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Placing TelstraClear in the spotlight again

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 19-May-2010 09:12

It seems all my latest posts are about TelstraClear, New Zealand's second large ISP, previously voted "Best ISP" on Netguide People's Choice Web Awards (and asking for votes again, which I think will be difficult to win this year). But really TelstraClear seems to be making all the right moves to annoy its users. And I am one of them.

And TelstraClear is not a cheap ISP compared to others (I pay $149 a month plus the occasional excess use for their 80GB/month plan). Premium costs should provide premium service. And with that premium responsibility.

I have been with TelstraClear for more than ten years, way before it was TelstraClear. The cable service was called Saturn, and even before that it was Chello.

I always told everyone TesltraClear had the most reliable, consistently fast service in the country, but in the last nine months things are going downhill from where I see it.

I will try to look at some of the latest developments here, and it's going to be a longer post than usual (well, not when it comes to this topic).

First, there was their YouTube problem, which dragged for more than nine months, until they decided that yes, it was time to deploy a Google cache. I won't go into much details - read my previous posts on TelstraClear YouTube problem.

So now we have a Google cache deployed on TelstraClear. Things are looking a bit better but I am to be convinced they did provision an adequate sized cache. But that was a positive move.

It's a good move, and I believe they did well, seeing Google's policy seems to be to get as much free bandwidth as possible, by having large ISPs putting their caches, bringing content closer to consumers, but also guaranteeing Google an advantage in terms of content distribution at low cost.

This brings me to the next problem. For a few weeks now I have read lots of complaints about TelstraClear slow international traffic. I have experienced this myself. Every single day. It seems the YouTube problem was solved, but another one came to fill the vacuum created.

TelstraClear uses a transparent proxy. It means when we customers connect to a website we are actually connecting to their server, which in turn will cache the content to make it available later to other users requesting it again.

This works great, if the transparent proxy is actually transparent and doesn't show its ugly head to the users. Every now and them (it seems it's always in the morning) websites stop loading, or won't load completely. It always comes right after an hour or couple of hours. I wonder if the transparent proxy is being overloaded and something needs to be done there?

Then there's the international traffic in general. It looks like TelstraClear international pipe is being saturated. For example iTunes movie downloads that used to take 30 - 45 minutes to download now take 4 - 6 hours. Access to content hosted at Amazon services (such as Amazon AWS storage, used by many companies to distribute images for example) has been slow or simply not connecting at all. Twitter avatars for example.

TelstraClear doesn't "peer" in New Zealand with smaller ISPs. This means they don't exchange some of this traffic locally, with some of this local traffic on TelstraClear's network going overseas and then back into New Zealnd just to reach a server on another side of town.

Always wondered why using www.speedtest.net from Wellington and testing against the Wellington server gives you bad results? Because of this "international traffic". Look at these results (I am based in Wellington):

Speedtest from TelstraClear Wellington to Wellington

Speedtest from TelstraClear Wellington to Napier

Speedtest from TelstraClear Wellington to Auckland

Try using one of the CityLink servers to download a Linux install file and see how slow that goes... And they are just around the corner (so to speak) from here!

Now, don't take my word, but that's what I think anyway - and I am not sure we will ever hear a confirmation from TelstraClear, but I think Google requires dedicated bandwidth for their cache. And TelstraClear forces a lot of "local" traffic over international links. It could be that international bandwidth has now some reserved bandwidth used by the new Google cache, without any additional bandwidth being provisioned for the existing use.

This comes also with a rumour I heard about TelstraClear having some problems with one of its providers of international traffic, Reach, which just happens to be a sister company, also owned by Australian telco Telstra.

TelstraClear promises to be deploying DOCSIS3 anytime now (which in TelstraClear terms means "in the next five years), but what good would it be for users, if the rest of the structure doesn't support higher speeds?



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Mauricio Freitas
Wellington
New Zealand


I live in New Zealand and my interests include mobile devices, good books, movies and food of course! 

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