Saturday, December 03, 2005

Singapore Broadband - MaxOnline is actually MinOnline

Have just had another frustrating exchange with the helpdesk at Starhub MaxOnline. Although they are supposed to be providing a broadband cable Internet access service, the result is often little better than using an ISP with a dial-up 56K modem.

I dutifully fired off a message to the helpdesk, and attached a number of trace routes to demonstrate the issues I was facing with slow access. The reply was annoyingly familiar - a request for the information I had just provided, along with enough other questions to put off anyone from actually replying. I guess their strategy is to snow the average user with enough technical questions that they will give up and go away.

I didn't.

Like an outsourced desktop support technician with no training ("we will need to re-format your hard disk, Sir"), the solution to every problem seems to be "the fault is at the customer side".

Even though the trace route showed latencies in the high 290 milisecond range for intermediate router hops, I am supposed to believe that the reason I am getting poor performance is because of my PC. All of them by the way, since I have a number to play with, and was getting similar results from each one.

The final answer I received was that there WAS no problem, as the service was within standards as set by the IDA.

Now this was news to me, since I had never seen a published standard for ISP's, and the contract for service clearly indicates that the customer has no right to expect anything other than a bill every month. Sadly, the standards are truly a set of minimums. If a service met these standards, no customer would be having much fun. Nor would services such as VOIP or media streaming work reliably.

And so here are Singapore's broadband standards, courtesy of the IDA.

QoS Standards for Broadband Access Services

QoS Indicator QoS Standard

Network Availability > 99%

Service Activation Time 5 working days or fewer
(from date of receipt of application)

Network Latency =< 85 msec
(connection within the local network)*

Network Latency =< 300 msec
(for the international portion of the network)**

Bandwidth Utilisation =< 90%
(for connections within the local network)

* This latency figure extends from the broadband user to the broadband service provider’s Internet Exchange (IX).
** The international portion of the broadband network extends from beyond the domestic broadband local network up to the network provider’s first point-of-presence in the U.S., or the first point of entry in the U.S.

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