Today marks the start of the K-12 academic year in pandemic times. With the Department of Education doing all possible options to deliver learning to remote students, all eyes fall on the local telcos.
The crucial question is – will the telcos deliver? In what we have experienced so far, from all the telcos, they are mostly oversubscribed, i.e., they have far more subscribers than the amount of bandwidth they have. In most cases, they employ statistical multiplexing – a method telcos use to divide the scarce bandwidth between a set number of users with the premise that not all users will be putting a strain on the network at the same time. As an example, for a 100Mbps bandwidth, it is simple math that it should accommodate 10 10Mbps connections, but that is not always the case since there are users who will not demand 10Mbps all the time — hence, the telco can squeeze in an extra 2 to 5 to make a 100Mbps shared between 12 to 15 users with a promised 10Mbps bandwidth. What happens when all 12 or 15 users demand 10Mbps each consistently throughout the day? We will have network congestions, which translates to users suffering!
The telcos have ceased to offer unlimited mobile data since the pandemic began. Why? Because they are expecting their network to feel the strain of having multiple users at home streaming videos from Zoom or Google Meet — something that was absent before since students are mostly at school. Now add the parents who are working from home and attending online meetings as well – this definitely puts pressure on the network.
In addition, we have heard that unscrupulous telco subcontractors disconnecting existing users to accommodate new users, at a fee, only shows that the network equipment are lacking in some areas. It is not as simple as just adding a piece of network equipment in one location, the telco needs to add resources along its path, up to the international gateways that connect to the internet. Unfortunately, this takes time. I do hope that telcos were able to provision more bandwidth leading to the internet.
So, expect network congestions – your network connection might slow down when 20+ million students start streaming videos from their teachers. And if the current speed that we are getting from the telcos is any indication, I highly doubt that it will not be impacted by the demand. Good luck to all of us.