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Quality assessment technique is a must in broadband Internet

Broadband Internet has become the next generation technology that people use to access the World Wide Web in all over the world. As broadband get its momentum in the world, operators in the country hurriedly went for this technology and deployed it timely in Sri Lanka too.

The high tech features found in the broadband Internet such as bandwidth and call taking facility while using the Internet have stimulated people to subscribe the service largely than ever before.

Apart from this the difficulties what users have experienced in dialup services forced people to migrate to broadband voluntarily. The trend and seamless development in the web based applications in all over the world would be the other reason responsible for the creation of such environment when growth is concerned.

However even after five years since its introduction subscribers in the country are not aware about the standards of high speed broadband Internet and what it should be like. In addition to commercial advertisements and brochures published by broadband providers there are no organisations or an institute in the country to inform the public about the standards of broadband and the benefit it offers.

The broadband standard varies widely from country to country. Commonly, broadband is categorised by taking the bandwidth what operator intended to provide to users.

The size of the bandwidth is then expressed in kilobits per seconds (kbps) and higher services usually express in Megabits per second (Mbps). Obviously the bandwidth is the total available capacity for the transmission of data at any given time. Higher the bandwidth, greater the data it can transmit at faster speeds.

Bandwidth

For instance, if we have 512kbps Internet connection at home, we would be able to download the data at the speed of 512 kilobits per second. This is the maximum permissible speed we could achieve within the allocated bandwidth of 512kbps. To be more precise, maximum bandwidth is the maximum speed that it can support when transferring data. But to distinguish between these two, the speed of the data that travels through the allocated bandwidth is been called the data transferring speed.

In the real world, achieving maximum advertised data transferring speed (i.e., 512kbps) would not be possible in many occasions. When Internet gets busy and filled with large number of uses, the data transferring speed would come down to a certain limit as it's the nature of the Internet.

This is more evident in broadband services since much of its infrastructure has been built based on the shared concept of data networks.

Majority of Sri Lankan broadband users are unaware about the standards of broadband and what sort of quality they should get in return.

As mentioned, unavailability of internationally defined standard for broadband in the world would have given the opportunity to telecom providers to make their own standard when providing Internet.

The quality of broadband Internet is mainly measured by considering number of parameters.

The signal quality, line quality, bandwidth, coverage and data transferring speed are the main parameters taken for consideration when measuring the overall quality. Among them bandwidth and data transferring speed are the most sensitive indicators we found in broadband Internet.

Data transferring speed is the immediate indicator in broadband which gives clear information about its service quality. To check one's Internet service quality there are plenty of methods user can find. In many instances, customers are provided with online tool which one could test the quality of service by conducting a speed test at ISP's web site. This is very straight forward in its nature and it indicates the data transfer speed between user and the service provider. But this test does not reveal the speed between user and another ISP in the same country.

Thereupon, one has to conduct a speed test using a testing facility provided by the respective ISP outside from his own network. Unfortunately Sri Lankan Internet users cannot test the quality of their Internet service locally since one of the ISP's in the country is providing such facility to its users for the measuring of Internet.

The method explained above is only valid for testing data transfer speed between user and the service provider. But what about the speed a user may have to achieve to locate International sites outside the country? To test this segment user must get the service of a third party ISP in another country where they provide speed testing facility. Plenty of such services can be found freely on the Internet if searched using the word Internet speed test in Yahoo or Google.

This will measure the data transferring speed between user and the speed test server hosted in a foreign territory. Obviously user will never get the fullest speed that was advertised by the ISP in these tests. Therefore, some degree of degradation can be expected due to the complexity nature of the network between user and the testing site. For instance in a 512kbps the best average speed one could expect is around 400 to 475 kbps. Similarly in a 1Mbps service the expected value would be around 800-900 kbps.

But the reality is, services like 512kbps have become obsolete today due to its inadequate bandwidth against the growing bandwidth hunger applications found in the Internet. If broadband user cannot achieve over 450kbps data transfer speed in 512kbps to any geographic location, questions may arise about the broadband service they have been provided with.

This is because the speeds below 512 kbps would be hardly enough to watch videos in YOUTUBE and similar if speed fluctuates largely.

Geographic

However, when testing data transferring speeds, at least three different test servers must be selected in three different geographic locations in the world and the average should be taken as the final result.

Further to maintain the accuracy of the final result, selection must be done very carefully when choosing sites for the testing. Not all the speed test sites in the world are built with accuracy. Good example we found in a speed testing site was built with fascinating graphical interface which most Sri Lankan users visits to take references. In many instances it was clear that the particular site has a higher value than what the user has in its service.

Further, to maintain the solidity of the test results one has obtained after testing the connection locally and internationally, some more basic tests could be performed prior to the final conclusion.

Downloading a file and watching a streaming video would be an ideal way to test the quality of the broadband service that an ordinary subscriber could conduct.

If a subscriber is not able to watch streaming video and download a file at least at the rate not less than seventy five percent from the total bandwidth they have been provided; having a broadband service could be useless. Broadband was invented to drive multimedia content cost effectively over the Internet platform at higher speeds.

The concept of high speed broadband Internet (HSBB) would never become the reality if speed component is not co-existent with broadband.

The methods explained above would be somewhat difficult to practice for an ordinary Internet user with little knowledge.

Here what we need is a simplified yet reliable method where all Internet users can use to evaluate the service quality of broadband services that is available to them.

Server

Initially all ISPs in the country can provide a testing tool to test the quality of broadband services they are providing to its users. If implemented, user would get the chance to check the data transferring speed between his computer and a server located at the ISP's end very easily.

Similarly for the testing of speed what user would get internationally, an ISP can host a testing service at the POP (Point of Presence- Immediate contact point of the ISP outside Sri Lanka) by allowing user to obtain very reliable picture about their broadband service.

This will allow broadband user to evaluate the service quality of broadband Internet much easily than ever before. Since testing platform and facility resides in the operator's network, the accuracy and the reliability of testing mechanism would be higher than in other third party testing methods. Moreover this will eliminate the doubts between user and the operator especially when it comes to benchmarking of services. This method will solve the complexity nature in broadband quality testing mechanism whereby offering set of tools even an ordinary user can use.

Introducing broadband quality assessment mechanism to our country is very important and essential for its development in all aspects.

In an environment where market competition is powerless to do much for the development of any particular technology, standardisation must be brought in to fill the vacuum.

Certainly it would help improve the quality of broadband Internet services provided in the country. This is very vital for the growth of broadband in Sri Lanka in the future.

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