Dunedin tops broadband speed rankings

Dunedin is being ranked as a ''real broadband powerhouse'' since winning the Gigatown competition last year, according to figures provided to the Otago Daily Times.

Chorus, the lines and infrastructure company which ran the Gigatown competition, provided the figures which showed Dunedin was ranked first in Australasia for speed and second among the world's wealthiest cities at 75Mbps.

The results were from independent broadband speed test agency Ookla in its Net Index global broadband rankings.

The average download speed for Dunedin's broadband jumped more than 250% to 75Mbps between December and April - more than twice as fast as Christchurch (37Mbps), Wellington (35Mbps) and Auckland (25Mbps).

''It is a clear measure of the impact of the Gigatown campaign and growing fibre awareness,'' Chorus spokesman Nathan Beaumont said.

A year ago, Dunedin's broadband speed was measured at 15.5Mbps, putting it at 23rd of 36 New Zealand cities.

Mr Beaumont said it was important to note the Ookla speed test was instigated by users themselves, capturing the download and upload speed when checking current broadband performance and capability of a new connection.

As a consequence, it was not measuring the average broadband speed for all Dunedin. Rather, it indicated where the market was heading and Dunedin's broadband transformation as users bought and tested fibre and gigabit connections, he said.

The growth in faster broadband speed was not just limited to Dunedin. New Zealand's mix of high-speed VDSL and fibre broadband services meant the country was outstripping Australia. New Zealand's three major cities all sat ''comfortably above'' both Sydney and Melbourne.

However, Dunedin's access to gigabit speeds was a quantum shift with an average download speed roughly five times that of Sydney. It was also ranked second for broadband speed among the world's 10 wealthiest cities, surpassed only by Singapore.

Its average download speed was roughly twice that of New York, Shanghai and London, Mr Beaumont said.

Dunedin was not the only city in the world offering 1Gbps broadband speeds. At the end of last year, Ovum identified 50 operators around the world offering residential 1Gbps services. In Singapore, ViewQwest had extended to 2Gbps.

''This is an indicator of how service providers are creating brand cachet and aspiration around ultra-high-speed fibre. But even among the world's handful of gigabit cities, Dunedin has catapulted itself into a mid-ranked position in a very short space of time,'' he said.

Chief executive of Dunedin internet service provider Wicked Networks Stewart Fleming said it was evident there had been significant improvements in average speeds in Dunedin and they could be primarily attributed to the launch of Gigatown.

While the average headline speed had gone up, it only applied to the 500 or so Gigatown connections on UFB - not the far larger number of existing lower-speed broadband connections.

On Wicked Networks, he was seeing ''typical'' speed tests of 600Mbps to 700Mbps for business users on well-performing office set ups.

''We have noted some discrepancies due to inadequate cabling and sub-optimal network and PC equipment. But where all things are working to specification, the speeds achieved are satisfactory.''

One challenge was to increase the performance of Wi-Fi, as many users had a strong desire to remain connected at high capacity on mobile devices, Mr Fleming said.

''In terms of the actual user impact on our network, usage has grown by about 20% since the launch of Gigatown. There does not appear yet to be a significant level of new, sustained, high-level internet activity.''

With the introduction of 802.11ac wireless standard and commonly available equipment, that was getting easier. There was some inertia with older devices not supporting the prevalent standards.

The other challenge Wicked had was to continually increase how far the gigabit speed went, he said.

Some of the factors which governed that were due to Wicked's network capability and interconnections with other providers and they were continually upgraded to match demand.

''Others are out of our control, such as congestion within other networks, and simply the way the internet works. It is difficult to sustain high capacities over large internet distances without dedicated effort and great expense. It certainly isn't possible on a commodity basis, which is the situation with Gigatown.''

The final challenge was to match the expectations of users, Mr Fleming said. Gigabit speed at a commodity price was always going to be a compromise to a certain extent on the provider side. The user expectations he had seen were for gigabit speeds all the time, on demand.

The slow speed of the Chorus ultra-fast broadband roll-out and patchiness of coverage meant gigabit speeds were not achievable across the city.

The incompleteness of coverage meant in many cases, individuals who did not have a requirement for the enhanced speed were not able to get it. Enhancements in economic growth depended on those individuals, and as yet were lacking, he said.

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