Measuring Broadband New Zealand: LEOs beat up fixed line

Sunday, May 7, 2023 at 1:20 p.m
Article: Digital

The first report, Measuring Broadband New Zealand, which includes satellite alternatives in low-Earth orbit, shows the technology is far outpacing fixed-line wireless solutions.

Tests show that New Zealand customers get average peak-time downloads of more than 120 Mbps on the Starlink LEO. The average equivalent speed in 4G fixed network is 25 Mbit/s. Starlink is almost five times as fast.

Starlink performs even better compared to copper-based ADSL broadband at an average of 9 Mbps. Rural customers who can get VDSL see average peak download speeds of 33 Mbps.

To put this in perspective, an everyday fiber optic connection downloads at 300 Mbps.

The New Zealand broadband measurement reports are produced by UK-based SamKnows on behalf of the Commerce Commission.

Currently, SamKnows has fewer of its white box probes installed on LEO links. This means more uncertainty, but the data is significant enough to highlight the benefits of LEOs for rural users.

120Mbps download speed is more than enough to run multiple high-definition TV streams or work while other household members play or relax. Fixed wireless broadband users may encounter limitations.

Satellite off-peak speeds average 178 Mbps compared to 35 Mbps for rural 4G fixed-line wireless connections. At 19Mbps, Starlink upload speeds are ahead of rural 4G landline wireless uploads (16Mbps) but behind urban landline wireless uploads (21Mbps). It’s worth noting that the small number of data points means we should accept that the three actually perform at the same level.

Satellite latency (42 ms) is better than fixed line WLAN (~51 ms), but behind VDSL (~19 ms) and ADSL (~25 ms).

There is a significant gap between rural and urban 4G fixed broadband performance. MBNZ clocks the nationwide average off-peak 4G fixed-line wireless connection at 39 Mbps. At peak times, this drops to 27 Mbit/s. The rural off-peak average is 35 Mbps, which drops to 25 Mbps at peak times. City fixed WiFi users get 50 Mbps off-peak and 33 Mbps when it’s busy.

The report further shows that users in rural areas are more likely to see below-average fixed-line WiFi speeds.

Gilbertson: “Level change”

Telecoms Commissioner Tristan Gilbertson says the MBNZ results show that LEO-based broadband means a performance boost for people in areas beyond the fibre-optic network. It is, but the monthly cost of a Starlink connection is more than double that of a simple fiber connection. It’s a steal for well-heeled rural New Zealanders, but a stretch for low-income families.

Starlink is pulling out of the data cap plan

Starlink has abandoned its previous plan to cap residential broadband accounts at 1TB per month and charge overage fees to customers using more data.

The data cap was announced last November and remained in the fine print of the site’s support FAQs until earlier this week.

Under the terms now abandoned, customers would have 1TB of data each month, which Starlink describes as “priority data.” In addition, they could have their service throttled or pay $0.25 per gigabyte for additional data.

The new FAQ page now says Standard plan users have unlimited data. Users are now divided into “Standard” and “Priority”; previously there was ‘living’ and ‘business’.

By 2027, half of the world’s mobile subscriptions will be 5G

London-based Global Data says there were 1.7 billion 5G mobile subscriptions worldwide at the end of 2022: 18 percent of all mobile subscriptions. That will increase to 5.5 billion by 2027; 48 percent of the total.

The technology has yet to take off as expected and the 5G sector needs to make a strong case for the mass market for consumer markets that go beyond fixed-line broadband.

Operators have not been able to charge a premium rate for 5G cellular. The data analytics firm says operators will see cloud gaming, augmented reality and virtual reality as opportunities.

To date, 5G cellular technology in its standalone form, which promises higher speed, lower latency and higher density, is not yet widely deployed. That will change its appeal to enterprise customers.

AST SpaceMobile claims the first satellite voice call using an everyday cell phone

AST SpaceMobile announced that it has successfully completed the first two-way voice calls using its BlueWalker 3 satellite. While a satellite-based voice call is unobtrusive, the callers were using a standard Samsung Galaxy S22 cell phone — it’s a first.

The call connected speakers in Texas and Japan. They had a constant link between the handset and the satellite on the Texas end. In Japan, the call was routed to the recipient over the normal local cellular network. Engineers from Vodafone, Rakuten and AT&T were involved in preparing and testing the calls.

AST SpaceMobile plans to offer global cellular broadband and voice service from space using everyday mobile phones. The company says its testing shows the downlink signal strength is capable of supporting cellular broadband speeds and “4G LTE/5G waveforms.”

Caption: Abel Avellan, Chairman and CEO of AST SpaceMobile, and an AST SpaceMobile engineer on test calls in Texas

Pearse is transitioning to the role of Domain Names Commissioner

According to InternetNZ, the new domain name commissioner is Barbara Pearse. She joins the Commission for Domain Names from the Financial Market Authority (FMA), where she was Head of Supervision and Oversight. Pearse began his new role on May 1st.

In other news…

The modern Internet turned 30 last Sunday. The European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) released the World Wide Web into the public domain on April 30, 1993.

Kantar estimates that Netflix’s crackdown on password sharing will result in over 1 million fewer users in Spain. The market research firm says the move had an immediate impact on Netflix’s bottom line. Kanter points out that Canada experienced a similar slump when Netflix changed the rules there. User numbers later recovered.

The global semiconductor market is in poor shape as Gartner forecasts revenue to fall 11 percent from 2023. The market for memory chips will fall by 35.5 percent this year. All around there is an oversupply of chips and overcapacities in the storage area. According to Gartner, the industry faces long-term challenges as innovation in phones, tablets, and PCs dwindles. The growing tensions between China and the West are not helping.

Meanwhile, cellphone chip specialist Qualcomm issued a dismal forecast that sales of cellphone chips fell 17 percent year-on-year. The company told the Wall Street Journal it doesn’t see an immediate recovery from weak demand for new handsets.

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