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Consumers Not Getting Broadband Speeds Advertised, says FCC Study

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The paper goes on to state that the "up to" speed that is advertised by service providers "does not take into account congestion or degradation of service over the connection line."

"The 'up to' speed, however, does not provide an accurate measure of likely end-user broadband experience," the paper states. "That experience depends on multiple factors, including the actual speed that consumers realize, taking into account the impact of network congestion; and other metrics like the availability of the network, latency, jitter and packet loss."

The last three-latency, jitter, and packet loss-are key elements in the delivery of online video via broadband.

Based on the point made about advanced users-those who watch HD video-the conclusion should be that the trend is moving towards a need for actual speeds of 7Mbps or higher. Yet the FCC must feel that HD video on the web is an anomaly, as it seems to indicate that the average user should require no more than 4Mpbs on average.

"In the first half of 2009, the media consumption was almost 2GB of data per month," the paper states, "but the average (mean) user consumed over 9 gigabytes per month. Mean usage is driven by a small set of users who consume large amounts of data. Data indicate that 80% of broadband use falls into three of these profiles [utility, emerging, full] which require actual download speeds of no more than 4Mbps."

Looks like the bar has just been dramatically lowered for the U.S. to reach broadband parity with other advanced countries, many of which are in the 15Mpbs average availability range.

Data Subscription Services
The breakdown of reporting shows that the FCC is using several data subscription types that no longer meet the definition of broadband:

"In 2009, U.S. residential consumers subscribed to broadband connections across a range of technologies," the technical paper states, "with average (mean) and median advertised download speeds of 7-8Mbps:
• Fiber-to-the-premise (FTTP): 10-15Mbps;
• Cable modem: 8-11Mbps;
• DSL: 2.5-3.5Mbps;
• Satellite or fixed wireless: approximately 1.3Mbps

DSL barely scrapes by the new definition of broadband, in part because the FCC includes fiber-to-the-node (FTTN) as part of DSL's definition.

Fixed wireless and satellite also falls below the definition of broadband. Interestingly, though, the FCC provides insight into a trend that was mentioned in another StreamingMedia.com article: the rise of mobile data cards for advanced users.

"As of late 2009, the average mobile broadband user who owns a large-screen smartphone spent 38 minutes per day online via a mobile connection, which is over half the time that the average broadband consumer spends online at home via a fixed connection," the paper states. "Large-screen smartphones can push monthly data usage above 300 MB/month, while wireless cards in laptops, netbooks and other mobile devices drive even higher figures, in some cases mimicking fixed broadband. 3G wireless cards have average usage of 1-1.4GB/ month-similar to the median fixed broadband user-while Clearwire reports that average usage for its 4G wireless card service is roughly 7GB/month-almost as high as the average fixed broadband user."

Driving the point home, and questioning the basic premise in which "unlimited" plans for wireless data cap out at 5GB/month, the FCC notes that wireless cards account for the vast majority of mobile data.

"Due to the high per-device usage rates of 3G and 4G wireless cards, these connections account for the majority of mobile data usage today," the paper states. "Wireless cards account for 75% of all mobile data consumption, while phones and wireless-enabled devices comprise only 25% of usage. Going forward, smartphones and wireless cards are expected to see 30-40% growth rates on a per-device basis as consumers continue to take advantage of new innovation and investment in mobile broadband and devices."

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