SEACOM has launched an attack against speed tests, specifically Speedtest.net, questioning their relevance in today’s world.
The company’s head of engineering, Mark Tinka, said the fascination with connectivity speed probably stems from South Africa’s history of bandwidth-limited legacy technologies.
He added that highly-oversubscribed networks have led to a great deal of frustration and distrust on the part of consumers in the past.
The environment, Tinka argued, has now changed – which lessens the value of speed tests to provide a complete picture of the performance of a service provider.
Tinka criticized ISP performance comparisons based on download speed, upload speed, and latency, saying they are not adjusted to factor in all the complexities of a performance assessment.
“Other factors, like service uptime, application performance, and ISP support, are just as, if not more, important to ensure a solution that meets all of your requirements,” he said.
No data accurately comparing ISPs
Tinka’s suggestion that a wide range of metrics should be used to compare ISPs sounds fair. There is, however, one problem – this data does not exist.
He conceded that “in practice, there won’t be any available data comparing ISPs that accurately reflects each individual operation, as a function of the consumer’s requirements”.
“Consumers need to work with their ISP directly to fully understand what they can realistically achieve for their subscription,” he said.
Many consumers and businesses, however, prefer objective measurements instead of what an ISP promises to inform their decisions.
Speed test platforms give objective comparisons of network performance and customer satisfaction ratings, which therefore provide valuable insights to South Africans.
SEACOM attacks Speedtest.net
Tinka recently attacked speed tests in a SEACOM press statement, saying “this is especially true in the context of South Africa, located as it is on the southern tip of the African continent”.
In a response to questions by MyBroadband, Tinka took aim at Speedtest.net and questioned its relevance in today’s environment.
“While Speedtest.net has been the benchmark for several years to test consumer bandwidth, its relevance in today’s technology is questionable,” Tinka said.
He said if consumers want accurate data about their bandwidth, they should pressure their ISP to provide them with custom tools and systems that they can test toward.
“These tools should not be publicly available to the world, but can be accessed only by the paying consumer of that network,” Tinka said.
SEACOM versus Speedtest.net
Tinka highlighted four reasons why he questions Speedtest.net’s “relevance in today’s technology”, which include server load, server limits, connection speeds, and the location of servers.
Speedtest.net responded, saying “SEACOM’s claims about Speedtest.net are factually incorrect on a number of levels”.
Here are SEACOM’s arguments against Speedtest.net, with the responses from Speedtest.net below.
SEACOM: The number of users that are online pummeling speed tests servers every second, making their individual results dependent on said load.
Speedtest.net maintains the industry’s largest global server network with over 8,000 servers distributed around the world. 85 of those servers are located in South Africa alone, which more than provides ample server capacity for accurate testing at any time.
SEACOM: The increase in the average speed of a consumer’s link, where the limits of a speed test server are easily hit.
To be included in our server network, we thoroughly vet that servers can measure the speed of a modern Internet connection. Our server network is fully able to measure the speed of our users’ connections.
SEACOM: The value of test results for bandwidth in excess of consumers with 100Mbps (Speedtest.net was more reliable when consumers had only dial-up and ADSL).
Speedtest.net is capable of reliably measuring speeds well above 100Mbps, including on sophisticated modern connection types such as fibre broadband and 5G on mobile. Consumers continue to widely use Internet testing to assess the performance of their connection regardless of their speeds, which is demonstrated by the over 10 million unique active tests taken with Speedtest.net daily by people around the world.
SEACOM: The fact that most users test Speedtest.net servers which are physically thousands of miles away, where latency plays a huge factor in the result.
Given the expansive global reach of our server network, when someone takes a Speedtest.net they are able to do so to a server located geographically near them which eliminates the potential issue of travel lag from the test device to the server. This is a strong competitive advantage to using Speedtest.net over other third party testing services with smaller server networks.
Speedtest.net went on to recommend an article by its head of data science, Dr. Brian Connelly, which discusses the ways it ensures accurate tests and data – How Ookla ensures accurate, reliable data.