A chance to compare

I used to use ADSL lines at home, but these days I have A&A Ethernet services, i.e. actual fibre to the building. It has nice latency and works well. So I do not get a chance to try real broadband lines very often.

However, visiting relatives, I do get a chance to. Obviously many of them have A&A broadband lines, and, well, "just work".

What has been interesting today is that I am at a relative who has a typical cable based broadband service. I won't say who's, but it is interesting to see what most people put up with.

They have a cable modem with wifi, and a computer they connect directly (which is off). I am the only person using the Internet in the house, and using wifi from my mac, in the same room as the router.

What surprised me is that I noticed it being "sluggish" and a bit slow. I tried playing World of Warcraft and found that it had patches to download (as is often the case). It did manage 1MByte/s but after a few hundred MB it slowed a lot. It took ages to download the patch which was over 500MB. Apparently this is a "20Mb/s service" so should manage at least twice that sort of speed and maintain it. I know WoW patches can load way faster.

Then I tried playing. I had noticed already that just using irc via ssh was laggy. But WoW was showing anything from 400ms to over 1s latency. Almost as bad as playing in Rhodes. It was rather inconsistent though, and was down to under 300ms some of the time. Far from what I am used to.

I'll try and do a more direct comparison with an A&A line - perhaps after we install new broadband at this address in a few weeks. It is sometimes a surprise to see what people do put up with!

Update: I see we have DNS poisoning as well (directing NX domains to a web search page), and a lack of IPv6, and seems they do intercept the pirate bay (not that I use it, but was an interesting test).


  1. Yup, a friend is on this same cable service and I see anything from 25ms to 500ms when playing WoW, depending on the time of day.

    On my FTTC I'm getting 24ms constantly.

  2. Conversely I use the same provider for a 100Mbps and always get a solid 12MBps ... until I download a few gig and then they rate limit to 6MBps

    I get pings somewhere between 15-25ms and TOR latency of about 50-60ms

    I don't use their provided wifi and most of my devices are wired - maybe that's the difference?

    Would also be interesting to see what their cabled computer gets - maybe it's just really really dodgy wifi?

  3. Double checked that no-one has managed to elbow their way through the Wi-Fi security? Could be skewing your results. (Which don't surprise me greatly, tbh.)

  4. Double-checked connected Wi-Fi clients? Just in case someone's managed to get past the security and is leeching.

    Also worth ruling-out poor Wi-Fi with a wired connection; there could just be neighbouring 802.11 on the same channel that is interfering.

    But after saying all that, your experience does not surprise me one bit, particularly as "20Mbit" is likely the lowest service tier.

  5. But if that's what you're used to, you become inured to it... same as the local clergyperson from the Church of Scotland (no idea if he's a priest, reverend, father, vicar...) and his (very widely advertised, no longer trading) mass-market DSL... he asked me to take a look at his "slow downloads that have never been great, but noticeably worse recently". A quick look showed sync of 8128/448 throughput measured via speedtest.net at 57kbps (that tallied with the 4.5-5Kbyte/sec he was seeing).

    He used some words you'd not expect to emanate from a man of the cloth when on the phone to them and got out of his *2 year* contract without penalty.

  6. Jitter is awful too with this cable provider (50Mb/s service) in comparison to my Be Retail ADSL service...

  7. I have to agree that it could be iffy wifi or even hijacked wifi, I was deliberately being a "consumer" not a geek here, honest. But of course if it was an A&A line it would be obvious if the wifi has been hijacked from the usage graphs, and the user controlled packet dump, and so on, on the control pages.

  8. It could be the UBR for the area is oversubscribed, that not that uncommon particularly either in student areas or areas where the only alternative is ADSL and your house is a long way from the exchange.

    Also if it's the provider I suspect it is they have STM on the lower tiers and it doesn't take downloading that much to trigger it, once triggered it's nasty and knocks 75% off the speed for a number of hours.

  9. STM is also on upper tiers.... :(

    I download a few gig and i'm limited to half my normal speed


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