Speedtests Advance Past the Stone Age


Speedtests Advance Past the Stone Age | A proactive, context-aware speedtest fixes problems, too

“My internet connection is slow!”  That’s one of the most prevalent complaints received by ISP customer care centers. There are numerous websites that enable users to quickly quantify their speed and throughput rates. In fact, millions of people run speedtests every day.

Ookla, one of the most widely used services for measuring internet speed, has conducted more than 28 billion speedtests on demand by internet users. ISPs often make Ookla or some other speedtest service available to their subscribers on their websites.

When that complaint of slow internet comes into the ISP customer care center, naturally, the first thing for the customer service rep (CSR) to do is to verify the actual speed. So, the CSR quickly performs a classic speedtest that reveals how fast a ping can travel from your home to a remote site and back. It also shows how fast your current upload and download rates are.

But here is what a classic speedtest won’t tell you:

  • If you are enduring latency issues that affect your gaming but not your download speed or streaming experience
  • The cause of the speed problem—it might be somewhere along the internet as a whole, but not between your home router and the ISP
  • If there is a delivery problem with your current cloud server (you are watching a movie delivered to you by a Netflix server that is slow right now)
  • Why you are experiencing slowness but others in your household aren’t
  • How to resolve your problem yourself without calling customer service for help

The Trouble with Speedtests

The classic speedtest has been around for a long time. It answers some of yesterday’s questions but is inadequate for today’s needs. Here are some problems with the classic speedtest:

  • You have to start a speedtest manually. If millions of people ran speedtests at the same time, they would flood the internet and probably bring it to a standstill. So, speedtests cannot be active all the time. You run it once, it takes a few seconds, and it delivers its results to your screen. If you want to know if anything changed recently, you have to run it again.
  • If you are having intermittent problems, what are the chances that you will run a speedtest at the perfect moment that the problem is occurring? Not likely.
  • A speedtest cannot be used to detect problems proactively. It isn’t triggered upon some throughput condition. It’s manual.
  • Speedtests don’t reveal the “why” behind any throughput or speed problem. They just tell you where you stand, not why you are standing there.
  • Even when you aren’t having a problem, you can’t rely on a speedtest to tell you about the Quality of Service (QoS) that you, individually, are enjoying (or suffering). Let’s say you run a speedtest and now know your actual internet rates at the moment—the round-trip time seems reasonable, the upload and download speeds are close to the max. But those figures are overall household measures. They don’t tell you about the actual QoS of any individual session. For example, is sister’s 4K Netflix movie experience causing intermittent lag to brother’s League of Legends conquests?
  • A speedtest doesn’t proactively figure out the best usage of the internet in your home. It can’t let you know if there is ample bandwidth at this moment to stream 4K, to conduct a flawless Zoom session, or to play a low latency-demanding game without lag. It can’t tell you to cut your YouTube viewing down from HD to free up bandwidth for your daughter’s online chemistry experiment.

Always-on and Granular

The next-generation speedtest is designed for the needs of 2020 and beyond. Unlike its classic counterpart, a next-gen version is always active, yet it doesn’t hog internet bandwidth. In fact, the next-gen speedtest is proactive. It can tell you a lot more than the mere ping roundtrip time or the current upload/download speed.

A key aspect of the next-gen speedtest is that it is located in the home router and is always monitoring quality of service (QoS) throughout the home. It’s granular, too. It automatically notices when any service (Fortnite gaming, Netflix movie streaming, Spotify music service, WizIQ remote learning, etc.) is suffering from inadequate throughput or latency. The next-gen speedtest doesn’t just use a “one method fits all” approach; it considers the type of service and the capability of the device on which that service is running. It automatically compares current throughput rates to an acceptable threshold and maximum rate. Then, it proactively maximizes the QoS of each user given all the conditions of the home at that moment.

Establishing Priorities

The next-generation speedtest enables and maintains internet prioritization within the home. Especially in these trying “stay at home’ Coronavirus days, there’s a lot of competition for bandwidth among family members. But, a priori, the family can determine that Dad’s football match is not as important as Mom’s work-related video conference or Junior’s distance learning. So, if all three are running simultaneously and choking the total bandwidth, the next-gen speedtest proactively notices the condition and automatically re-structures the services according to pre-determined priorities.

ISPs Love next-generation Speedtests

The proactive nature of such testing capabilities with their ability to monitor and adjust bandwidth, latency, and throughput per session and on-the-fly means fewer bandwidth problems in the home. For ISPs, that means satisfied subscribers and a welcome reduction in calls to the ISP’s customer care center.