It was back in 2009 that I was criticized for saying that regulation based on an understanding of the operative Budget Telecom Network Model did not permit strict regulation of quality of service. It was also around then that we started focusing on taxes as a factor. That was repeated many times in Bangladesh by us, for example, when I outlined what needed to be done to achieve Digital Bangladesh. That these things have to be said again and again, indicates we have not been very effective. The national exchequer gets Tk 51 of every Tk 100 spent by a mobile user, leaving less money for the operators to develop network and run business smoothly, the GSMA said yesterday.
Most of the organizations that were given time at the First Session of the Steering Committee meeting used the time to advertise themselves. I chose instead to present our broad range of contributions to AP-IS in the form of a short presentation of work done under the Project on Myanmar as an Inclusive Information Society. I briefly described some findings from the baseline and endline surveys, pointing out that much of what came out from the ITU on Internet users was worthless. We are not expecting to do such surveys again, though there is value in surveys being done periodically. My second point was on the need to develop an understanding of broadband quality of service experience.
According to Twitter, some people are without Internet in Bangkok today. Today's Tot internet failure from flooding wouldn't have been if only it were a mesh rather than point to point as @samarajiva has advocated — Don (@smartbrain) January 10, 2017 India is also supposed to have experienced problems with the Tata Indicom Cable connecting Chennai and Singapore. But they had back up options, running traffic through Bangladesh. The report below indicates that this resulted in higher bandwidth use (good) and a discernible degradation of Internet service quality (bad) for Bangladesh users. This is possibly because Bangladesh still primarily depends on SEA-ME-WE 4 to connect to the outside.
Grace Mirandilla Santos has been working on this for a long time. Even after the formal proceeding ends, it appears she will have to help. Cabarios also expressed difficulties in getting wired and fixed wireless subscribers to volunteer for measurement of Internet speeds. Mary Grace Santos – an independent researcher for think-tank LIRNEasia – expressed willingness of civil society representatives present to encourage subscribers to volunteer their broadband services for testing and monitoring . “We will do a public call over social media so we can encourage more people to actively participate in the monitoring process,” Santos said.
Grace Mirandilla Santos, LIRNEasia Research Fellow, is nothing if not persistent. She has been hammering away at the broadband quality problem in the Philippines for a long time now. The big party thrown by the government for APEC leaders in Manila becomes the latest opportunity for her: A note to APEC delegates: this brand of hospitality does not, by any measure, reflect what the ordinary Filipino experience every day. Traffic navigation app Waze has branded Manila as having the worst road traffic compared to other cities that use it. NAIA airports experience congestion everyday, and most recently was plagued with the “tanim-bala” (bullet-planting) scam that allegedly preys on tourists and overseas migrant workers.
An online publication has written about Grace Mirandilla Santos’s presentation at a recent Youth Congress on Information Technology: Citing various studies, Santos also revealed that 80% of all elementary schools or some 38,000 schools nationwide are not connected online. According to Santos’ study at LIRNEasia, ISPs give us 70% to 80% short of what they promise. “Ideally, there are more kilobytes per second you receive for every piso you pay. But it shows here that one kilobyte per peso is what we get, which is very low compared to other countries,” Santos explained. She added: “Of all the ISPs we tested, Philippine ISPs offer the lowest value for money, and that means that Filipino Internet subscribers are pretty more oppressed.
Today, I had to field questions on behalf of Shazna Zuhyle and Grace Mirandilla Santos who made a canned presentation at CPRsouth 10 in Taipei on Measuring Broadband Performance: Lessons Learnt, Challenges Faced, because they could not be present in person. The principal question asked by the discussant (from Australia) and Enrico Calandro (Italy/South Africa) was why Zuhyle and Mirandilla Santos were proposing that national regulatory agencies (NRAs) should take on the responsibilities of broadband quality monitoring. Another person from the floor asked why Philippines and Asian broadband quality and value for money were so poor. I saw the answers to both questions as being connected. I said that the paper very clearly established that there was no one single method that was objectively superior to the alternatives.
LIRNEasia Research Fellow Grace Mirandilla Santos has been playing a leading role in getting the new rules on broadband quality approved. Here is one news report quoting her: INTERNET users in the Philippines are “paying more for less” as the actual speed of their connection has never reached the “advertised speed” by Internet service providers (ISPs), a study showed. Mary Grace Santos, a research fellow of the LIRNEasia, presented the results of their study during the hearing of the Senate committee on trade on the impact of slow and expensive Internet in the country. Santos, said LIRNEasia is a regional ICT (Information and Communications Technology) think tank policy that has been conducting quality of service testings since 2010. Read more: http://technology.
The telecom operators in Myanmar are damned if they do and damned if they don’t. The demand for SIMs is so high that call and data quality is compromised. If they restrict supply, a black market develops. If they don’t, their image gets sullied. I was pleased to read that Telenor had postponed its rollout in Yangon until it did some final tweaks on the network.
All these years Sri Lanka was connected to its main international communication conduits (SEA-ME-WE 2, 3 and 4) from Colombo and Mount Lavinia (a suburb of Colombo) over branch cables. In the case of SEA-ME-WE 5, the new consortium cable that is expected to come online in 2016, the connection will be direct, in that the Alcatel built cable will terminate in Brown’s Hill in Matara (close to the southernmost point of Sri Lanka) and the eastern component to be built by NEC will commence from the same location. This will shave off several milliseconds from the delivered latency partly because of the use of superior regenerators and partly because of the reduced distance. This is what Wikipedia says: Latency is largely a function of the speed of light, which is 299,792,458 meters/second in vacuum. This would equate to a latency of 3.
This is not to dismiss the idea of connecting via mobile phones. I have spent the last few years researching the challenges of pulling together real connectivity and access for the poorest, and it’s no picnic. Infrastructure constraints, high taxes on imported computers, low income levels and connectivity problems all make the internet extremely challenging for the poorest to access. But is this a reason to give up entirely and focus on mobile instead as policymakers and researchers seem to be doing? At the Internet Governance Forum in Indonesia last week, the prevailing view was that the developing world would use mobile, end of story.
Today at IGF 2013 in Bali, I was part of a panel on cloud and mobile computing. We at LIRNEasia need cloud computing. But we are also realistic about the challenges. Here is the slideset I used to illustrate the quality problems. But I also talked about the weak links in the chain and what was being done to strengthen them.
Germans have a reputation for technical prowess. You’d expect the operators there to be technically superior in delivering what they promised when they sold broadband service. But it appears that they have not been so, according to a New York Times report. A government study released Thursday supports what many German consumers have long suspected: Internet broadband service is much slower than advertised. The study by the German telecommunications regulator, the Bundesnetzagentur, measured the Internet connection speeds of 250,000 consumers from June through December last year, making it one of the largest reviews of broadband service anywhere.
For too long the government of Bangladesh has hesitated to accept the fact that the only realistic way a majority of its people can be connected to the Internet is over wireless media and has tended to treat the mobile industry as a cash cow to be taxed in order to fund Digital Bangladesh and other general expenses. Therefore, it is heartening to hear the new BTRC Chair recognizing the reality in a report carried in the Daily Star. One hopes that he is not talking about FTTH (except to apartment blocks and such) when he refers to optical fiber in the same sentence. One seriously hopes that he is talking about optical fiber in the backhaul network. Ensuring open access to the existing optical fiber network within Bangladesh operated by BTCL should be a priority for the BTRC if it wishes to improve Internet access.
I like to point out in all the talks that I give on broadband that it’s the slowest link that defines the experience, as in the strength of the weakest link is the strength of the chain. Here is an excellent illustration that uses an example that is close to home (or in the home of most people reading this blog): A number of Internet service providers, including Comcast Corp. and Verizon Communications Inc., have recently upped the maximum speeds of broadband they offer residential customers to as much as 305 megabits per second. And Google Inc.