Aussie-hosted conferencing apps performed better during COVID-19

Video conferencing apps Google Meet, Microsoft Teams and Skype performed better due to lower latency during May 2020 as these used Australian-based servers.

zoom conference grid

Video conferencing apps Google Meet, Microsoft Teams and Skype performed better due to lower latency during May 2020, as the COVID-19 lockdown entered full force, because these used Australia-based servers.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has published its Critical Services Report which analysed NBN fixed-line broadband’s ability to support such applications.

The report revealed that GoToMeeting, Webex and Zoom latency was 10 times worse as these are hosted across Singapore, the Netherlands and the US, respectively. The long distance to their hosts from Australia created the long latency.

Most services had consistent daily average latency with the exception of GoToMeeting, which presented considerable variations.

Cisco’s Webex was the worst performer with the highest overall latency, which also varied across different retail services providers. For Webex, Aussie Broadband showed the lowest latency and recorded lower latency compared to other providers.

A Cisco spokesperson said the claim that Cisco does not use servers based in Australia in inaccurate. The spokesperson also refuted the results in performance presented by the report and the use of a server in the Netherlands for Australian services.

Although ACCC noted that different technologies showed variations in latency, it concluded the difference was too small to affect the user. Instead, delivery latency was the major it factor, it found.

Western Australia has the highest latency for Google Meet and Teams, which suggests that traffic is being directed to servers on the East Coast of Australia. This does not occur with Skype as it uses alternative servers.

accc video conferencing apps report ACCC

Video conferencing services’ latency in May 2020 on Australia’s NBN. Higher latency corresponds to how far away the servers are, with the slowest ones being outside Australia.

WA also has the lowest latency for GoToMeeting as it is hosted in Singapore. With Zoom, the result is the opposite for the state; Zoom showed the highest latency as it is hosted on servers in the US, which is much further away.

Unsurprisingly, Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales and Victoria experienced the lowest latency across the services hosted in Australia as most of these use servers located in those regions.

The report shows that the video conference platforms worked equally well across both NBN 50 and NBN 100 plan speeds.

It also looked at streaming services such as YouTube and Netflix, which reduced their streaming quality to ease pressure on broadband services. This resulted in faster downloads during May compared to February.

As previously reported, Australian telcos started to prepare for increase in boradband usage early, which was supported by NBN Co’s decision to provide up to 40 percent additional capacity to RSPs. This was crucial to keep services going with minimal interruptions.

ACCC’s Critical Services Report is the first of a planned series to track NBN Co broadband’s performance across streaming and video conferencing apps. The services were tracked from 8 to 31 May.

Computerworld Australia has reached out to ACCC to know if the number of users could have had an impact in the results reported. ACCC later explained that during the testing the average latency measurements remain constant in the time of day charts, including across times of high network use and low network use. "So we inferred that user traffic across the network wasn’t a significant influence on the latency."

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.

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