An internet journey from an unreliable ADSL to a FTTH

Piano Banda Ultra Larga in Lombardy


Today i wanted to share some data and statistics related to the tipical journey of a "rural" connection in Italy covering some the scenarios happened in the last 3 years

Let's start from the beginning of 2020, we got COVID around march causing some lockdowns around the world and in specifically Italy being one of the first countries to experience this.

This catastrophic event caused a simple effect, people had plenty of time at home scrolling social media, playing video games, re-watching tons of movies and so on... all this meant one thing network bandwith was duplicated if not triplicated on the not so reliable access link that until today were working "almost" fine

During that period watching a movies during 20-24:00 was a luxury as all the bandwidth was saturated by Netflix, Television streams and Playstation network updates

Below you can find the period Average Ping Response time of the period impacted by COVID lockdowns:




What can you spot with your eyes on the left of the bar is extermely high latency spikes occurring during the day (work / remote schooling) and during off peak hours due to enternainment 

What was astounishing is the fact that to keep up being online house holds had to buy mobile 4G connectivity in order do avoid disruptions during the day, this was an important factor to keep myself working 9-18 (backup 4G  was the only option as soon as the landline disconnected)

Flash forward 1 year later (2021) i had the opportunity to upgrade the landline to an FTTC 100Mbit/s connection and replace the unreliable ADSL 20Mbit/s, as you can see the result are quickly visible (avg latencies dropped from 60ms to 15-20ms + more users can stream concurrently)


Quick incident note during the upgrade:

- FTTC lines must have a RJ11 direct plug into the modem or will cause stability issues over time  (no conjuctions/soldering must be done) this is due to the high frequency of the signal whereas on ADSL lines due to low frequencies do not notice these issues

Flash forward again 1/2 year(s) later (2022-23) i upgraded once again the landline to an FTTH 1Gbit/s connection from the FTTC, the boost was like living in the future all the possible latency issues disappeared (even the FTTC had little to none issues compared to the ADSL)

Average latency dropped from 20-15ms to 7-9ms which is huge since infra Datacenter latencies can reach those times (e.g. within same DC AZ you can expect 2-3ms, between two far but in same region DCs something like 5-10ms)

I know also that ICMP versus an anycast/edge IP shouldn't be a "real" connecton reliability test but this is the best metric i had so far

What surprised me was how correlated was the Average latency vs Available Bandwidth left on the line, on the ADSL line as soon as a massive download/upload was started the latency would spike as high as possible for other clients making it almost unusable or ratelimited/qos-like speed

Doing the same on the FTTC the latency increase was still noticed but other users were still able to surf without any issues


Replicating the same test on the FTTH connection, almost no one notices that you are downloading/uploading massivelly versus the internet even doing a full speedtest won't make the other people notice slowness


What did we learn? 

The future is not on copper, shared GPONs will let us sustain peaks and be futureproof, also 5G and Wireless ISP are doing a great job nowadays to bring high-speeds to remote areas with the combo fiber plus Wireless repeaters


To wrap up, as of today the fiber optic technologies will let us reach 25Gbit/s without changing much the underlaying tech stack (Take a look at init7 25Gbit/s fiber)

This doesn't mean we all need all this much of connectivity/speed but we need to be prepared for future emergencies and not have an already bottleneck'ed underlaying infrastructure


On the other hand i understand operators/ISPs that cannot sustain those infra costs with almost no return as of the current business model relies much on Businesses (dark fibers, yearly contracts, peerings etc..) and not home landlines/customers who want to play with their brand new shiny PS5 or watch a Netflix movie in 4K