Wednesday, December 15, 2010


With so many broadband-based connectivity options to choose from, India has come a long way from dial-up Internet to unlimited landline and wireless Internet options. The most popular method of connecting to the Internet today at home would be a DSL connection. While we would like to discuss the method and operation of DSL, we thought we would focus on the factors affecting your broadband speed. There is a popular misconception that "Bandwidth is everything". In fact, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) offer upto 16 Mbps in India today, but there is some small print you need to watch out for. So what are the factors that could actually affect your speed? Your ISP would never tell you of some of the things we are writing about. Curiosity piqued? Read on.

1. Bandwidth.

UTP Unshielded Twisted Pair Cable

The ISPs have got this right, to a certain extent. Bandwidth does play an important role as far as broadband speeds are concerned. Bandwidth is the maximum throughput of data to your computer from your ISP. (For the uninformed amongst us, who are wondering what throughput meant back there – think of “bandwidth” as being similar to the diameter of a pipe through which water flows; larger the diameter, more water can flow through the pipe at the same time. Smaller the diameter of the pipe, it’s going to take you more time for the same amount of water to flow through) So the more bandwidth you have, the better. The minimum you should have is 256 Kbps (Kilo bits per second) as per TRAI (that awesome regulatory body in India). This translates to a download speed of 32 Kilo Bytes per second (KBps).

2. Ping.

PCI LAN Cards - Intel, Realtek, Tulip

This is an other major factor affecting your experience online. This refers to the time taken to send some amount of data to a host and then back again (you could call it a round trip). Ping is usually measured in milli seconds (ms).The lower the ping, the faster your connection. Higher ping rates could mean slow online gaming, choppy (slideshow-like) videos and VoIP as well as browsing.

3. Jitter.

Six Computer Chips' circuit

This refers to the variance in successive ping measurements. Basically, if your ping times keep switching from a very low value to a very high value, that would lead to a big jitter number, which does not bode well for your consumption of online content. Jitter, is also measured in ms. And obviously, the lower the jitter, the better.

4. Packet Loss.

Linux Supercomputing Cluster

How much of your data actually reaches your destination? Packet loss will tell you that. Yeah, believe it or not, every ounce of data sent from your computer, or requested by your computer never reaches the destination. (Much like space debris floating around in the atmosphere, we figure it’s all piling away in somewhere on the wild recesses of the Internet) Data is generally sent as packets over the internet and you should ideally have no packet loss. If you do, your actual browsing ‘speed’ would suffer.

5. Distance from your DSLAM (for DSL connections).

Twin Communication Towers

The DSLAM is the equipment usually found at your telephone exchange. This is used to make your internet connection faster. The closer you are to your ISP's DSLAM, the faster your connection. (Yeah, sometimes, the dudes and dudettes who are closer to the Telephone exchange actually do have an advantage!)

6. Your computer.

Midi Tower PC Case

A virus infected computer or an ancient PC for that matter could slow your experience online. (You could follow our weekly Monday series – Assembled – to help find the right components to build yourself a new PC which could surf the Internet information waves like an awesome sea turtle)

7. Wireless Signal Strength.Wi Fi sign

The Wi-Fi signal strength is something you have to watch out for in case you are using a wireless router.

8. Your browser.

This one’s kind of obvious, but we’re still putting it in here, cos it counts - certain browsers are definitely faster than the others.

While there are still more factors that could affect your internet speed, we feel the above eight are the very significant as far the infrastructure and connectivity options available in India currently are concerned. Surely, The Indian Geek would certainly look at these factors for analysing a broadband connection, before screaming expletives into the phone while contacting customer care to complain about the state of our Internet connections. With all that, currently, the highest bandwidth unlimited connection that is widely available in India is a 2 Mbps line from BSNL (Don’t even get us started on Airtel’s sneaky bandwidth throttling scheme to downclock all unlimited connections to 256 Kbps after a certain threshold limit of data has been transferred every month) We here, at the Indian Geek are fervently praying for the day when our dear and beloved TRAI (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India) would see it fit to rule that a blazing-fast Internet connection is our birthright; and we shall have it.


Godwin said...

Nice Article ..

theindiangeek said...

Thanks, Godwin

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