The importance of speed?

The importance of speed?

Many of you will have noticed the adverts currently being run by a particular ISP, which focus on the superior speed of its fibre-based network.

This campaign taps in to the importance consumers appear to place on speed – as is demonstrated by a recent BBC Online readers’ debate about Next Generation Access.

However, while headline speeds are obviously important to consumers, particularly when they are not receiving what they feel they are paying for, download speed is not the only important characteristic of a broadband service. There are other characteristics of an NGA network that will provide value to users.

For example, although demand for faster downstream speed is uncertain, there is more certainty about the need for greater upstream speed given the increase in user-generated content. ADSL and ADSL2+ technologies, however, allow a median upstream speed of less than 1mbps. Users would almost certainly benefit from a greater upstream speed.

NGA is about more than just increased headline download speeds.

NGA is commonly now being defined by a set of attributes relating to, for example, improved quality of service, consistency of bandwidth across users and time, less interference, lower latency, and greater symmetry between upstream and downstream speeds. These characteristics, and others, would improve the Internet experience and provide value to users.

Faster downstream speeds are certainly not the only benefits from moving to an NGA network. It is important that the benefits of the other, less-discussed characteristics are captured in the debate, as these will make an important contribution to the enhanced user experience that NGA networks will provide.

Peter Shearman, Policy Manager, BSG