Thursday, October 11, 2007

Is Broadband in Ghana really Broadband?

This article is inspired by recent articles on the BBC website discussing Broadband speeds, what you get, what you don’t and why ISP’s should become more responsible in reporting ‘speeds’ of the connections they provide. Ofcom which is the regulator of stuff internet in the UK and other private tech firms and agencies are all concerned about the way in which ISP’s handle advertisement and marketing of their service offerings as most invariably customers will never achieve the speed advertised especially using ADSL which is the common way to access these days.

ADSL as a cable based technology delivers different speeds dependent on several factors of which distance from the exchange, number of people using the internet connection, quality of wiring within the home or premises all affect performance and I do concede that the technology has limitations as such..

Where do we draw the line? I have NEVER seen the connection in my office reach above 30Kbps (we’ve never reached 30Kbps) and I am sure our connection (BroandBand4u subscription) is at least touted to be a 128KBps connection. Half that is 64 Kbps and I do not think it would be too much to expect at least 50% of the purported max speed to be achieved most of the time. My office is less than or just about a kilometer away from the exchange.

This brings me to an important point. Who is looking out for the customer and ready to discuss such issues in Ghana? I do not know if the NCA which I assume is the regulator of ISPs in Ghana finds this issue as an important. I believe the ISPs can be pushed to deliver a better quality service or at least be made to present their service ‘fairly’ for customers to make a choice.

I believe the following recommendations (Some from Ofcom and other agencies) and some my own could make a difference especially since I sincerely hope ISPs have Quality of Service at the heart of their operations.

 The words ‘UP TO’ are required in advertising the speeds achievable, to signify the best possible connection speed.
 Advertise the typical speeds users would be most likely to experience in addition to the maximum speeds.
 Advise prospective customers on the best type of wiring and equipment that would enhance the user experience and not just sell the internet service.
 ‘Trial periods’ to allow customers to assess the service before committing to it on a long-term basis. (I’m really pushing it on this point, Ghanaian companies don’t think like that. I’d love to be proved wrong and shamed. GT, Internet Ghana, Zipnet any takers?)

To end I would like to say if the NCA or any regulatory body is willing to improve service delivery of ISPs it would enable more advanced use of the internet and open up great opportunities. Please contribute your comments and if your ISP is doing well tell us about it. I like being proved wrong in such cases since it would showcase good corporate values in my Ghana.