Shaw vs. Telus Internet Performance - Canadian TV, Computing and Home Theatre Forums

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post #1 of 6 (permalink) Old 2014-01-31, 01:07 AM Thread Starter
Join Date: Jan 2009
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Shaw vs. Telus Internet Performance

I've been meaning to post this for a while now, but I wanted to wait and collect a bit more data.

On January 6th I moved from Shaw (BB100) to Telus (Internet 50, fiber connection). Many people make qualitative statements when they speak about the differences between ISPs. I wanted to take the opportunity to do a quantitative measurement between the two ISPs.

I should say that this data isn't applicable to everyone. Shaw performs differently in different areas, but I do think it makes sense to actually measure your ISP's performance like this. These measurements are certainly relevant to anyone who lives in my neighborhood.

Anyway, on to the data.

The first chart shows the amount of data that was being sent or received, averaged by the hour. It is measured using the SNMP counters in my router (Asus RT-N66U running Tomato). There was ~538GB downloaded and ~86GB of data uploaded during this period.

The second chart shows the quality of the Internet connection by measuring the time between my router and the "first hop" on the network, which is the network gateway. Every minute PRTG (network monitoring software) would send 20 "ping" packets to the network gateway and record the min/max/average latency for the round trip. If this "max" number gets higher than ~50ms, that's very bad. It means that your Internet connection won't work well for online gaming or VoIP applications like Skype. Since the data is averaged in 1 hour intervals, you're not seeing the outlier readings. That is, when the max ping over 100ms, it means that the the average is over 100ms for that reading over an hour. There were many situations where I was getting max pings over ~1200ms in that data.

Notice how the Telus "ping" doesn't spike, even when I download lots of data (see January 21 for example). With Shaw, if someone started watching Netflix, that was all the traffic necessary for me to get lagged out (i.e. disconnected) from games of Starcraft 2.

It's also interesting that on the Telus connection there is some variability of my ping, irrespective of how much bandwidth I'm using. Note how on January 11th, January 14th, and January 16th the max ping moved up to about ~30ms. The rest of the time it was at ~4ms to ~8ms. I'm not sure what the root cause of this is, but it appears to be independent of whatever I'm doing.

That big red "downtime" spike is my router was disconnected when moving from Shaw to Telus on January 6th. The rest of the time there weren't any outages. I found that both Telus and Shaw were good from this perspective.

My recommendation: if you're a techie and you're currently on a cable ISP (or any ISP, really), it's worthwhile to setup something like PRTG (they have a free 10-sensor version) and keep tabs on how well your ISP is serving you.

I'm very happy with the move from Shaw to Telus, and the above data shows why. Not to mention that we went from paying $90+/month to $80/month ($45/month for the first 6 months). My loyalty to Shaw was really misplaced while I was waiting for them to improve their infrastructure. It turns out, they were in no rush to upgrade the network in my neighborhood (i.e do a node split).
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post #2 of 6 (permalink) Old 2014-01-31, 01:31 AM Thread Starter
Join Date: Jan 2009
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To look at some of the Shaw data in more detail, let's look at a 2-day period. January 4th and 5th.

First the traffic, and then the ping. This time I'm using a 5-minute average.

Notice how, even with very little bandwidth use on January 4th in the evening, the latency is insane! Remember, this is measuring between the router and the Shaw network gateway, so that's the best ping you'll see anywhere on the Internet, and we're seeing it spike over 400ms!

The evening of January 5th is interesting because on that night I purchased a few games on Steam, and we see how the available bandwidth increased as the night went on. If I has purchased the games at 7am and few other people are using Shaw Internet, Steam is usually able to saturate a BB100 internet connection (downloading over 10 megabytes a second!). So this is a good illustration of how much bandwidth was available as the evening wore on. When the download started at around 9pm January 5th, it was well under 10mbps, and at midnight it was going at 36mbps. Of course, the latency goes nuts during that time, spiking over 600ms, so there wasn't the slightest chance of me being able to use Skype and download some Steam games at the same time. And forget about actually playing a online game while this is happening.

In Shaw's marketing for BB100 it says:

Never get slowed down again, and perform speed-reliant tasks, like gaming or streaming HD video, all at once.
Not so, apparently.
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post #3 of 6 (permalink) Old 2014-01-31, 01:48 AM Thread Starter
Join Date: Jan 2009
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Finally, lets look at the Telus connection while using lots of bandwidth in the evening. This is a 2-day period from January 20th - 22nd, with a 5 minute average for each reading.

You still see a latency spike when there is a lot of bandwidth used, but look at the Y-axis! While downloading at over 70mbps it hardly moves the latency over 50ms. Plus, you don't see a lot of variation between the min/max/average, which is very healthy. And this is bandwidth use during a period where Shaw has difficulty delivering 10mbps.
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post #4 of 6 (permalink) Old 2014-01-31, 08:08 AM
Join Date: Nov 2004
Location: North of TO
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Great post and data !

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post #5 of 6 (permalink) Old 2014-04-03, 10:01 AM
Join Date: Apr 2003
Location: Gatineau and Ottawa
Posts: 11,101
I agree. I must look into my Black Knight running Shibby and see what I can find.
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post #6 of 6 (permalink) Old 2014-04-03, 12:13 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Jan 2009
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If you want to collect the sort of data that I did you'll need a router that supports SNMP (most 3rd party firmware does) and then you want a copy of PRTG or something similar.
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