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

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).