broadband access is increasingly becoming a reality to rural populations as well, even in developing countries. The penetration levels might not be the same but should that mean quality should be compromised for rural users? Broadband quality is critical for telecenters where a link is usually shared.