Tuesday, January 29, 2002

QoS - Quotient of Stupidity

PTA advertised a 'worked out' report that, according to it, is an effort towards increasing QoS - Quality of Service in the services of the ISPs in Pakistan. PTA has sought feedback on this effort which was duly sent in my personal capacity. A copy is being posted here for general consumption.

Dear PTA,

Feedback on the Quality of Service ratings of ISPs 'worked' out by you, solicited in both the newspapers and your website follows:

This was a practical joke played unintentionally by PTA on the public and the general IT scene. You did an excellent job in fitting more blunders in the given space than anyone else can! Naming the pdf file at your website (http://www.pta.gov.pk/PDF/Qis.pdf) as QiS.pdf instead of QoS.pdf is the opening line of the joke.

    ISP market is an unregulated sector. Any such exercise should have been more appropriate in the cellular sector where the market is protected and only limited licenses have been issued to a select few players. Users of cell phone services are suffering more than the users of Interent services and they limited options to choose from.

    By mentioning grade 'A' in the Rating # 1 to start from 8.4 kbps (or more), PTA has revealed a new technology which enables users to dial in to a service provider and, provided enough bandwidth is available at the other end, the user can download up to 8.4 kilo *bytes* per second on a single telephone line without any other special arrangement. Traditionally, even single channel ISDN calls could go up to a theoretical max of 8 kilobytes per second because of the 64 kilobits / sec synchronous connection. Dialups modems had their theoratical maximum bar placed even below that.

    Rating No. 2 was obtained by diving the number of access lines by the total number of users (information provided) by the ISP. Of course with ISPs whose client figures runs into tens of thousands of users turned up to get grades like 'D' in this rating. You believed that if the number of users of a given ISP is high, it must an inconvenience factor. How wrong! These ISPs actually have user-friendly policies that makes it easier for users to sign up (hence these big figures - everyone in the family has his/her own account!) and they don't discard their users even if the accounts remain unused for a long time. Thanks to the geniuses at PTA, the most convenient ISPs earned the cap of most inconvenient ISPs!

    No consideration was given to the dozen or so bandwidth and browsing experience enhancing techniques used by modern Internet Service Provider network designs such as Caching Services, Asymmetric Services and Content Delivering Network Services etc. PTA used numbers (provided by the ISPs in good faith to the licensing authority) in its own way to come up with interestingly humorous results.

    By publishing this advertisement, PTA violated the implied Non Disclosure Agreement that exists between PTCL and the ISPs from a customer-service-provider view piont by misusing its power to extract the information from both the sides.

    PTA shamelessly excluded smaller cities and the QoS being maintained over there. This is probably because of the fact that only Paknet is available in these cities and has a very pathetic QoS to offer to the public in these areas (because of the count-on-fingers lines and bandwidth given to 131 service in smaller cities).

    Public money was wasted in the advertisement which was but a futile exercise itself. The advertisement will create invalid biases within the (typically non-technical) consumers for different service provider, irrespective of the fact how good or badly the service provider is _managing_ the service delivering the bottom-line to the customers.

Currently, the way the market is settling down, ISPs of every size and shape adjust themselves to a certain quality level and each of them readily finds the niche for itself quickly. There are different market slices and each one of these have its own peculiar requirement. The care-free night chatters want the cheapest on earth that can let them chat for ever no matter if the downloads take forever to complete. Telephone bill conscious moms would want no-disconnection and quick loading pages to get over with the email the want to check and get back to the kitchen. Corporates are ready to pay for a premium price for the highest throughput between 9 to 5, the time they are operational. Social placement of the user also has its impact on the internet usage. In the lower middle class that is find it increasingly effective to communicate with their near and dear ones outside Pakistan via Internet go for cheaper ISPs. And so the scene goes on. The QoS that is maintained by any ISP is nothing taking place in a vacuum. It is derived from the market that demands it. Forcing a certain QoS on all the ISP is a downright absurd and futile exercise.


Tariq Mustafa, in my personal capacity.


At 10:16 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks, I realy needed this info!


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