Weblog on the Internet and public policy, journalism, virtual community, and more from David Brake, a Canadian academic, consultant and journalist
8 October 2003
Filed under:Broadband infrastructure at9:18 pm

An old mate of mine, Jupiter analyst “Ian Fogg”:http://weblogs.jupiterresearch.com/analysts/fogg/, quoted in “this BBC News story”:http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/3174644.stm pours scorn on Tiscali’s new “150Kbps for £15.99 offer”:http://www.tiscali.co.uk/products/broadband/build/3xfaster.html. He says, “it won’t deliver rich content like video, audio, fast downloads, and online gaming” but I don’t buy this argument.

It’s true you can’t get decent video at that bandwidth, but it is perfectly adequate for audio and quite possibly for online gaming as well (where it isn’t the bandwidth but the latency that is important). And as for download speed – if a file is big you have to download it in the background anyway so a few more minutes here or there doesn’t matter much. I believe that this new product delivers most of what most people want from broadband – reasonable web browsing without watching the clock or tying up the phone. I think that’s consistent with the results of the “iSociety’s ethnographic research about broadband”:http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/2504257.stm.

If Telewest offered a similar service I would likely downgrade to it – at least to see if I could live with it. I think the only real problem with it is the price which should be just under that psychological £15 a month mark.


  1. Still hold to the comments that 150kbs downstream is not sufficient for audio and online gaming.

    – For mono speech radio, 150kbs is fine, however not for streamed music.
    – 150kbs is not sufficient for good quality mp3 music, IMO, especially for true stereo.
    – For other codecs, it could be *just* about OK for music streaming, if the 150kbs speed level could be maintained and guaranteed. But, most broadband is contended, or shared capacity, and so this does not exist and actual speeds will vary, only peaking at 150kbs. Tiscali advertise speed as “up to 150kbs”.

    Online Gaming
    – To build community around online games, it’s important to enable access to add-on levels, and enable players to host, or run, their own games. At 150kbs such a hosted action game can support only a few players. Even worse, it’s the upstream speed that matters for running (hosting) games and on Tiscali’s service they are typically less than the download speed, hence asymmetric (as in ADSL), and will be also shared capacity
    – Download speed is important for add-on levels/maps, as distribution needs to be quick within games to enable the extra maps/mods to download before a game cycles to the next level and the player has missed playing. Viral distribution through in-game download – such as in Unreal Tournament 2003 -needs fast broadband.
    – Increasingly games are supporting larger numbers of people simulaneously. This creates much more network traffic than previously – Battlefield 1942 is particularly known for this.
    – Recent games are recognising speed differences in broadband and are including network settings to optimize game performance to match connection type that differentiate broadband speed tiers, rather than a single catch all “broadband” option

    One other note I’d make about Tiscali is on price: it isn’t as cheap as it seems for the 150 and 256kbs products. Both include one off installation fees (25 and 50ukp respectively) that the 512kbs product lacks. So on a one year cost comparison the difference narrows a great deal.

    At that price it’s still good value if you care about price and mainly email and web browsing, but it is “bonzai broadband” in a similar vein to the metered broadband available in Italy and Germany, or the 128kbs in France, or data capacity limits in the Ireland, Netherlands or Norway!!! It doesn’t exactly encourage third parties to deliver rich video/audio content and applications if part of the DSL audience is on 150kbs, and subscribers that expect broadband to enable a richer online experience will be disappointed.

    Comment by Ian Fogg — 9 October 2003 @ 10:36 am

  2. Great spot. Wait til you see the report – out october 28th. Its both barrels at people who think content is good…. lets hope we hit them where it hurts!

    Comment by james — 11 October 2003 @ 1:06 pm

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