The increased bandwidth fallacy: Performance and usage in rural Zambia

Mariya Zheleva, Paul Schmitt, Morgan Vigil, Elizabeth Belding

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

11 Scopus citations

Abstract

Broadband Internet access has become a critical part of socio-economic prosperity; however, only 6 in 100 inhabitants have access to broadband in developing countries. This limited access is driven predominately by subscriptions in urban areas. In rural developing communities, access is often provided through slow satellite, or other low-bandwidth long-distance wireless links, if available at all. As a result, the quality of the Internet access is often poor and at times unusable. In this paper we study the performance and usage implications of an Internet access upgrade, from a 256kbps satellite link to a 2Mbps terrestrial wireless link in rural Zambia. While usage did not immediately change, performance improved soon after the upgrade. By three months post-upgrade, however, subscribers began to use the faster connection for more bandwidth-hungry applications such as video-streaming and content upload. This change in usage resulted in dramatic deterioration of network performance, whereby the average round trip time doubled, the amount of bytes associated with failed uploads increased by 222% and that of failed downloads by 91%. Thus, while an Internet access upgrade should translate to improved performance and user experience, in rural environments with limited access speed and growing demand, it can bring unexpected consequences.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 4th Annual Symposium on Computing for Development, ACM DEV 2013
PublisherAssociation for Computing Machinery
ISBN (Print)9781450325585
DOIs
StatePublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes
Event4th Annual Symposium on Computing for Development, ACM DEV 2013 - Cape Town, South Africa
Duration: Dec 6 2013Dec 7 2013

Publication series

NameProceedings of the 4th Annual Symposium on Computing for Development, ACM DEV 2013

Conference

Conference4th Annual Symposium on Computing for Development, ACM DEV 2013
Country/TerritorySouth Africa
CityCape Town
Period12/6/1312/7/13

Keywords

  • Bandwidth increase
  • Digital divide
  • Rural area networks
  • Satellite
  • Wireless terrestrial

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software

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