A Nanosecond in Asia

by Colin Berkshire

I haven’t spent a lot of time in Asia this past year. I have been on a special project overseeing the construction of a new facility. This isn’t normally the type of work I do, but it landed in my lap.

So it was fun to get an opportunity to return to Asia after a year of being away. It’s always nice to get a fresh perspective on things.

My biggest impression is holy cow the internet has sped up.

Two years ago hotel internet speeds were a couple of megabits per second. Now I regularly got 100 megabit WiFi speeds and faster. I downloaded a movie in my hotel room in under 5 minutes..,and that was pulling the movie from a US based server.

I have a set of SIM cards for most of the countries I visit, so that I can have a local number. I routinely got 50 to 75 megabit speeds on my cellular service. I topped 100 megabits more than a few times.

The cost is running about $6 for 10 gigabytes of capacity. A phone number costs about $6 a month and includes unlimited data at 256 kbps. For most people, service is prepaid, meaning you buy credits and then use them up as you go. So you buy 10 gigabytes and use it and then when you are done you buy another 10 gigabytes, etc.

What’s notable about this pricing model is that the carriers have every incentive to provide fast great service. The faster their service the more your u consume. The greater the coverage the more you will consume. And since you pay as you go, if the service is lousy you don’t pay.

I can’t say that I ever remember speeds of 100 Mbps or more on Verizon. Heck, I stopped trying to watch videos at lunch in the US because they…just…paused…too…much. So it was weird and refreshing to have super fast internet whenever I wanted it.

Some of Asia has LTE, but for the most part it is simply running 4G (True 4G, not some enhanced 3G named by the marketing department as 4G).

The difference seems to be that their internet backbone has leaped in speed and that the cellular companies put in smaller, cheaper towers everywhere. I spoke with the hotel IT guy briefly and they have 10 gigabits run into the hotel. They pay their carrier by the gigabyte and the price works out to about 5¢ per gigabyte as best I could convert it.

The US System is so terribly broken. And, nobody seems to care.