Broadband tests may tell on firms

PUBLISHED : Monday, 15 August, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 15 August, 2005, 12:00am


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Competition in Hong Kong's broadband access market could heat up when the telecommunications regulator begins reporting the results of its speed tests later this month, with the winner receiving bragging rights as the city's fastest service provider.

The survey, endorsed by the Office of the Telecommunications Authority (Ofta) and conducted by the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology's Business School, is the first official report card on the service quality provided by broadband access suppliers.

To date, broadband customers have relied on the claims of providers such as PCCW, Hutchison Global Communications (HGC), Hong Kong Broadband Network (HKBN) and i-Cable Communications without independent verification from a third party.

The Ofta-backed survey will measure upload and download speeds, among other performance indicators.

Last week, HGC released the results of its own speed test conducted by researchers at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

That test showed that HGC and HKBN - which uses HGC's internet backbone - outpaced rivals i-Cable with PCCW, with the dominant fixed-line operator logging the worst result.

'We think our survey was comprehensive and consumer-oriented,' HGC head of consumer marketing Clara Kan said. HGC offers upload and download speeds of 10 megabits per second (Mbps), compared with a download speed of 6Mbps and upload speed of 600 kilobits per second for PCCW.

Ms Kan said as 80 per cent of internet traffic was used for peer-to-peer file transfers, connection speed between two computers should be the primary gauge as users choose service providers.

It is not known whether the Ofta-endorsed survey measures download and upload speeds on file transfers between two different computers, or gauges speeds between a test computer and a website server.

One executive at a service provider said: 'The Ofta survey will use another methodology which is different from HGC's approach. So it is not fair to compare the two results directly.'

The speed tests do not offer an apple-to-apple comparison of network performance. PCCW, the largest broadband supplier in Hong Kong with more than 600,000 subscribers, offers the service through a legacy copper network.

HGC delivers access through a more advanced 'Metro Ethernet' network built by Cisco Systems. This allows HGC and HKBN to offer parallel access speeds of 10Mbps, while PCCW can offer just 6Mbps of download and 600 kilobits per second upload speed.

The fixed-line operator plans to upgrade its service to 1Mbps upload and 25Mbps download speeds.