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Gareth Cliff talks unscripted, uncensored SA Internet with Desmond Kurz

Gareth Cliff Internet Central.jpg

Last week Tuesday, Gareth Cliff talked to MWEB Gaming and Digital Manager, Desmond Kurz, on Cliff Central. It's the first time I listened to the #InternetCentral segment of the Gareth Cliff Show, and now I'm hooked. #InternetCentral is important for South African Internet users. It's important because it relays complicated, yet crucial information to listeners in simple terms. After that podcast I have a broader understanding of how Internet traffic works, what I can do to test and improve my home connection, and even how throttling and shaping Internet traffic work. Gamers should check out the section about the basic requirements for online gaming.

I've paraphrased the podcast, but if you rather want to listen, then jump to the end of the article and press play.

How do you test how good your connection is?

MWEB Speed Test.jpg

You test your Internet connection with Online speed tests. Whoever your ADSL provider is, you should use their speed test. If you use a speed test that’s not on your network, then you’ll just be using a test that could bring with it other interferences. So if you're using MWEB as your Internet Service Provider, then use the following:

  • MWEB Speed Test (There’s one for Cape Town, one for Gauteng, and one to London.)
  • ADSL Line Test (My Account)

The ADSL line test (My Account) gives a lot of feedback about your connection. MWEB also has call center support to help you make sense of the data.

Which option is better, WiFi or fixed line?

First, your connection to the Internet always depends on how good your ADSL connection is because it underpins your WiFi. The issue with a WiFi network is that other people can jump in on the line, which slows it down. Dect phones (cordless phones) can also slow down your connection. On the other hand, a fixed line can also have interferences which affects the line quality.

There’s no straight answer because different things affect line speed. Distance from the exchange is probably the most important component. The exchange is like the automated version of “Nommer Asb,” as it handles your connection. Two things that influence the quality of your connection to the exchange:

  1. Attenuation: The strength of your ADSL connection to the exchange.
  2. Signal to Noise Ratio: The amount of signal that’s lost between your connection to the exchange is measured in decibels.

So the general rule is; the further you are from the exchange, the weaker that signal is when it finally reaches the exchange. Any high-powered electrical equipment can cause interference on your ADSL line. Remember, the line is made of copper wire, which is highly susceptible to electrical interference. So, say your ADSL line runs past a swimming pool pump and through an electrical fence. Both those things will cause “noise” on your ADSL connection. The more high powered electrical equipment your ADSL line has to cross, the weaker your signal will be.

What kind of connection do online games need?

Let's talk about the minimal Internet setup gamers should have in place to game properly.

Firstly, it depends on the kind of game you’re playing. If you’re playing Farmville that doesn’t require a lot of data, then your Internet setup requirements would be minimal. However, if you’re playing online games like Call of Duty or Battlefield, it’s another ballgame. It also depends on how well the Netcode is of the game you playing.

A 4 Meg line should be the minimum for someone who plays online games.

Secondly make sure you’re on a shaped line package. Meaning, your server provider should prioritise the right traffic. If you want a good, stable, low latency connection, then make sure your Internet provider prioritisise that kind of traffic.

Prioritising, throttling and shaping Internet traffic

On our shaped products we do. We make sure that the customers who require that good, stable, low latency connection are given a higher priority on the network. Shaping should not be confused with throttling. People often use those terms as if it's the same thing.

  • Shaping – The best analogy would be to compare “shaping Internet traffic” to “peak hour traffic”. So during peak hour traffic there’s a dedicated bus line so people can get to work faster. So that’s how we shape traffic at MWEB. We take a look at what is that “important traffic”, that needs priority. Like YouTube videos, like email, like gaming – and we make sure it gets its fast line.

Things like BitTorrents get lower priority because people who download things using it are generally prepared to wait. Unlike people who wants to watch a YouTube video right now. So a BitTorrent gets lower priority than a YouTube stream.

  • Throttling refers to slowing down an Internet users speed, irrespective of what they do online. What we’re really trying to do is to make sure there’s fair usage for all users. Throttling means that are peak times, or when you’ve reached a specific data consumption point, you’re kind of forced to drive in the slow lane.

Cliff Central: Website | Twitter | Facebook

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