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Re: AT&T: 15 Mbps Internet connections "irrelevant"

  • From: Sean Donelan
  • Date: Sat Apr 01 06:26:57 2006

On Sat, 1 Apr 2006, Mikael Abrahamsson wrote:
> "In the foreseeable future, having a 15 Mbps Internet capability is
> irrelevant because the backbone doesn't transport at those speeds," he
> told the conference attendees. Stephenson said that AT&T's field tests
> have shown "no discernable difference" between AT&T's 1.5 Mbps service and
> Comcast's 6 Mbps because the problem is not in the last mile but in the
> backbone."

You can listen to Randall Stephenson's presentation at the BoA conference
at the site:

This particular topic is in the Q&A towards the end of the talk.

It was a financial analyst conference, so the technical language was
probably a bit loose.  AT&T has an OC192+ backbone, so obviously it
wasn't a technical answer.  At other conferences, other speakers have
publically said they are also looking at bonding pairs to get even
greater link speeds (40-100Mbps), not to mention other dedicated
Internet access products with even faster link speeds. You have second
phone lines, why not second DSL lines for people who feel the need for
speed?  Likewise cable modems (DOCSIS3.0) are adding channle bonding for
higher access link speeds.

But I think Mr. Stephenson's point was a network bottleneck is not always
based on the access link speed some ISPs put in their advertising. Just go
to any ISP user forum and you will see long threads complaining they can
only download X Mbps from site Y in city Z. The bottleneck may be the
remove server, a peering interconnect, a backbone link, a city router,
etc. On the other hand, its not a good idea to generalize because other
users in other cities may get better performance from other sites.

There are also differences in how people use the network.  Power
users and gamers are looking for any edge they can get.  Casual users
may be more price sensitive and may not perceive enough of a difference
between 6Mbps and 16Mbps for what they do.  If you consider it from a
marketing point of view rather than a technical point of view, if you
are a mass marketer where do you find the biggest target markets?
Wal-Mart targets a specific price point and target market and is very
successful even though it doesn't sell ultra high-end goods.

That's not to say things are static, and will never change. If you
listen to Stephenson's presentation, he says access link speeds will
increase, as well as the backbone capacity will increase.  For financial
analysts, the foreseeable future is the next quarter's financial
results. Next year is long term.  Two years is an eternity.