Friday, September 26, 2008

BPN 1232 Watch where you are going: EU cities differ sharply in internet performance

It is interesting to read that research findings like London is the best city to internet and in Milan, Madrid and Dublin you may struggle with gaming (come to Amsterdam!). It points to a kind of digital divide.

The findings are part of the report European City Internet Performance Index by the British research bureau Epitiro, which calls itself The Broadband Communications Authority. The bureau have monitored top internet service providers (ISP) since 2003 for the purpose of providing industry bodies with actual customer experience data of broadband service. The bureau started to expand its coverage by monitoring city, sub-urban and rural broadband performance, in both wired and wireless (3G) formats, across all Member States of the European Union. The question is of course why urban areas were selected for testing. But in short this boils down to the point that urban areas are the fountainheads of countries, with most activity going there. Besides, the performance of broadband benefits the social and economic structure of a country.

This is a report which offers the results of broadband performance in the major European cities Amsterdam, Dublin, Lisbon, London, Paris, Madrid, Milan and Zurich. It is a preliminary report, which will be replaced by the beginning of 2009 with a report showing the results of more cities. Most likely cities like Stockholm, Oslo, Helsinki, Copenhagen, Berlin, hopefully Munich and Vienna will be included. It is a pity that in this preliminary report the results of Stockholm are not taken in. In the broadband world Stockholm has been a city which started early with broadband and would provide a good measuring stick. But we will have to wait till January 2009.

The researchers wanted to gain insight into the likely performance levels of popular uses such as web surfing, VoIP, internet gaming and streaming video were the drivers behind the technical aspects measured. They had their own technical method for this, using a network of satellite devices that simulate typical residential computers by connecting to the internet and executing a series of test routines. Every 30 minutes the satellite devices connect to broadband providers and measure HTTP Download, DNS Resolution Time, Ping Time and Packet Loss whilst connecting to popular local and international web sites.

The dataset was based on over 2 million tests from July 2008 to September 2008 and the testing process remains active. This was during the holiday season, when the use of internet in the European cities is lower. Of course it might have given the researchers a secure start-up, but I like to see the results after the holiday period.

Still the key findings are remarkable:
• London has the best average internet service amongst the cities tested and also the fastest individual ISP;
• Amsterdam and Zurich also offer above average internet service;
• Dublin and Milan broadband service levels were the lowest of the European cities tested;
• Multinational ISPs that trade under the same brand name in different countries vary in performance as much as 44%.

The report concludes that there is a significant ‘digital divide’ amongst European cities in terms of broadband performance. Whilst all cities and ISPs can handle basic web browsing and email, the demands of VoIP and streaming media may not be reliably met by ISPs in some cities tested.

Blog Posting Number: 1232


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