Network Operations and Internet Security @ UChicago

Study Comparing Fixed and Mobile Broadband in South Africa to Appear at ACM DEV

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A study led by Marshini Chetty and Srikanth Sundaresan will appear at the Fourth Annual Symposium on Computing for Development (ACM DEV) this coming December.  The study presents the results of a performance study of fixed and mobile broadband performance from five mobile providers and nine fixed-line providers across all nine provinces in South Africa in 2013.

The study involved the deployment of the BISmark performance measurement software on home routers across the country, as well as a widespread deployment of the MySpeedTest Android cellular performance measurement software.  The paper’s results include the following:

  • Performance consistently underperforms with respect to advertised rates
  • Mobile broadband consistently achieves higher throughput than fixed broadband
  • (Bad) peering can introduce significant latency, introduce fragility in times of failure (e.g., fiber cut).  (See Srikanth and Nick’s blog post for more detailed coverage of this phenomenon.)

We are continuing to collect performance data in South Africa and are in the process of replicating and expanding this study in other countries in Africa.  The plot below shows some summary data of download throughput from ISPs across Africa from May 1 through today (September 18, 2013).  You can explore the data for the fixed-line South African deployment more at BISmark’s Network Dashboard (developed by Alfred Roberts).

ISP Throughput in South Africa

Author: Nick Feamster

Nick Feamster is a professor in the Department of Computer Science at Princeton University. Before joining the faculty at Princeton, he was a professor in the School of Computer Science at Georgia Tech. He received his Ph.D. in Computer science from MIT in 2005, and his S.B. and M.Eng. degrees in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from MIT in 2000 and 2001, respectively. His research focuses on many aspects of computer networking and networked systems, including the design, measurement, and analysis of network routing protocols, network operations and security, and anonymous communication systems. In December 2008, he received the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) for his contributions to cybersecurity, notably spam filtering. His honors include the Technology Review 35 "Top Young Innovators Under 35" award, a Sloan Research Fellowship, the NSF CAREER award, the IBM Faculty Fellowship, and award papers at SIGCOMM 2006 (network-level behavior of spammers), the NSDI 2005 conference (fault detection in router configuration), Usenix Security 2002 (circumventing web censorship using Infranet), and Usenix Security 2001 (web cookie analysis).

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