MANILA, Philippines – For the 45th annual meeting of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) board of governors, Manila pulled out all the stops to make a good international impression — from erecting a wall infront of a sprawling slum, to providing a courtesy lane for delegates’ cars and even outfitting the venue with 40 hot spots and a microwave tower for ultra fast internet.
For the first week of May, the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) was home to one of the fastest internet connections in the Philippines.
Using the consumer website speedtest.net, Rappler clocked a download speed of 84.05 megabits per second (Mbps) inside the venue. That’s about 76 times the national average, which was registered at 1.1 Mbps in the ‘State of the Internet‘ report published by internet content delivery network Akamai in the 3rd quarter of 2011.
Speedtest gave the connection a national grade of an A+ or 100%, meaning no other connections in the country were faster, and a global rating of 95%, meaning 5% of global connections were faster.
Pierre Passin, ADB’s Principal IT specialist, who oversees the backend setup for internet and webcasts at international conferences, said his tech team actually measured the internet speed at over 100 Mbps, explaining that a “consumer tool” like Speedtest.net doesn’t “use the full extent of the bandwidth.”
Out of the 100 megabits of bandwidth, the tech team allocated 80% or 80 megabites to the wifi network and saved the remaining 20% for the ADB private network, including the secretariate, the board of directors, heads of departments and the registration team.
“The biggest usage that we had was about 75 Megabits. At any point in time we had at least a 25% margin just in case. So yes, it was blazing fast. We could see people streaming high definition TV and it worked with no buffering. Nowhere else in the Philippines you will see that,” said Passin.
How did Manila do it?
Through a series of hot spots, a microwave antenna and a team of technical specialists, Passin said the Manila meeting provided the best internet and technology support of any ADB meeting he had worked on in the last 3 years.
The Philippines’ 2nd largest telecommunications company, Globe Telecom Inc. installed a microwave antenna on the PICC roof pointing at their office in Makati. Meanwhile, a 2nd microwave antenna was on standby outside the PICC grounds.
And unlike in past international meetings, the Manila-based bank tapped around 20 local IT specialists for tech support. Usually, the ADB just sends Passin in a bid to save money.
The specialists surveyed PICC for gaps in the wifi and put in place 40 access points supplied by Globe. Passin explained, “PICC has its own wireless infrastructure but its not very scalable and there are a lot of holes. The government didn’t want to get into the cabling business so they decided to hot spot the entire place.”
ADB also benefitted from the fact that Globe offered to supply the internet for free as one of the sponsors of the meeting.
“This is a milestone event for the country and its part of us supporting nation building,” said Globe’s Head of Corporate Communications Yoly Crisanto. She added, “We’re proud that we’re part of this ADB meeting, it can showcase what we can do for the country in terms of our telecommunications services.”
“I guess for them its a good commercial thing because a lot of people were impressed that here things were very, very, very fast, faster than the hotels and other places,” said Passin.
Why don’t consumers have it so good?
Unlike most consumers, Passin’s team demanded no one share their internet connection and that it had static burst speed, which guarantees access to 100 megabites of broadband at all time.
“Regardless of if we use it or not, regardless of what’s happening around the PICC we know that we always have that speed,” he said.
“That’s the big difference with the consumer market. The consumer market has no guarantee on speed because they don’t allocate you 1 megabit when you buy the 1 megabit plan. They make sure that you never go over 1 megabit. They basically cap your connection. But it can go as low as zero,” he said.
“Providers have a big pool of bandwidth and they basically add all the subscribers to it,” he explained. Peak hours, like 9 p.m. on Friday, are slow because as Passin put it, “the math is designed that not everybody will access the internet at one time.” So when everybody logs in at once, “it’s horribly slow.” he said.
“That’s an issue that everyone is facing in the consumer market but in the Philippines and maybe other developing countries, a lot of providers tend to oversubscribe so they will try to squeeze more subscribers than they really should or they could and that gives the impression that in the Philippines internet is really slow.”
Setting the bar high for other meetings
Passin joked that the only thing he is worried about now is trying to meet the high bar Manila set for internet speed at other meetings.
“Yes, to be frank this year was the best in terms of IT and internet, which is odd because just a few days ago Google released a report saying the Philippines was the second worst country in terms of loading page time,” said Passin.
At the end of April, Google ranked the Philippines the 2nd lowest out of 50 countries for Web page loading speed with an average of 15.4 seconds. But during the meeting many participants from countries like Japan, which Google ranked 5th for loading time, were impressed with the internet in the Philippines.
Kiyoshi Kodera, Vice President for Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), said, “I didn’t pay much attention to it. (Between) Tokyo and Manila (there’s) not much difference.” – Rappler.com
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