ISP Performance numbers from Netflix

Interesting numbers from the Netflix Tech Blog.

Several things jump out at me. First, cable is faster than DSL, and wireless is the slowest. Second, again no surprise, urban is faster than rural. But the big surprise to me is the Verizon number. They have spent a ton on FIOS, and according to Trefis about half of Verizon’s broadband customers are now on FiOS. So according to these numbers, even if we supposed that Verizon’s non-FiOS customers were getting a bandwidth of zero, the average bandwidth available to a FiOS customer appears to be less than 5 megabits per second.

Since FiOS is a very fast last mile, the bottleneck might be in the backhaul, or, more likely, in some bandwidth-throttling device. Whichever way you slice it, it’s hard to cast these numbers in a positive light for Verizon.

Netflix measurements of ISP bandwidth
Update January 31, 2011: This story in the St. Louis Business Journal says that the Charter, the ISP with the best showing in the Netflix measurements, is increasing its speed further, with no increase in price. This is good news. It is time that ISPs in the US started to compete on speed.

Contemplating the graphs, the lines appear to cluster to some extent in three bands, centered on 1.5 mbps, 2 mbps and 2.5 mbps. If this is evidence of traffic shaping, these are the numbers that ISPs should be using in their promotional materials, rather than the usual “up to” numbers that don’t mention minimums or averages.

ITExpo East 2011: C-01 “Connecting the Distributed Enterprise via Video”

I will be moderating this panel at IT Expo in Miami on February 3rd at 9:00 am:

Mobility is taking the enterprise space by storm – everyone is toting a smartphone, tablet, laptop, or one of each. It’s all about what device happens to be tIn today’s distributed workforce environment, it’s essential to be able to communicate to employees and customers across the globe both efficiently and effectively. Prior to today, doing so was far more easily said than done because, not only was the technology not in place, but video wasn’t accepted as a form of business communication. Now that video has burst onto the scene by way of Apple’s Facetime, Skype and Gmail video chat, consumers are far more likely to pick video over voice – both in their home and at their workplaces. But, though demand has never been higher, enterprise networks still experience a slow-down when employees attempt to access video streams from the public Internet because the implementation of IP video is not provisioned properly. This session will provide an overview of the main deployment considerations so that IP video can be successfully deployed inside or outside the corporate firewall, without impacting the performance of the network, as well as how networks need to adapt to accommodate widespread desktop video deployments. It will also expose the latest in video compression technology in order to elucidate the relationship between video quality, bandwidth, and storage. With the technology in place, an enterprise can efficiently leverage video communication to lower costs and increase collaboration.

The panelists are:

  • Mike Benson, Regional Vice President, VBrick Systems
  • Anatoli Levine, Sr. Director, Product Management, RADVISION Inc.
  • Matt Collier, Senior Vice President of Corporate Development, LifeSize

VBrick claims to be the leader in video streaming for enterprises. Radvision and LifeSize (a subsidiary of Logitech) are oriented towards video conferencing rather than streaming. It will be interesting to get their respective takes on bandwidth constraints on the WLAN and the access link, and what other impairments are important.

IT Expo East 2011: NGC-04 “Meeting the Demand for In-building Wireless Networks”

I will be moderating this panel at IT Expo in Miami on February 2nd at 12:00 pm:

Mobility is taking the enterprise space by storm – everyone is toting a smartphone, tablet, laptop, or one of each. It’s all about what device happens to be the most convenient at the time and the theory behind unified communications – anytime, anywhere, any device. The adoption of mobile devices in the home and their relevance in the business space has helped drive a new standard for enterprise networking, which is rapidly becoming a wireless opportunity, offering not only the convenience and flexibility of in-building mobility, but WiFi networks are much easier and cost effective to deploy than Ethernet. Furthermore, the latest wireless standards largely eliminate the traditional performance gap between wired and wireless and, when properly deployed, WiFi networks are at least as secure as wired. This session will discuss the latest trends in enterprise wireless, the secrets to successful deployments, as well as how to make to most of your existing infrastructure while moving forward with your WiFi installation.

The panelists are:

  • Shawn Tsetsilas, Director, WLAN, Cellular Specialties, Inc.
  • Perry Correll, Principal Technologists, Xirrus Inc.
  • Adam Conway, Vice President of Product Management, Aerohive

Cellular Specialties in this context is a system integrator, and one of their partners is Aerohive. Aerohive’s special claim to fame is that they eliminate the WLAN controller, so each access point controls itself in cooperation with its neighbors. The only remaining centralized function is the management. Aerohive claims that this architecture gives them superior scalability, and a lower system cost (since you only pay for the access points, not the controllers).

Xirrus’s product is unusual in a different way, packing a dozen access points into a single sectorized box, to massively increase the bandwidth available in the coverage areas.

So is it true that Wi-Fi has evolved to the point that you no longer need wired ethernet?

ITExpo East 2011: NGC-02 “The Next Generation of Voice over WLAN”

I will be moderating this panel at IT Expo in Miami on February 2nd at 10:00 am.

Voice over WLAN has been deployed in enterprise applications for years, but has yet to reach mainstream adoption (beyond vertical markets). With technologies like mobile UC, 802.11n, fixed-mobile convergence and VoIP for smartphones raising awareness/demand, there are a number of vendors poised to address market needs by introducing new and innovative devices. This session will look at what industries have already adopted VoWLAN and why – and what benefits they have achieved, as well as the technology trends that make VoWLAN possible.

The panelists are:

  • Russell Knister, Sr. Director, Business Development & Product Marketing, Motorola Solutions
  • Ben Guderian, VP Applications and Ecosystem, Polycom
  • Carlos Torales, Cisco Systems, Inc.

All three of these companies have a venerable history in enterprise Wi-Fi phones; the two original pioneers of enterprise Voice over Wireless LAN were Symbol and Spectralink, which Motorola and Polycom acquired respectively in 2006 and 2007. Cisco announced a Wi-Fi handset (the 7920) to complement their Cisco CallManager in 2003. But the category has obstinately remained a niche for almost a decade.

It has been clear from the outset that cell phones would get Wi-Fi, and it would be redundant to have dedicated Wi-Fi phones. And of course, now that has come to pass. The advent of the iPhone with Wi-Fi in 2007 subdued the objections of the wireless carriers to Wi-Fi and knocked the phone OEMs off the fence. By 2010 you couldn’t really call a phone without Wi-Fi a smartphone, and feature phones aren’t far behind.

So this session will be very interesting, answering questions about why enterprise voice over Wi-Fi has been so confined, and why that will no longer be the case.

Sharing Wi-Fi Update

Back in February 2009 I wrote about how Atheros’ new chip made it possible for a phone to act as a Wi-Fi hotspot. A couple of months later, David Pogue wrote in the New York Times about a standalone device to do the same thing, the Novatel MiFi 2200. The MiFi is a Wi-Fi access point with a direct connection to the Internet over a cellular data channel. So you can have “a personal Wi-Fi bubble, a private hot spot, that follows you everywhere you go.”

The type of technology that Atheros announced at the beginning of 2009 was put on a standards track at the end of 2009; the “Wi-Fi Direct” standard was launched in October 2010. So far about 25 products have been certified. Two phones have already been announced with Wi-Fi Direct built-in: the Samsung Galaxy S and the LG Optimus Black.

Everybody has a cell phone, so if a cell phone can act as a MiFi, why do you need a MiFi? It’s another by-product of the dysfunctional billing model of the mobile network operators. If they simply bit the bullet and charged à la carte by the gigabyte, they would be happy to encourage you to use as many devices as possible through your phone.

WiFi Direct may force a change in the way that network operators bill. It is such a compelling benefit to consumers, and so trivial to implement for the phone makers, that the mobile network operators may not be able to hold it back.

So if this capability proliferates into all cell phones, we will be able to use Wi-Fi-only tablets and laptops wherever we are. This seems to be bad news for Novatel’s MiFi and for cellular modems in laptops. Which leads to another twist: Qualcomm’s Gobi is by far the leading cellular modem for laptops, and Qualcomm just announced that it is acquiring Atheros.

Net Neutrality Fallout

Stacey Higginbotham posted an analysis of the FCC Net Neutrality report and order on GigaOM. She concludes:

As a consumer, it’s depressing, …it leaves the mobile field open for the creation of walled gardens and incentivizes the creation of application-specific devices.

Sure enough, just two weeks after the publication of the R&O, Ryan Kim reports on GigaOM that MetroPCS announced on January 3rd plans to charge extra based on what you access, rather than on the quantity or quality of the bandwidth you consume.