Telkom LTE Advanced tested, and it cooks

Telkom was out in force in Parkview on Friday, 14 November 2014, to try and sign up residents to its Long Term Evolution (LTE) Advanced services it recently launched.

Many residents were invited to test LTE Advanced free for 14 days, during which time Telkom would give them an LTE router and 20GB of data.

Others were given incentives to pop into cafés in the neighbourhood and try out the network via the free Wi-Fi networks rolled out in the area.

Media were also invited to the launch of the big marketing push, and given the opportunity to test the network elsewhere in the neighbourhood.

The main event was at Scusi Bistro, on the corner of Tyrone Avenue and Ennis Road in Parkview, where Telkom achieved live results in excess of 100 Megabits per second (Mbps) while streaming content to an Apple TV and a video from YouTube.

Telkom LTE-Advanced test at launch
Telkom LTE Advanced test at launch

With the streams still running, users on the Wi-Fi network were still able to achieve peak download speeds of 30Mbps from services like Steam.

The question is: could we get similar performance elsewhere in Parkview?

Hitting the road in a Telkom technician’s car we set out to the southern end of Parkview to take the network for a spin.

We hooked up our laptop via Wi-Fi to the LTE Advanced router being powered by the cigarette lighter port and conducted some tests of our own.

Telkom LTE-Advanced Ookla tests
Telkom LTE Advanced Ookla tests (click for larger image)
Telkom LTE-Advanced BitTorrent test (downloading Ubuntu 14.04.1)
Telkom LTE Advanced BitTorrent test (downloading Ubuntu 14.04.1)
Telkom LTE-Advanced test - Steam downloading
Telkom LTE Advanced test – Steam downloading
Telkom LTE-Advanced 4K YouTube test
Telkom LTE Advanced 4K YouTube test

Although peak speeds were not always as high as those achieved inside Scusi, the network’s actual performance on tasks such as large file downloads, video streaming, and downloading while video streaming did not disappoint.

With full signal strength we were able to stream 4K video from YouTube without seeing any buffering.

High frame rate (48 frames per second), 1080p (full HD) content from the second season of Rocketjump’s Video Game High School web series also streamed without any problems when there was full signal.

Even with less-than-stellar signal (3 bars), with download speed results to Telkom’s server in Cape Town dropping as low as 10Mbps, the experience remained pretty good.

We were able to torrent at 8Mbps and stream a 1080p video from YouTube without any buffering events.

Telkom LTE-Advanced HD streaming (from YouTube) while torrenting
Telkom LTE Advanced HD streaming while torrenting (click for larger image)

Don’t sign a multi-year broadband contract

While the network performed well in all the spot-tests we performed, one thing I cannot do in good conscience is recommend Telkom’s promotional headline deal for its LTE Advanced services.

After concluding their trial, residents of Parkview and the surrounding area are offered a 36-month contract which includes a monthly allotment of 100GB of data for R1,399 per month.

Considering the glut of high-speed broadband services which are about to enter those areas (thanks in no small part to the fibre networks awarded to Dark Fibre Africa and Vumatel by Parkview and Parkhurst) taking out a 3-year contract at this stage is just not a smart move.

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Telkom LTE Advanced tested, and it cooks