Internet Slow this Month

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South Africa is experiencing generally slow internet connectivity nationwide since February 2012. I have received reports of slow internet connectivity in Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban and Port Elizabeth over the past few weeks.

By mid April the problems continue. Telkom’s own HSPA (3G) service has become virtually un-useable with connection speed approaching dial-up (and worse) on regular occasions.

Common to Many ISP’s

The slow internet appears to have affected several service providers; MTN and 8ta 3G services, as well as ADSL services are reported as slower than normal. International connections are also suffering – Microsoft’s usually fast download (windows update service) struggled to achieve more than 2mbps today. In the past 3 months I haven’t seen incoming data at more than 5.6mbps – usually I get speeds over 9mbps…

The ‘net’ also seems to be lagging, response times are well down (the time between requesting a page, and the time it starts downloading. If this was only being experienced with some websites, then the server hosting the site would normally be held responsible. However, as it seems to affect nearly every website at the moment, local and overseas sites included, it looks more like a problem with local network servers than hosting servers.
Is the Slow Internet a Capacity or Routing Problem

overloading imageCould this recent slow internet be a capacity problem; are local servers struggling to cope with recent new internet users? Or is it a routing problem? I would guess at the later. Last year in September technical problems required long path routing of connections… Connections in Johannesburg were being routed via several servers as far afield as Cape Town, to serve website pages hosted on servers based in Midrand, or connect to mail servers. Each time an extra switch is introduced into a traffic route, delays (lags) occur while the routers in the line each read and forward packets of data.

All these delays add up, causing slow internet connections.
Web Server Response Lag

Website servers also seem slow to repond to requests with noticable delays before the begin serving pages. To my mind this is a clue to the mentioned point above, the slow internet is caused by multiple hop routing. If this assumption is correct, server lag is easily explained: As both a request and a page serve will suffer from similar routing delays, the total delay will be double that of a single path data packet.
Service Provider Status Notice

Afrihost posted on their Facebook Page today advising their ADSL customers:

We are experiencing the following service event: Increased latency and degradation to all international web sites.
This is a major impact and our upstream provider in conjunction with our telco engineers are attending to this problem.
We do not as yet have an eta to the resolution of this problem but will be updating our web site and phones as soon as the matter has been resolved.

This service provider has independent international links via the Seacom cable and fibreoptic infrastructure. However, their ADSL clients are still dependent on Telkom landlines for ADSL connection to the ISP network. While private industry is trying hard to serve customers with a good and reliable service, their efforts are undermined by the legislated prohibition placed on the national infrastructure provider to employ networking engineers able to properly configure and maintain the network.