Internet Connections Speed

Internet speed and connections vary based on distance and Telephone Exchange equipment. It may surprise readers to learn that despite being in a suburban or industrial area, you may have very few choices.

Over the last 40 years, communications have gone from 300bits per second (300baud or 300bps) to the currently touted National Broadband expectations of 100 Million bps (100,000kbps). In remote / rural areas of Australia, the choices can often be restricted to dial-up still, or resorting to satellite communications with its inherent delays due to earth-to-satellite distances, or the 2G (GSM mobile phone), or 3G (mobile phone) or the newer 4G (mobile phone) DATA connections.  Some great history is recorded at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Modem

Of course there was a mid-life strategy of ‘cable’ the likes of Optus or Telstra rolled out for cable-TV back in the 1990’s and enhanced with internet DATA capabilities, but the early versions of this had a lot of deficiencies for business users who needed to link branch offices to head offices. In the 90’s Alchester worked extensively with both Telco’s discovering the lack of what is today, an expected standard feature called: VPN (Virtual Private Networking) whereby customers wanted to ‘see’ all their offices in each town appear to be one big local network for staff to share their files, databases and printers for instance. “DSL” overcame a lot of those limitations, and with the demise of CABLE rollout, a return to CABLE has not been actively pursued, as it is in limited areas.

Some logistics nightmares that impact business (and some domestic home users too) still today, is to discover that they’ve bought a new office in an area that was once some other zoned property (ie: an old technical school since demolished for industrial/residential re-zoned usage). Becuase of it’s prior ‘school’ zoning, CABLE was never installed in that area, and since constructing new property, there is no “DSL” either (whether that is ADSL1, ADSL2, ADSL2+, Backbone Broadband or NBN). So they find themsleves with no way to commercially connect to the internet other than via some expensive or low capacity wireless service. A major undertaking in 2006 uncovered just how complex this issue is. See the outcome at: https://www.alchester.com.au/download/2006_05_24_adsl_arrives_in_laverton.pdf which was the result of about 6 months of research and liaison by Alchester with competing Telcos in the area demystifying the ‘black hole’ of services in that area.

Examples in recent years, and some still to this day, include areas like: Tullamarine, Laverton, Narre Warren North, and Drummond to name a few that Alchester has had to research and lobby for upgrades on behalf of clients – despite land developers, and commercial Real Estate agents being under the impression that ‘DSL” services were allegedly available in the area. The yardstick of the 4KM limit for ADSL1 has long been an overlooked logistics matter when selecting a property for a business that needs internet. Achieving the higher speeds of adsl2+ require even shorter cable length distances between the property and the exchange.   Point to point BDSL connections also depend on short cable length from the exchange to deliver higher speeds.

The argument about whether the Nation should be equipped with fibre to the doorstep or a combination of fibre to a basestation and wireless for the last ‘HOP’ (leg) of the journey is an interesting one, when you leave the highly congested population areas. Whilst a big percentage of the population may choose to live/work in high density areas like capital cities or along popular coastlines, the same population often travels out of town. And despite safety arguments about using technology whilst driving, the passengers are often depending on email, and website based navigation and non-voice communication services on the highways, outback roads and railways in between cities. It is intriguing to learn that 4G as a technology has been in existence for allegedly longer than 3G has been in circulation. And another interesting communications piece of trivia is that the only sealed road between Adelaide and Perth over the Nullarbor still has the microwave infrastructure in place, yet cable has been laid along the opposite side of the road with no tower connection for travellers until they reach one of the six odd roadhosues along that 1900km stretch of heavilty transported road. (Excuse the author’s passion for wanting to look after the less populated areas of our fine land!)

TIP: Just because an Exchange is listed as being DSL-ready, you still need to measure the length of the cable which is not ‘as the crow flies’ to your property.   And the further the distance,  the less the speed.    This all has a bearing on email, browsing, intereactive desktop sessions (like Remote Destop, Spice, Citrix, rdesktop, ssh, or client-server database interaction)

Talking wireless, let’s be clear on something. Within the confines of your own property, building or home, you may be enjoying some local ‘wifi’ connection between your tablet, smartphone, laptop, xbox, ipad type personal DEVICE, and whatever your Modem/router appliance is. That is just internal LOCAL ‘wifi’. That purely gives you freedom to walk around your own property without having to connect your DEVICE to some sort of ethernet/network/cat6 type cable to your modem/router. Different to this, there is WIRELESS that links your property to the outside world. Most people are familiar with their smartphone doing this using 3G/4G which relies on you standing within about 12kms from a basestation TOWER. But many proprietary offerings were out there (still today too in remote/rural areas) where there are microwave, wireless, dish/aerial/tower based technologies forming a GRID that links outlying areas to a more central basestation tower, and that in turn, linked back into one of the CABLE, or DSL type infrastructures.

From an historical point of view, before the massive sizes of multimedia (music, movies, photos and large sized files) were being transmitted across the internet, life was a lot simpler, with analogue technologies quite capable of transmitting simple, text-based data quite capably over long distances. CDMA was brilliant for this in the mining industries, and for data collection. Alchester pioneered the use of this as a collaborative technology with absoutback1 as a means of ensuring communications existed after the demise of the old analogue phone network. This was launched in Longreach in 2006, and then enhanced with absoutback2 (3G version) over the Nullabor in 2007. See: https://www.alchester.com.au/absoutback.htm

A third edition was released in 2010 using smartphone sharing/routing technologies.  In highly populated areas these days, smartphone and tablets enjoy 3G/4G access quite well simply using tethering of one sort or another.  But again, this is only where something like 95% of the population lives, and NOT 95% of the land mass of the country – and that is the bone of contention with outlying rural, remote or outback areas of Australia. And those areas unfortunately could improve their communications and business efficiency for industries like logistics, transport, mining, agriculture and construction, and of importance to city dwellers,   tourism and hospitality, plus  health and recreation upon which the Australian economy relies so heavily.

What is little known here in Australia is that there has long been a high speed fibre-optic BACKBONE that has direct connections in many exchanges, permitting the old copper wire service to directly link to this backbone as a single HOP. Think of a HOP as one intersection through which you’d be travelling in a car from point A to point B. The more intersections you pass through, the more likelihood of a traffic congestion at that intersection or a breakdown of that intersection. Here in Australia, lightning storms and huge variations in temperatures, along with power interruptions on the power grid all add to the risk of a HOP location failing. Sure there are alternative ROUTES to take, a bit like driving around a town when the bridge is broken. But that requires additional technology, contracts and plans to be in place.

A really good way to find out what YOUR LINK to the internet is like, is to do a test to see how many HOPS it takes to get from your DEVICE, via your internet connection, to wherever you are seeking to send or recieve some information. IE: Doing a google search or wanting to read some website. So try this command from a DOS like COMMAND PROMPT:

>tracert www.alchester.com.au              (on any version Windows)
#traceroute www.alchester.com.au        (on any Linux, Debian, RedHat, Fedora, FreeBSD)

TIP: See how many HOPS that website is from the Telstra 10 Gigabit fibreoptic BACKBONE, and the ‘teksup link’ that connects that backbone directly to the website as the last HOP. Those last 3 hops are all that’s needed to link one side of the BACKBONE to the website. How many hops does it take for YOUR DEVICE to reach the BACKBONE just prior to those thre last HOPS?  That’s the issue with too many hops, and each HOP will show the amount of time it took for your request for information (for sending/receiving) to actually travel beyond that HOP. See the original white paper at: https://www.alchester.com.au/download/adsl_speed_test.pdf (and the test can still be executed today to a sister server at  203.17.1.6 these days instead of the article’s 203.17.1.102

If you are connected to the BACKBONE and the service you want to reach is connected to the BACKBONE,  the overall HOPS should be 6.   That white paper was written  back in 2003, and nothing has matched this BACKBONE performance until recently with higher speed fibre (or uncongested ‘cable’) since.  NBN will be similar in terms of HOPS, depending on the target locations being attempted, but speeds are expected to be higher (perhaps in terms of download at least!)

If you need an evaluation of the communications links that your business needs, contact us.    We only need your IP to do a test, or try it yourself with the commands we’ve shared above!