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Although download and upload speeds remain the network performance metric of greatest interest to the consumer, we also spotlight two other key network performance metrics in this report: latency and packet loss. These metrics can affect significantly the overall quality of Internet applications.
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** Tiers near Gigabit speeds whose technical methodologies for reporting have not yet been established for the MBA program. We note that a Technical Working Group including providers of these tiers has been created to evaluate different test methodologies for reporting on results for 940 Mbps and above download speeds.
As can be seen in Chart 1.1, there is considerable difference between the offered average weighted speed tier by technology. Chart 2 plots the weighted average of the top 80% ISP tiers by technology for the last four years. All technologies showed increases in the set of advertised download speeds by ISPs. For the September-October 2020 period, the weighted mean advertised speeds for DSL technology was 21 Mbps, which lagged considerably behind the weighted mean advertised download speeds for cable and fiber technologies of 178 Mbps and 447 Mbps, respectively. DSL technology speed increased from 13 Mbps to 21 Mbps from 2019 to 2020, a 60% increase. In comparison, cable technology showed an 15% increase in weighted mean advertised download speed from 2019 to 2020. The largest increase in weighted average advertised speeds, however, was for Fiber technology, which showed a 114% increase from 2019 to 2020.
Advertised download speeds may differ from the actual speeds that subscribers experience. Some ISPs meet network service objectives more consistently than others; some meet such objectives unevenly across their geographic coverage area. Also, speeds experienced by a consumer may vary during the day if the aggregate user demand during busy hours causes network congestion. Unless stated otherwise, the data used in this report is based on measurements taken during peak usage periods, which we define as 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. local time.
The upload speed performance followed a similar trend to the download speed performance, with 7 of the 12 ISP/technologies exceeding their advertised upload speed, and 2 falling below 90% of the advertised upload speed.
Chart 6 summarizes, for each ISP, the ratio of 80/80 consistent median download speed to advertised download speed, and, for comparison, the ratio of median download speed to advertised download speed shown previously in Chart 4. The ratio of 80/80 consistent median download speed to advertised download speed was less than the ratio of median download speed to advertised download speed for all participating ISPs due to congestion periods when median download speeds were lower than the overall average. The size of the difference between these two ratios is indicative of the variability of median download speed: when the difference between these two ratios is small, the median download speed is fairly insensitive to both geography and time; in contrast, when the difference between the two ratios is large, there is a greater variability in median download speed, either across a set of different locations or across different times during the peak usage period at the same location.
As can be seen in Chart 6, cable and fiber ISPs performed better than DSL ISPs with respect to their provision of consistent speeds. Customers of Charter, Comcast, Cox, Mediacom, Optimum, Frontier Fiber, and Verizon, for example, experienced median download speeds that were very consistent; i.e., they provided greater than 95% of the advertised speed during peak usage period to more than 80% of panelists for more than 80% of the time. In particular, Charter, Comcast, Cox and Mediacom provided 100% or greater than their advertised speed during the peak usage period to more than 80% of their panelists for more than 80% of the time. In contrast, the 80/80 consistent download speed for Cincinnati Bell DSL was 46% of the advertised speed.
Chart 1.1 above summarizes the weighted average of the advertised download speed offerings for each participating ISP for the last 4 years (September 2017 to September-October 2020), where the weighting is based upon the number of subscribers to each tier, grouped by the access technology used to offer the broadband Internet access service (DSL, cable, or fiber). Only the top 80% tiers (by subscriber number) of each participating ISP were included. Chart 10 below shows the corresponding weighted average of the advertised upload speeds among the measured ISPs. The computed weighted average of the advertised upload speed of all the ISPs is 56.6 Mbps; this is a 85% increase from 30.5 Mbps in 2019 and a 332% increase from 13.1 Mbps in 2017.
Observing both the download and upload speeds, it is clear that fiber service tiers are generally symmetric in their actual upload and download speeds. This results from the fact that fiber technology has significantly more capacity than other technologies and can be engineered to have symmetric upload and download speeds. For other technologies with more limited capacity, higher capacity is usually allocated to download speeds than to upload speeds, typically in ratios ranging from 5:1 to 10:1.
Chart 12.2 shows the median upload speed as a percentage of the advertised speed. As was the case with download speeds, most ISPs met or exceeded the advertised rates except for the following: CenturyLink, Cincinnati Bell DSL, Frontier DSL, Windstream, and Cox which had ratios, respectively, of 85%, 73%, 98%, 93% and 97%.
Charts 14.1 and 14.2 show the complementary cumulative distribution of the ratio of median download speed (over the peak usage period) to advertised download speed for each participating ISP. For each ratio of measured to advertised download speed on the horizontal axis, the curves show the percentage of panelists, by ISP, who experienced at least this ratio. For example, the curve in Chart 14.1 for Cincinnati Bell fiber shows that 90% of its subscribers experienced a median download speed exceeding 67% of the advertised download speed, 70% experienced a median download speed exceeding 73% of the advertised download speed, and 50% experienced a median download speed exceeding 100% of the advertised download speed.
All speeds discussed above were measured during peak usage periods. In contrast, Charts 15.1 and 15.2 below compare the ratio of actual download and upload speeds to advertised download and upload speeds during peak and off-peak times. Charts 15.1 and 15.2 show that most ISP subscribers experience only a slight degradation from off-peak to peak hour performance.
Chart 16 below shows the actual download speed to advertised speed ratio in each two-hour time block during weekdays for each ISP. The ratio is lowest during the busiest four-hour time block (7:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.).
For each ISP, Chart 6 (in Section 2.C) showed the ratio of the 80/80 consistent median download speed to advertised download speed, and for comparison, Chart 4 showed the ratio of median download speed to advertised download speed.
Chart 17.1 illustrates information concerning 80/80 consistent upload speeds. While all the upload 80/80 speeds were slightly lower than the median speed, the differences were more marked in DSL. Charts 6 and 17.1 reflect that cable and fiber technologies behaved more consistently than DSL technology both for download as well as upload speeds.
Charts 17.2 and 17.3 below illustrate similar consistency metrics for 70/70 consistent download and upload speeds, i.e., the minimum download or upload speed (as a percentage of the advertised download or upload speed) experienced by at least 70% of panelists during at least 70% of the peak usage period. The ratios for 70/70 consistent speeds as a percentage of the advertised speed are higher than the corresponding ratios for 80/80 consistent speeds. In fact, for many ISPs, the 70/70 consistent download or upload speed is close to the median download or upload speed. Once again, ISPs using DSL technology showed a considerably smaller value for the 70/70 download and upload speeds as compared to the download and upload median speeds, respectively.
Chart 18 below shows the weighted median latencies, by technology and by advertised download speed, for terrestrial technologies. For all terrestrial technologies, latency varied little with advertised download speed. DSL service typically had higher latencies, and lower latency for DSL correlated more closely to achieving advertised download speed, compared to lower latency correlation to advertised download speed for either cable or fiber. Cable latencies ranged between 13 ms to 26 ms, fiber latencies between 9 ms to 13 ms, and DSL between 21 ms to 65 ms.
As shown in Charts 19.1-19.7, peak usage period performance varied by service tier among participating ISPs during the September-October 2020 period. On average, during peak periods, the ratio of median download speed to advertised download speed formost ISPs was 90% or better, with all ISPs achieving a ratio of 73% or better. The ratio of median download speed to advertised download speed, however, varied among service tiers. Out of the 44 speed tiers that were measured in total across the participating ISPs, 40 showed achievement of at least 90% of the advertised speed, and advertised speed was met or exceeded in 31 of the 44 tiers.
In Section 3.C above, we present complementary cumulative distributions for each ISP based on test results across all service tiers. Below, we provide tables showing selected points on these distributions by each individual ISP. In general, DSL technology showed performance between 0% and 44% of advertised speed for at least 95% of their subscribers. Among cable-based companies, the average download speeds experienced by at least 95% of subscribers were between 75% and 98% of advertised rates. Fiber-based services provided a range from 93% to 99% of advertised download speeds for at least 95% of subscribers. 041b061a72