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Goondu guide to fibre broadband in Singapore

April 14th, 2011 | by Alfred Siew
Goondu guide to fibre broadband in Singapore
Internet
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So, you’re finally getting the fibre optic cable set up at home and seem all ready to hook up to Singapore’s fast lane that promises faster downloads. Then, all of a sudden, questions come up.

How should I run the fibre optic cable at home? How should I set up up my home network? Which service provider should I sign up with?

As a new fibre broadband user who just signed up two weeks ago, I can tell you I have asked all those questions, and there are solutions, sort of, if you know what you want with the new service.

First, here are a few things you need to know:

1. How fast?
Though the fibre optic services boast speeds going up to a crazy 1,000Mbps (costing over S$300 a month), you are still limited by how fast content is delivered over the Net.

It’s like this: you may now have a new highway built next to your home, but the char kway teow store you drive to everyday for your lard fix is still only served by a small lane that is always jammed up by fellow drivers, and there is no other way to get there. You are held up all the same.

On the Net, there are many such small lanes as well. In fact, most sites are hosted on servers that offer nowhere near the top speeds you can get on your fibre service. So, you are still limited by whatever capacity they have on their end - this could be as low as under 100Kbps for some small sites or up to 100Mbps on sites hosted with Singapore ISPs like StarHub.

As such, with many websites and other Internet content, you will NOT get speed-ups with the new broadband service.

But some “overseas” sites such as AMD, Nvidia and Apple, for example, cache their content all over the world, including in Singapore, so that their servers are not overloaded when a lot of traffic hits their sites, say, to download drivers or to watch a new iPad video.

You can expect really fast downloads for such “cached” content, especially if the owner has paid a lot of money to deliver it to a place like Singapore. You’ll also get fast downloads, say, at EA Singapore, which is based in Singapore, and which offers fast PC game downloads to folks here.

With EA Singapore, you can get about 30Mbps downloads, and at times, close to 100Mbps for some of these cached sites. But you will almost never get 1,000Mbps (if you know a site that is as fast, let me know).

So, is this top speed a “fake” top speed? No, the truth is you will still get the capacity, which means you can have concurrent downloads, all amounting to the speed you pay for. For some folks, this means downloading stuff over bit-torrent all day, without ever worrying about choking the bandwidth to their homes.

Some ISPs do throttle the download speed of bit-torrent downloads, but take with a pinch of salt what people complain about on forums. There are so many variables, for example, whether an ISP throttles certain types of traffic only at certain times, and between certain groups of subscribers. Unfortunately, the only good test of this is to try things out yourself.

2. Why sign up?
So, with all these “disclaimers”, why bother signing up for fibre? There are two reasons. One is that they can be cheaper than traditional broadband options. M1, which has some of the cheapest offers now, provides a 25Mbps service for S$39 a month – cheaper than StarHub’s cable modem services, which give you only a 6Mbps service for about S$35 a month.

So, even if you “don’t need” the speed, you can get cheaper or faster deals than what you have got currently. That makes it a no-brainer to sign up with the cheaper fibre broadband options now.

For those who are heavy users, the download speed is just one thing to look forward to. There’s also upload speed. Typically, a synchronous technology like FTTH (fibre to the home) means that you can upload as fast as you download – a big change to the older asynchronous technologies such as ADSL and cable modem.

What this means is that you can share files with friends in Singapore a lot faster. I’ve tested the uploads for my M1 fibre service (100Mbps down/50Mbps up), and the speeds are miles faster. One of my pals who used to download at 1Mbps from me now gets more than 10Mbps (it’s not 50Mbps, possibly because of the poor peering arrangements between his ISP and mine).

And here’s something that will interest bit-torrent users: for some file downloads, the faster you upload means the faster you can download as well (based on a superior share ratio). So, the upload speeds do count for something.

3. Teething problems
I’d advise anyone who is taking up fibre optic broadband to be patient. I’ve been lucky so far to not have had any problems, but some users have reported occasional disconnections, while others have reported fibre installers for damaging existing cable TV wires.

Users will have to give the technology time, as it matures. After all, the network is still being rolled out to parts to Singapore right now, and will only be complete by the end of 2012.

To be fair, the new fibre broadband services are already rolled out in a much better way than the first wave of broadband services back in the late 1990s. Anyone remember waiting 45 minutes on the phone when their costly SingTel Magix ADSL service went offline?

If you are all set, then let’s have a checklist of what to look out for when installing the fibre. Read on.

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  • Blue

    Recently I learned a ‘hard lesson’ by upgrading my fibre broadband from 100 to 300 Mbps with a dual speed router on 5G and 2,4G. My family has 1 notebook with ‘N’ wireless card and 3 on ‘G’. The speedtest shown 290/300Mbps+ if I connect by wired to the router. Otherwise, on wireless, the one with ‘N’ wireless card clocked up to about 100/130+Mbps and the rest at about 20/30Mbps+ In actual fact, we don’t need such high-speed fibre and the saving can use to buy better network card. This is because
    1. The download speed is subjected to the content provider
    2. The speed also subjected to the wireless card and the maximum speed is 100Mbps plus even the broadband speed is 300Mbps
    3. I do not notice any major different in speed for surfing or downloading

    Anyone can give some advice? Btw, is there wireless card that can increase the speed up to 1000Mbps?

    • Alfred Siew

      Hi Blue, that’s true. I’d agree with your observations. The speeds offered by the service provider still have to be matched by what’s on the other side – the content provider. To be fair, what the extra bandwidth also means if that you can have several streams/users at one time without anyone noticing a slowdown.

      However, at current situations, where most sites or services don’t offer more than 10Mbps each, you’ll be hard pressed to max out 100Mbps or 200Mbps, never mind 300Mbps on a regular basis, unless you are a very heavy user.

      As for wireless card with 1000Mbps, I really don’t have any in mind. Some Wireless AC routers and cards promise a theoretical top speed of 1Gbps or more, but I believe that’s only possible in ideal situations, e.g. no walls blocking the signals, little interference, etc.

  • Andrew

    Hey Alfie, your ex-colleague here. I’m using Starhub fiber and I must say I’m rather disappointed. Sometimes it feels like its slower than my prev cable connection! When I have more than 2 or 3 devices on, it just jams up or stops working. The connection drops frequently (never had this prob with cable) too (“no Internet connection”) and I have to reset the modem in order for it to work again. So if your cable connection is working fine for you, don’t bother with fiber. It’s a myth! —Andrew

  • http://www.rackorganizer.net/ Richard

    Truglo sells both a tritium handgun sight and a fiber optic one. The fiber optic sight is significantly cheaper but is there really that much of a difference? What is the difference in the two?

  • Nelson

    I had problem on my starhub firber if I use N Rounter for download I only get the speed of less than 1 Mbps but if I use a G Rounter I am able to get the speed of 15 to 20 Mbps.
    if you have speed problem on firber with a N Rounter try to change to a G Rounter and you will see the different.

  • saba

    singtel fibre connection apparently has problem connecting to wordpress admin panels on certain webhosting companies. Ran a test together with a US based webhosting company. Tested with M1 3G Huawei modem, OK. Tested using VPN to a campus network and use that to connect to a wordpress admin, tested OK. Only SIngtel fibre has that problem. 14 days and counting still no response from the network engineering dept.

    • techgoondu

      That’s interesting. Thanks for sharing. Care to share which webhosting companies you have used? Perhaps there might be others who have had the same problem or those who have found a workaround.

  • Pingback: Goondu DIY: Choosing and switching your mobile, broadband and TV plans | My Blog()

  • Chuanshee

    Why M1 fiber optics only can download torrent limited time before 12pm only.

  • Brian

    @ec41a25920b7fc4490012083897ac3a6:disqus 

    Hi, Alfred. Does it work well if I use M1 fibre broadband using just the modem provided by OpenNet and connect directly by LAN to my PC in the bedroom. Since I am the only want one using it for the time being, I intend to upgrade and connect via Asus RT-N56U Wireless Router later on. What do you think? Thx u.

    Brian

    • Anonymous

      Hi Brian, you mean the ONT (optical network terminator) issued by M1? It works – just make sure you know which of the ports is assigned to M1 for fibre broadband and plug it from there. Alternatively, if you choose the Huawei gateway (a router actually) from M1, that router will be plugged to your ONT and you can use any port on the Huawei router. Since you intend to use your own router, I’d recommend you go without the Huawei router. You really only need the Huawei if you want to have voice to go with the package.

  • http://www.techgoondu.com Chi-Loong

    @albert

    Tested Superinternet 100Mbps on Bittorrent. Super fast, compared with other friends testing on SingTel, StarHub and M1 at the same time (also 100Mbps)on the same five torrents started at the same time.

    My average download speeds on the same five torrents is about 4MB/s, whereas some of the rest of the folks hover between 1 to 2 MB/s.

    Think it’s to do with how the ISP shapes Bittorrent traffic.

  • average user

    for fibre broadband users experiencing occasional disconnections, try moving the Huawei residential gateway to a different location. after moving it away from other electric devices, the problem was solved in my case. of course, a most obvious solution is to use another router, but we cannot use the phone service without the Huawei residential gateway. other users may have other solutions.

    one does wonder why they did not come up with an all in one device instead of issuing two devices (a Huawei ONT and residential gateway) or at very least an ONT that has a phone jack.

  • Albert

    The unfortunate problem in Singapore is that we have high speed local connection, with no content to consume. The same old lament and grief will be repeated in local forums about how slow international connection does not match up to the local subscribed speed.

    @Alfred: any news from Starhub about revising their cable Internet speed? I had the impression that they would making that move soon after introducing MaxInfinity. Current Starhub cable modem price plans are turning obsolete.

  • http://miniliew.blogspot.com/ Kenneth Liew

    Would like to comment the following:

    1. Now, when you speak to SingTel, they will tell you local max download/upload speed as well as International max download/upload speed. So, when they sell you a 100Mbps, the local top speed is really 100Mbps but the international is may be 25Mbps. I think this time IDA really do their work to press these ISP to reveal the truth.

    2. Currently I have a 15Mbps Broadband from SingTel, upgrading tomorrow to fiber Internet. But when you download from overseas, the “performance is slow” even the content provider has super bandwidth to the world. This is because the ISP here really do throttle the traffic. If they scanned the traffic to be bit torrent, they will cap the speed. Even if you download a huge file, they did that too. The only way that they do not stop the traffic is to have overseas VPN. When you do turn on the VPN, they will let it thru. So, if you do the same download again be it bit torrent or downloading the files, you will see per file download is 2Mb/s restricted by these VPN providers. So, by doing this test, you already know no matter you go with fiber or stay on cable or ADSL, Singtel’s filter will still block all these. They cannot block VPN as they cannot see what’s inside the VPN packets.

    3. Big ISP got lots of customers and heavy users. So, the more users and bigger bandwidth they sign up, the more upstream IP Transit they will have to buy. But they cannot buy forever, so, they need to throttle the traffic. Small ISP has lesser users, and usually they are corporate ISP. That means, their usage pattern is heavy in day time, but at night time, they usually have lesser traffic. That is why the speed is fantanstic for these smaller ISP. But bear in mind, when more users build up, you will face the same congestion again… So, there is no best or worst ISP. All ISP needs to make money, and they will have to setup policy to cap these usage.

    just some 2cents comment…

    • http://twitter.com/woonzai Vincent

      Thanks for sharing. I know this comment is already more than 2 years ago, but might be worth having the update that the ISPs seem to have removed the international barrier.

      However, I still do not see the benefits of adopting this technology, given that the constraint is more towards the server side. Unless video/tele conference over Home TV/laptops gets more mainstream, it will be difficult to convince me to move.

      http://info.singtel.com/personal/internet/home-broadband/fibre-broadband

      “Ultra-Fast Speeds

      With no international bandwidth cap, you can now surf web content at blazing speeds of up to 300Mbps.

      Enjoy maximum bandwidth to surf, download and stream multimedia content with no set limit on international transfers or file sharing.”

  • David

    I’m on superinternet here and loving it(although only a short while). One thing not mentioned is that superinternet does not use transparent proxies, which means you can download from filesharing sites like rapidshare with no issue. Also, they buy transit directly from NTT, a gd tier 1 provider.

    • Alfred Siew

      Hey David, good to hear from a SuperInternet user. I think geeks will like what they offer, especially the fewer restrictions they claim to have. Glad to hear you got a nice experience there. :)

  • Albert

    @Chi-Loong: Please do share your experience with them and also your peering speed with Alf. I’ve always been curious with SuperInternet but their “untested” reputation and their $200 sign up requires careful consideration.

  • http://www.techgoondu.com Chi-Loong

    Woah! Great stuff Alf.

    I’ll be getting SuperInternet’s service this Saturday for testing purposes, so looking forward to the speed rush.