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Bahrain broadband subscribers getting most of what they pay for

Report from Bahrain TRA shows broadband services come close to delivering promised connection speeds

Bahrain broadband subscribers getting most of what they pay for
Broadband packages in Bahrain are delivering close to the promised level of service.

Bahrain's Telecommunications Regulatory Authority has published its first report on the quality of broadband services in the Kingdomm, which shows that broadband subscribers are generally getting the download connection speed that they pay for.

The Broadband Quality of Service Analysis Report presents measurements of the services delivered by nine ISPs in Bahrain, to compare the speed of service that they offer to subscribers in their broadband packages, with the speed of service that they actually deliver.

The results are based on data gathered on behalf of the TRA by broadband benchmarking company Epitiro. The company installed its monitoring platform in Bahrain, and began round-the-clock measurement of seven 1Mbps broadband services, and two 2Mbps services from April this year.

Figures in the report showed that six out of seven of the 1Mbps services all delivered very close to a countrywide average download speed of 0.74Mbps, with a top average of 0.8Mpbs from three providers, while upload speeds averaged around 0.2Mbps.

Only one service delivered consistently lower than the average, the Orbit Satellite service, owing to different operational capabilities of satellite communications.

The two 2Mbps WiMAX services performed slightly worse, delivering an average download speed of 1.1Mbps and upload speed of 0.24Mbps.

The speeds available would mean an average MP3 file of 5MB would take 0.9 mins to download via a 1Mbps connection, or 0.61 mins by 2Mbps, while an 800MB movie would take 143.6 mins on a 1Mbps service or 97.2 mins on the 2Mbps service.

Mohammed Mahmood, the TRA director of technical and operations affairs explained: "Whilst Internet Service Providers do provide the basic level of information required to allow customers to make decisions relating to price, download speed and download threshold, they do not make available information relating to the actual download and upload speeds achieved on average for each ISP. TRA considers that at minimum consumers should be able to make informed decisions with respect to understanding what is likely to be provided by each ISP."

The Epitiro solution monitors the connections once every hour, 24 hours per day, and is also able to track peaks in demand and performance for ping and latency.

Rob Middlehurst, deputy general director commented: "The purpose of the report initially, is just to take stock of where we are now. If you take the 1Mbps connection, that is fairly positive in real terms. If I take a 1Mpbs download speed, I am actually achieving on average a 0.7 to 0.8 megabit download speed, which is pretty good shape in terms of consumers getting what they pay for."

Middlehurst said that the results are intended to give a benchmark view of performance, to help consumers make a more informed choice about which operators deliver the best services, and to track the performance of the industry as a whole.

"It tells us where we are, and over time, it will show us, probably, that there has been quality of service improvement - it is a tracking mechanism," he said. "We have made it publically available to everyone, so people can have a better informed choice, if they can get a better service they will eventually move to that operator, that is the logic of a free market. Operators whose performance might not be as good others have the opportunity for improvement, and this should encourage them to implement quality of service change."

Middlehurst added that the TRA will continue monitoring, and will look to expand the monitoring over time, particularly with regard to higher speeds, with the reports likely to act as a differentiator between operators.

In markets outside the region, there has been an increasing problem of a widening gap between the service that is promised and what is actually delivered, particularly on higher speed broadband packages. UK telecoms regulator Ofcom recently announced that in the UK, where ISPs offer packages with speeds ‘up to' 8Mbps, 20Mbps and 50Mbps, the level of service has declined in the past year, with actual average speed delivered down from 56% of the promised level to just 46%.

The full Quality of Service report is available at the TRA website.

Epitiro also offers a free application, isposure for consumers to check their own broadband service levels, which is available at www.isposure.com.

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