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The need for speed part 1: Internet uploads

Not to pre-empt anything, but this year I expect to have two film and television students in the house.

For this, I’m considering upgrading my Internet.

We’re currently on iiNet Naked ADSL2+ costing $69.99 per month (for 1000 Gb of data, of which, to my surprise, we’re using about a quarter). Actually I’m paying an additional $10 for VOIP, but I’m planning to ditch it because we rarely use it, and it seems quite unreliable — the handset frequently can’t get a signal. I don’t know precisely where the problem is, but given everyone in the house has a mobile phone, it seems an unnecessary cost.

Why upgrade the Internet? Well one of the things the boys have highlighted is the relatively slow upload speeds.

This is important for film students, because these days everything is digital, and moving big video files around quickly is important.

Computers at PAX 2014

Current speeds

Our download speeds are okay. Our upload speeds… aren’t.

Using the iiNet broadband test:

  • Latency 12ms
  • Jitter 3ms
  • Download 7.63 Mbps
  • Upload 0.68 Mbps

Using the Department of Communications My Broadband test:

  • Latency 15ms
  • Jitter 0ms
  • Download 7.54 Mbps
  • Upload 0.53 Mbps

This isn’t good. By my calculations it means that a 50 Mb file (which is not that big by modern video standards) would take 12 minutes, and that’s assuming no other bottlenecks.

A 500 Mb file would take over two hours.

Theoretical speeds

This explainer web page from Optus compares theoretical speeds, and notes that the limit of ADSL2+ upload is 820 Kbps (eg 0.82 Mbps).

The ADSL upload speed is so slow that when Isaac wants to send a big file to Dropbox (or whatever), it’s often quicker to go into campus (about an hour’s trip away) and do it there, then come home again. I suppose it gets him out of the house, but it’s not brilliant, is it.

It’s not just study. He’s starting to do post-production work as a part-time job. This is the kind of agile digital economy PM Turnbull often drones on about.

Cable internet is faster; around 3 times faster for uploads. DOCSIS theoretically allows faster upload, but queries from customers were answered in a vague way by Telstra. The speculation is the Telstra and Optus cable internet networks are set up for cable TV, which are pretty much all download.

If only we had some kind of universal super-fast internet service providing a future-proof fibre connection to everywhere. Some kind of Network of Broadband right across the Nation.

Well, I checked. NBN (especially proper NBN, fibre-to-the-premise/home, but even fibre-to-the-node) would be great, and would improve upload speeds by up to 50 times, but isn’t getting to my area anytime soon.

So what are the options?

Given their enlightened social media operative Dan, I’d be more than pleased to sign up for Optus Cable… if they serve my street. This is confusing as their web site variously says Yes or No depending on how I enter the address. I suppose I’m going to have to ring them up.

Also notable: complaints about speed from local Optus cable users.

Telstra cable does serve my street. Theoretically may get me about a threefold increase in upload speeds (around 2.4 Mbps), for $95/month for 500 Gb or $115/month for 1000 Gb — and appears to include a home phone service.

Importantly, with cable there are no guarantees about speed — it depends on network congestion.

I’m sure I’m not the only one in this position. Assuming I don’t want to pay a heap of money for a fibre connection myself, are there any other options?

Update 22/3/2016:

I finally made the switch, to Optus Cable. Comparing the My Broadband test old and new results:

Old: Latency 15ms / Jitter 0 ms / Download 7.54 Mbps / Upload 0.53 Mbps

New (at lunchtime): Latency 1 ms / Jitter 12 ms / Download 27.61 Mbps / Upload 1.96 Mbps.

New (at 6:15pm): Latency 78ms / Jitter 24 ms / Download 19.80 Mbps / Upload 1.29 Mbps. So download and upload speeds have both increased by about 3-4 times.

By Daniel Bowen

Transport blogger / campaigner and spokesperson for the Public Transport Users Association / professional geek.
Bunurong land, Melbourne, Australia.
Opinions on this blog are all mine.

21 replies on “The need for speed part 1: Internet uploads”

I’m no expert, but we’re on the Optus cable. I’d suggest that if you do change to them, you check carefully that they’ll deliver what you need. From my experience:
1. Our IP address location always comes up as Bentleigh. Our location is, roughly, 7 – 8 kms away. Seems to me the Optus facility at Bentleigh serves quite a wide area. This may be neither here nor there in the present context, but I mention it for completeness.
2. It may be just the Optus plan that we’re on, but our upload speeds have always been very slow. I’ve never asked Optus whether we could get better speeds (it’s not really a big deal for us, and in other respects we’re happy with the deal).

Not sure about iiNet, but Internode allow you to enable “Annex M” on your ADSL2+ line profile, which gives increased upload speeds at the cost of a small reduction in download speeds. I get closer to 2Mbps upstream with Annex M enabled.

ISDN was symmetrical, but we’ve gone on a bit since those days.
Isn’t there a community fixed-wifi network, or something? How does that compare?

This (upload speeds) is important, not just for video files, which is an obvious example, but also for people storing large files and backups in the cloud.
Cloud based backups sound like a good idea until the impact of regular uploads are considered. Living 8km from Bendigo and on ADSL1 it is out of the question.

I’m on Telstra Cable at home and can say that it’s incredibly reliable – I have up times averaging 200 days without a dropout. 2.5Mbps upload is better than 0.6, still not great but better than ADSL2+. Telstra cable is not so good value for money, though.

There is the option of Annex M, but you’ll need an iiNet Business Naked DSL plan for that feature, and it comes at a cost of reduced download speed.

Telstra fast cable, uploading comes off your data allowance. I just checked and today things are slow. Latency 1ms. Jitter 8ms. Download 36 but I have seen it at over 40. Upload 1.2 but I have seen it at 2.4.

If you go the cable route it’s worth noting that Telstra’s network is generally less congested than Optus’.

If you want to make a small but noticeable change to your existing ADSL service, move it to business. You may need to register an ABN if you don’t already have one but that’s hardly work these days.

iiNet (from memory) charge about the same for ADSL business as they do residential but the contention rates are far better so you should experience higher performance and a less congested connection. Unless TPG have ruined all of that.

If you wanted to go all-out, you could probably get a 10/10 ethernet over copper service running for around $300 a month. This is a real 10Mbps where you’re actually sitting on that speed constantly. Trouble is you need 4 pairs which may necessitate a lead in upgrade which can really sting.

I’d start with switching to iiNet business. It’s an easy and cheap change with zero risk.

You want a faster connection, but don’t want to pay for it. This is pretty much the attitude of every Aussie these days demanding big government roll out super fast connections to their house for free.

Entitlement. If you want it/need it, pay for it.

I find it just better to use 4G. It’s ridiculous in this country. Even the Manly Ferry Wifi is faster than a lot places in the country.

I have no choice the only option is ADSL considering I live in a small but established suburb. But the thing is it’s less than 5km from the centre of Sydney.

My solution would be abandon the NBN and let the free market deal with it. Let them compete and open up the trenches to anyone. Get rid of the regulations and let private companies invest.

When I discovered that my place near Altona was classified as “regional” as far as telecommunications is involved, everything looked pricey for even the most basic ADSL.

Turned out I have access to Optus cable and went with it. After a few initial hiccups and had a few techs come up to fix a few disconnection and slowness issue, I finally had decent high speed broadband and have been with them for 3 years now.

I think I have the option of the high speed pack (though I thought I had it!), but I’m getting about 10 – 40 Mbps download depending on the time of day.

Will probably with them until NBN fibre comes.. if it comes.

Nice bit of trolling there @John Smith. I’m perfectly prepared to pay more for cable. I’d also be very happy to pay more for an NBN connection, but it’s simply not available.

I’d be less likely to pay thousands for a fibre connection, but I reckon I’m not alone there.

@Ilham, that’s an interesting point; it’s actually faster to use a 4G connection, but of course also costs a fortune if you do it regularly.

I’m waiting for NBN to come to our street, too – However, when I check their website, I get the message: The nbn network rollout has not started in your area. Keep checking the website for more information.
Fortunately, we don’t need superfast speed in our household.
BTW, I’m impressed that you have such creative sons. The world has changed a lot since my best mate studied film and television at Rusden (opposite Monash, Clayton) in the last 1970s.

Does iinet allow you to change your profile? Internode does, and when you are out at the end of a long line it is worth tweaking. When ADSL negotiates a connection it gets the best speed for a given Signal-to-Noise ratio. Annex M (mentioned above) additionally trades download speed for faster upload. I don’t push much up so don’t use M, and I use 6 dB S/N for down. 6 dB is Internode’s “High speed”, “Very Hign speed” uses 3 dB.
I can’t see what things can be done in iinet’s Toolkit, but if iinet won’t do this, consider churning – from one part of the TPG conglomerate to another :-)
Threats to Sales to leave may show some benefit.

Here is the help for the Annex M cases in Internode’s “Profile Change” page:
ADSL2+ Annex M Very High Reliability
Maximum ADSL2+ reliability. Use this profile if you have trouble maintaining a stable connection on both the Standard and High Reliability profiles.

ADSL2+ Annex M High Reliability
If you have trouble maintaining a stable connection on the standard ADSL2+ profile, try this profile, it may increase the reliability of the connection. This is the default Annex M profile for new ADSL2+ services.

ADSL2+ Annex M Initial
This is the profile new Annex M customers receive by default. It offers high stability with a nominal 8Mb/s downstream data limit.

ADSL2+ Annex M Standard
General ADSL2+ Annex M profile, Annex M provides higher upstream speeds at the sacrifice of some downstream speed. Your modem must support Annex M.

ADSL2+ Annex M High Speed
This profile will increase the speed of your ADSL2+ Annex M service, however it may cause stability issues depending on your modem and phone line.

ADSL2+ Annex M Very High Speed
This profile will run your ADSL2+ Annex M service at the highest possible speed. It will only work on very stable lines, it is very likely to cause stability issues on lines that are not very close to the telephone exchange. If you are unsure about the quality of your line, or your distance from the telephone exchange, do not select this profile.

ADSL2+ Annex M Low Latency
Ideal profile for Gamers, select this profile for low pings. This profile may cause stability issues depending on your modem and phone line.

I don’t know what parameters are used for the Low Latency case.

@Allan, thanks. It looks like I have similar options, but with different names. I’ll try a couple of different options.

“Safe ADSL1 Speed up to 8,000 kbps
If you have an older modem it may not support ADSL2/2+ speeds in excess of 8,000kbps. So play it safe.

Controlled ADSL2/2+ Speeds up to 24,000 kbps (FAST)
If you want to push the speed up a little but keep a stable connection. You may need this if you have poor line quality.

Standard ADSL2/2+ Speeds up to 24,000 kbps (FASTER) CURRENT
This is our default setting that suits most users. It’s still really fast, but usually gives good connection stability.

Thrillseeker ADSL2/2+ Speeds up to 24,000 kbps (FASTEST)
If you want to push the broadband speed limit. You’ll definitely get the fastest speeds possible on your line. But you may hit the occasional speed bump or two.

Gamer ADSL2/2+ Speeds up to 24,000 kbps (UNINTERRUPTED)
Well suited for time sensitive, interactive applications such as gaming, this selection is designed to provide the quickest connection response rather than a faster download speed.”

Telstra cable is the same. The download speed is 30x faster than the upload speed.

I ended up keeping the cable from my old place as it worked and I did not want a phone line.

Spoiled here – I’m in Victoria Point, Docklands, built with fibre and now served by Spirit Telecom – I get 50/50 ‘unlimited’ for $76 per month and could have 200/200 for $169 if I wanted. I wonder whether in a few years not having access to fast internet will really impact affected property values?

Do you live within 100m of a Telstra public phone? If you have a Telstra home broadband account, those Telstra public phones that’ve had the pink Wifi makeover are accessible to you.

I tried them out in Melbourne CBD when the service was in free trial mode in January 2015. The up and download speeds were very good then, but I’m not sure if they’ve changed since ending the trial and launching the service as Telstra Air.

Using my Telstra 4G plan: 9.12 Mbps download, 9.76Mbps upload
Using Telstra public Wifi: 46.72 Mbps download, 38.35 Mbps upload

@Michael Bell, I don’t live that close to a public phone, and certainly not one that’s got WiFi on it.

But we did stroll down to where they are near the station in Bentleigh and tried it.

After something of an ordeal signing in (we don’t have Telstra broadband, but do have Telstra mobile), I tried it out… the speed didn’t seem nearly as fast as what you saw (more like 0.1 Mbps), but it’d be worth another try sometime.

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