The disparity between download and upload speeds on mobile broadband services is a tell-tale sign that telco networks are struggling to keep up with demand, according to IDC.
The research firm tested consumer mobile broadband service offerings from the three major telcos – Telstra, Optus, and Vodafone Hutchison Australia (VHA) - across 1000 sites in Sydney and Melbourne towards the end of 2011.
Average download speed has improved from the previously by about 10 per cent at 3.3Mbps. Latency has dropped by 25 per cent.
Upload speed, on the other hand, has slowed by 30 per cent to 860Kbps.
Tests were done through www.speedtest.net using local servers. IDC did not trial Telstra’s 4G LTE network in its research citing the service is geared more towards business customers as a reason.
A huge difference between download and upload speeds is an indication that network operators are finding it hard to cope with the overwhelming bandwidth demands of customers, IDC associate director of telecommunications and services, Dustin Kehoe, said.
“It is evident to us when you have a hard time supporting the proliferation of applications and demands on download you move channel from upload to download which means slower upload speeds,” he told ARN. “It really suggests to me telcos are really struggling to deal with demands on the network and this apples to operators across the board.”
Telstra came out on top in the speed research with an average download speed of over 4.5Mbps across the two cities. Optus was in the middle with 3Mbps while VHA trailed behind its competitors with an average download speed of just over 2Mbps.
While Telstra already has its LTE network up and Optus is gearing up to do so this year, older mobile broadband networks still need to be maintained especially since they will become the fallback networks in areas where LTE coverage may be patchy, Kehoe said.
In February, VHA revealed a strategy to put LTE in the backseat for now and to focus on rolling out HSPA+ across its 3G network.
Kehoe doesn’t believe that is a wise decision.
“VHA should definitely improve its network – they scored the lowest in download speeds in those cities and I believe that score was similar last year,” he said. “Looking at this report and looking at the state of the market, I would think VHA should want to go ahead with LTE and not spend too much time on slower technologies.”
This was a sentiment shared by Telsyte director of research consulting, Chris Coughlan.
With LTE equipment already progressively being pushed out onto VHA’s network, the telco is in a good position to go full steam ahead with LTE.
“Frankly, I would have thought it would actually push the ‘go’ button [for LTE] now,” he told ARN.
IDC tested in CBDs and less densely populated locations as well.