Sunday, March 22, 2009

Shared vs dedicated - Dedicated wins

All of the services Starhub provides, their broadband service is the only one I never ever will recommend to anyone.

I still remember the one time I subscribed to cable and I terminated it within a month. Even the technician who came to attend to my complaint was speechless when I showed him webpages that can't even load. How can it be called broadband when it is worse than dial up?

When it comes to paid broadband, please go for ADSL services like SingNet etc. My stance remains the same since the first day I started to write in cyberspace with which then became, that between cable and ADSL access, I'll take ADSL any day.

Starhub tried to debunk this shared vs dedicated so called 'myth'. Although SingNet may have played this up to their advantage by not telling the whole truth, it is nevertheless true that dedicated access will give you consistent access.

If you are new to this shared vs dedicated thing, let me help you out.

Imagine the Internet as a bank. Accessing the Internet is the same as borrowing money which represents the bandwidth. Accessing the Internet to do simple task like going to requires you to borrow for a very short period while more complex task like downloading a huge file will cause the money to be out of the bank longer. Each subscriber can only borrow what they are entitled to according to the plan they subscribed to and once they are done with the task, they will return back the money to the bank.

ISPs uses the probability formula when selling their non-guaranteed Internet access like for home use. So even though they may have say 100,000 subscribers, they may not have that much bandwidth because not all the subscriber use the Internet at the same time (even though they may be logged on) or download at the same time. The chances of all users clicking the mouse or pressing the enter key at the same time is very very rare therefore ISP 'recycles' the bandwidth among their subscribers.

This 'recycling' thing also makes business sense because it can bring the cost down, which is why most homes here can afford broadband.

The issue is not about ISP 'cheating' you. The issue is how the bandwidth is spread out within its users and this is the problem with Starhub shared basis.

Starhub's shared access network means groups of subscribers are assigned to specific tellers in the bank depending on their location and each teller has a fixed amount of money they can lend out. When the demand to borrow money is low because only a few users need them at the same time, there will be more than enough of it to go around.

Since the probability formula is applied to each teller, that means they do not have enough money for all users to use at the same time. Although I mentioned earlier that the chances of all users using the Internet at the same time is rare, the chances are increased when the amount of bandwidth to play around is lower, which in this case, the money each teller has.

When that actually happens, users will be fighting with each other because there are only enough money a teller can borrow out even though other tellers may have tons of it with them. This means that while some users may be getting more bandwidth than they subscribed to, you on the other hand can't even get what you are entitled to. That is why sometimes cable users in Jurong are happily surfing while users in Tampines are frustrated as hell.

SingNet however assigned each subscriber to a teller and this is what they mean by 'dedicated access'. Although still based on the probability formula, a teller can get hold of any money available in the vault. The chances of the vault running out of money is very low. Even if they do run out of money, everyone is affected and not just a group of subscribers.

Unless Starhub can dynamically or constantly change the amount of money tellers can dish out according to the need at that time, it will never be consistent. How would you feel when you have an important email with an attachment to download and you are assigned to a teller that has very little money left?

All the while I have been on ADSL, I have never experience speeds like a dial up unless there is a problem. For Starhub, it's a gamble.

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