One of the best things that’s happened to the world over the past few decades is the advent of the World Wide Web. Following that as the internet has eased itself into our daily lives and is now an integral part of businesses and the way we consume media and stay connected with friends and family around the world, having a reasonably fast internet connection at home is key.
And it’s not all about downloading HD movies and songs, but more about the seamless experience that today’s powerful computers can afford us. If I’m booting into Windows 8 within 9 seconds after pushing the Start button on my desktop/ laptop, or able to launch Chrome or Firefox the instant I double-click on the icon, than I should be able to do everything within that window just as fast.
Streaming YouTube or Vimeo in 1080p? It should happen without any buffering. Checking out the email my sister sent me with full resolution pictures from her DSLR? I should be able to just keep on scrolling down without seeing broken icons for unloaded images. It’s not just about going on news sites or other text heavy websites anymore. The content we consume on the internet is high quality stuff, videos and pictures that my ultra-high resolution monitor is capable of showing. And I want it all instantly. Would you watch a DVD (gasp!) or a VHS (remember those?) on your 50-inch LED LCD? Things have changed now. We want the best in everything, and we want it fast.
We’ve been somewhat blessed that the UAE has adopted broadband internet and laid down the fiber-optics network quiet fast over the past decade, with both du and Etisalat offering 100MB connections, the latter offering up to 300MB as well. The pricing for these packages is arguably reasonable when you compare it to the rest of our region. However, one of things every household now looks at is the type of package Etisalat and du offer. Comparing the packages from both companies and the types of extra costs and benefits associated with them is a discussion for another time, today I just want to look at the raw numbers. Do we as consumers get the speed advertised by Etisalat and du for their broadband packages?
To find this out I’ve had 4 colleagues do a speed test in their house on their respective networks. We have two 8MB and two 16MB connections from both du and Etisalat. Each test was done between 9:30pm and 10pm to see how the broadband performs during peak network usage hours. Speed Test is one of the most accurate and well known broadband speed testing sites in the world. Their mobile apps also give a realistic representation of the type of speeds you’re experiencing on a wireless connection, whether it’s WiFi or LTE.
For each test the “Dubai [AE] – du or Etisalat” server was specifically chosen for each respective connection. This is to eliminate any chance of unnecessary connectivity issues, minimizing lag (represented by Ping) and giving highest possible speeds.
Etisalat seems to be have some minor ups and downs. ON the one handthe 16MB download is about 3% lower than rated, but the upload is 1% faster. The story reverses on 8MB with downloads exceeding the rated speeds by an impressive 6%, but uploads suffer by a massive 10%.
du suffers all around, with minor speed hits in the Jumierah Village area, but taking a massive hit in Jumeirah Lakes Towers, exceeding 20%. I must say that during off peak hours, such as weekend morning or mid afternoon on weekdays when I have done the same test by downloads speeds do get up to early 7MBs, but upload remains the same.
An interesting thing to note in both Etisalat and du packages is the upload speed. While Etisalat has a limit of 1MB on both their 8MB and 16MB packages, du actually offers 2MB uploads and 4MB uploads on their 8MB and 16MB ‘premium’ packages respectively. The best part? Even with the premium packages du offers cheaper packages than Etisalat.
So while du suffers somewhat in speed, their packages are not only cheaper, but on the upload side of things, they are much higher anything Etisalat has to offer. And why is the upload speed important? When you’re doing a video chat on Skype and want the people on the other end to get your feed clear and smooth, a higher upload speed is essential. Want to host a game server for your friends? The higher the upload speeds, the smoother the gameplay will be as you have more bandwidth to upload data packets. And with most games on Xbox Live or PlayStation Network reliant on P2P connection, having a higher upload speed is really important.
So if you want pure download speeds, it seems Etisalat is good with consistent performance. For better uploads and still cheaper package, du seems to be the better choice. Personally? Despite getting inconsistent download speed results, I would be inclined to go with du simply because of the higher upload speeds. Add to this the slightly cheaper package, and that’s icing on top. My general experience (in JLT) remains fine for the most part, although I do think it’s time to upgrade from 8MB as even that is starting to feel slow.