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    The Forgotten Importance of Broadband Internet Upload Speeds

    This is a discussion on The Forgotten Importance of Broadband Internet Upload Speeds within the General Computing and Internet forums, part of the Community channel category; The Forgotten Importance of Broadband Internet Upload Speeds - ISPreview UK Hands up if your broadband ISP makes the upload ...

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      The Forgotten Importance of Broadband Internet Upload Speeds

      The Forgotten Importance of Broadband Internet Upload Speeds - ISPreview UK
      Hands up if your broadband ISP makes the upload (upstream) speed of your Internet package clear on their advertising? We thought not. Sadly only a few of the major ISPs even bother to advertise upload performance and those that do only tend to show it on certain products. But how fast you can push information into the online world does matter and its importance is growing.

      After a quick look at how broadband is advertised by most of the mainstream providers, which tend to focus almost exclusively on the download (downstream) performance of their connections, you’d easily be forgiven for thinking that Internet traffic only goes in one direction.

      In fairness, how many people pay attention to the speed at which a car can reverse? The focus is inevitable always on forward motion in Miles Per Hour (MPH) because that’s the direction in which you spend most of your time travelling. But the Internet is more complex than a motorcar because both directions, currently measured in Megabits per second (Mbps), are always being utilised; albeit one usually more so than the other.

      Indeed most of what you do online is ‘download’ orientated, so it makes sense for ISPs to focus on that and avoid the confusion of uploads. Every time you load a new webpage or email, pull a file from a server or stream video online it’s the download side of your connection that gets tested the most, with uploads usually just existing to confirm the request and exchange a few basic details with the remote server.

      Similarly the majority of Internet connection technologies, except for the very high-end pure fibre optic lines (FTTH/P) and specific business solutions, tend to be asymmetric in nature. Put another way, in order to make the best use of the available connection capability, download performance is given preference over the less essential upload component.

      For example, standard copper line based ADSL2+ broadband can deliver up to 20Mbps download and a little over 1Mbps upload on a good connection. Even the top 80Mbps capable FTTC lines still only deliver a maximum upload speed of 20Mbps, while Virgin Media’s top 152Mbps product pegs the uploads even lower at 12Mbps.

      So it’s perhaps little wonder that ISPs, much like car manufacturers, choose to focus on the biggest and most important number for downloads, while shunning uploads. Ironically upload speeds are usually a lot more stable than download performance, so they should be considerably easier for ISPs to market without the usual fear of inadvertently misleading consumers.

      Let’s take a look at how some of the biggest providers fair when it comes to communicating upload performance as part of their primary promotions and comparisons.

      Which Major UK ISPs Promote Upload Speeds?


      * BT

      To their credit BT do clearly state upload speeds on their “fibre” (FTTC) products, although the older standard broadband (ADSL2+) services only seem to reference the download speeds and uploads are nowhere to be seen.

      * Virgin Media

      Virgin, perhaps fearful of looking weaker next to the rival FTTC services that they sometimes point towards as being inferior to their own cable (DOCSIS) platform, make no mention of upload performance unless you dig deeper and hunt out their Traffic Management Thresholds.

      * Sky Broadband

      Sky only makes a clear mention of download performance for the standard (ADSL2+) and fibre (FTTC) packages, while uploads are nowhere to be seen.

      * TalkTalk

      Curiously TalkTalk doesn’t even appear to mention download speeds for any of their services except the fibre (FTTC) solution and, once again, uploads get zero coverage in any kind of noticeable way.

      * EE

      Like so many others above, EE state the download performance for all of their packages, but there’s nothing about uploads.

      By comparison it should be noted that many smaller ISPs, such as Zen Internet, do state the upload performance for all their services.

      So What’s the Big Deal?


      Over the past 5-6 years the online world has changed. More and more consumers are storing large quantities of data in the “cloud“, uploading their personal video streams and ever high quality pictures via Facebook or YouTube and the number of multiplayer gaming systems that rely on BitTorrent (P2P) file sharing technology to manage live updates/patch distribution has increased significantly (e.g. Steam, Xbox Live etc.).

      A quick look around reveals that some of the big ISPs, such as BT and Virgin Media, even promote their own online and multi-GigaByte sized cloud/storage services. Equally, modern video games are becoming more complex and some even allow you to share real-time picture and video content into the virtual world. Not to mention the separate importance of other services like FTP and web servers etc.

      Crucially all of the above rely upon upload performance in order to get your data to where it’s needed, but the experience can be painful. For example, let’s say you can get a respectable 16Mbps from an ADSL2+ line and so even big downloads aren’t too much of a pain. So far so good, but if you’re not familiar with the asymmetric nature of that technology then you might end up being shocked at how long it takes to upload a 200MB video stream of your recent holiday to a private family YouTube channel (i.e. around 30mins on a 1Mbps line vs roughly 2mins if the uploads also ran at 16Mbps).

      On top of that it’s so easy to consume all of the available bandwidth on a slow upload link that it can easily end up impacting the performance of everybody else sharing your network. Just try playing a multiplayer game while somebody else is uploading a video on an ADSL2+ service, it quickly turns into a slow and choppy experience.

      Over the years ISPreview.co.uk has also received complaints from consumers who thought their connections were suffering from a problem because the speeds had dropped considerably, only for a quick investigation to reveal that the issue was actually to do with the fact that they didn’t realise upload speeds would be slower than downloads and thus felt misled by the ISP. In fairness some, albeit not all, providers do reflect a predicted upload speed when you first run a check during signup.

      At the same time Ofcom and the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) should share some of the blame for this situation by failing to encourage greater transparency of this aspect among ISPs. The Government’s national Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) scheme has also focused its goals almost entirely around a minimum download speed of 24Mbps+, while completely ignoring any semblance of a target for upload performance.

      On top of that ISPs could be missing a trick by ignoring uploads, which would help them to push the latest “superfast” broadband services because even those with currently good download performance from last-generation ADSL2+ service will suffer due to poor uploads. The importance of this as a selling point should not be overlooked.

      As content quality and sharing grows then issues like those highlighted above are likely to become increasingly common place and certainly we also see a lot more questions about upload performance now than we ever have in the past. Consumers are clearly waking up to its importance and perhaps the big ISPs should start to do the same.


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      Re: The Forgotten Importance of Broadband Internet Upload Speeds

      Time for BTo to roll out more SDSL and make SDSL products available to consumers?

      SDSL never seems to have caught on, especially on the consumer market. No idea if the same principal could also be applied to fibre products though?

      This is also where 4G mobile connections (and even 3G) excels though as they both already offer faster upload speeds compared to fixed line ADSL.

      3G offers a max upload speed of around 4mbps and standard 4G can potentially offer upload speeds of around 75mbps.
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      Re: The Forgotten Importance of Broadband Internet Upload Speeds

      When you consider that VM upload speeds are pants compared to what I get on SFUP and that with BTO's FTTP product you only get 30mbps upload, I am tempted to agree with you.

      However with a 1Gbit connection, only a few would actually benefit from having a 1Gbit upload speed.

      If a copper line were to be SDSL then the speeds wouldn't be very good at all.

      Sky Fibre Unlimited Pro: Connected at 80,000 kbps / 20,000 kbps
      Previous ADSL2+ Speed 19999 kbps 1153 kbps, Line Attenuation 17.5 db 6.9 db, Noise Margin 7.5 dB 8.7 dB
      Speedtest: 17.15MB/s 0.97Mb/s Ping 31 ms

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      Re: The Forgotten Importance of Broadband Internet Upload Speeds

      SDSL is "old tech".

      Virgin's upload is currently 12Mb at max but according to Ignitionnet over on Cable Forum (his posts are usually pretty accurate in the long term [he used to work for Virgin and seems to be friends with people who work at ISP Review]) Liberty Global (Virgins parent company) are looking to outclass BT on upload speed as well as download speed.

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      Re: The Forgotten Importance of Broadband Internet Upload Speeds

      With the pictures, for example, that I have been posting this week, I've really appreciated the fast upload speed I have access to.

      I will be good news for VM customers if the upload speed is increased. 12mb isn't very good when the download is as much as 152mb IMHO.

      From my understanding, the providers have access to backhaul systems which are as fast down as they are up. So I fail to see why we have to put up with such poor upload speeds.

      Sky Fibre Unlimited Pro: Connected at 80,000 kbps / 20,000 kbps
      Previous ADSL2+ Speed 19999 kbps 1153 kbps, Line Attenuation 17.5 db 6.9 db, Noise Margin 7.5 dB 8.7 dB
      Speedtest: 17.15MB/s 0.97Mb/s Ping 31 ms

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      Re: The Forgotten Importance of Broadband Internet Upload Speeds

      Quote Originally Posted by Scubbie View Post
      From my understanding, the providers have access to backhaul systems which are as fast down as they are up. So I fail to see why we have to put up with such poor upload speeds.
      On cable it's due to legacy systems, same as ADSL, being adapted to a new world.
      These systems were built to deliver tv originally which needed a big downstream channel and a much smaller upstream channel. This is now having to be adjusted to cope with IP traffic so it takes a lot of investment in the network. Apparently Virgin spend more on their own network upgrades each year than BT have spent on their entire network for the Fibre upgrades but Virgin get no public money to assist them.

     

     

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