Modern Family

This is an illustration of a modern family.

Taking into account that my partner has a 3G device, my son has his own 3G device and I provide tethering to the rest of the family as well (which has used 64 GB this period so far and I’m only 2/3 of the way through that billing period), it seems to me that a family consisting of a mom, pop, two kids and two step-kids could easily use three quarters of a terabyte of data in 30 days. That’s 250 GB in 10 days. 25GB a day. And that’s just during their waking hours.

This comes from nearly everyone but me having a long list of YouTube subscriptions. My usage is mostly Netflix (and an episode or two of Breaking Bad a night isn’t going to break the bank).

It’s also worth saying that the bandwidth we’re using is restricted by the provision. We often see quality issues on YouTube and Netflix. Latency is often high. It would be fair to say that we’re at the top end of the broadband users but that’s what a modern family is.

The demand for this content and the demand for it to be ever higher quality will push our broadband demands though the roof. Is our infrastructure ready for that?

Your definition of broadband is wrong.

A few months ago I had the pleasure of attending a Deloitte paper launch and the guest speaker was Peter Cochrane. I’d not heard of Peter before but he eloquently (and authoritatively) put forward an argument that I have tried to explain to stakeholders across the province. While it’s hard to get the full effect of his persuasive speech, you can view his FTTH @ Last slides at the link above.

His core argument was:

Your definition of broadband is wrong.

© Peter Cochrane

During the talk, he said that if an internet link is not 100 Mbps up and down then it’s not broadband. Many people scoff but they fail to realise several things about the demand for broadband. The demand is there, it’s entirely in the supply that we see the issue.

In 2003, it was exciting to download a 3 Megabyte music file from the newly opened iTunes Store. My broadband was 512 Kbps down, 256Kbps up and it had a reported 20:1 contention. In 2013, my bandwidth demands have increased a thousandfold. I want to download 3.2 Gigabyte movie files from the iTunes Store. But my broadband speeds have increased only by a factor of 10 in a decade. I’m imminently to order BT Infinity but that only can provide 24-80 Mbps (“SuperFast broadband”) and not the 80 Mbps+ (“UltraFast broadband”) that the modern media consumer demands. And that’s just the download speed because idiots have, over the last few years, decreed that download speed is the only important metric.

There are four metrics I measure broadband by:

  • Upload
  • Download
  • Latency
  • Contention

Upload speeds are just as important (and more important for the media industry) and they tend to still be sub-10 Mbps. Contention on BT Infinity is 50:1 – the opposite of contention is a term called “non-blocking” where everyone paying for access gets the access they are paying for. When Telcos promise a certain bandwidth, they’re actually selling that same object fifty times to their customers and you’re all supposed to share. (The logic being that not everyone will be downloading at the same time). Latency is, for most people in our industry, immaterial though you can feel the effect in online games, video-conferencing calls and other time-senstiive operations. In many cases, the latency is not caused at the “broadband” end but due to the series of interactions between you and your content across the Internet. The delicious irony being that if your upload speed is limited, your latency jumps considerably as your “content requests” are competing with your uploads.

One of Peter’s slides regarding the island of Jersey:

© Peter Cochrane

(He goes on to clarify that 3G runs at 14 Mbits, WiFi at 50 Mbps.)


100Mbit for 299kr (£25) a month is the slowest broadband in Sweden. And it goes up to a Gig for £75 a month

Keep this in mind when talking about our “digital platform”. Our broadband needs to improve by a factor of 100 for our consumer markets and for our business markets, probably 100 times that.

O2 not on the ball for tethering

O2 announced their pricing for iPhone-tethering recently.

Bolt Ons for Pay Monthly
3GB – £14.68 a month (minimum 30 days)
10GB – £29.36 a month (minimum 30 days)

I don’t mind paying for tethering. But as I’m already paying £45 a month minimum (and some bills have been MUCH higher) which is meant to include unlimited internet, I’m a little cheesed off about this one.

Now, consider this.

My internet usage on O2’s network, for the last TWO years of owning an iPhone on an unlimited internet tariff has been…


So, really, asking me to pay an extra £15 on top of my contract when I’ve been pretty much an angel anyway rubs me the wrong way. Add to this the carrier-dictated restrictions on using Skype, SlingPlayer or having large downloads come down over 3G and you can begin to see why I’m not entirely pleased with my O2 Experience.

Is tethering worth £15 to me?

Frankly, no.