Do you feel the need for speed? It's not just Tom Cruise and his "Top Gun" wingmen who crave quickness. Customers of the nation's top Internet service providers are increasingly demanding of faster connection for downloading and uploading, and a new report by the Federal Communications Commission commends those companies keeping up with demand.
Based on collected during peak usage times in September, the FCC said ISPs "on average delivered 97 percent of advertised download speeds during peak periods, statistically equivalent to the last report" in July.
The findings showed no material change with the exception of one company, Frontier Communications, which saw a 13 percent bump in performance since the last reporting period.
Keeping Their Promises
The FCC's Measuring Broadband America (MBA) program tests actual performance results of subscribers of Internet service providers (ISPs) in over 80 percent of the residential market. Its previous reports were published in August 2011 and last July. For the first time, the MBA program tested download speeds as high as 75 Mbps (megabits per second), and estimates that "even higher rates are being offered by service providers to their customers."
Continuing the trend observed in the last report, the FCC said, "consumers have sustained their migration to higher speed services." The other key findings are that providers are largely meeting and some cases exceeding their promised speeds and that satellite broadband has made significant improvements in service quality.
The percentage of success of sustained download ratio for satellite reaching the advertised speed was 137.2 percent, while the upload ratio had a 161.5 percent success rate. By comparison, the download figure for cable was 98.5 percent, and the upload was 98.5 percent, while DSL rates were 85.4 percent and 98.9 percent, respectively.
"Previous generations of satellites had limited bandwidth, which restricted the speeds available to the consumer," the report said. "In addition, due to the physical characteristics of satellite technology, latencies are significantly larger than for terrestrial technologies. Starting in 2011, the consumer broadband satellite industry began launching a new generation of satellites which have greatly improved overall performance."
Carlsbad, Calif.-based ViaSat's Exede service had the highest ISP rating, at 160 percent of meeting advertised upload speed and just under 140 percent for download, followed by Stamford, Conn.,-based Frontier Communications, at just over 120 percent for upload and just over 80 percent for download. The lowest was Little Rock, Ark.,-based Windstream Communications, which had an 80 percent ratio for download and around 90 percent for upload.
Ramping It Up
Technology consultant Rob Enderle told us that connection speed will continue to increase in coming years. While 10 gigabit-rates are already common, 100 gigabits are not far off.
"Mostly, where you have very high speed its at data centers or between data hubs," Enderle said. "The issue is not speed but capacity, which is still pretty short. It doesn't do you any good to have a car that goes 100 miles an hour if you are stopping-and-going on the way to work."