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[Update] Dear Vodafone Ghana…

Posted in News, and Personal

Dear Vodafone Ghana,

This is a follow-up letter to you, and to readers who followed the previous article, and have similar questions as I did. As unexpected as what ensued after the first letter, it will be fair on my part to outline my understanding related to the Vodafone Fibre, and the Vodafone Cafe in Koforidua.

Read the first “Dear Vodafone Ghana…” article.

As confused as I was when I wrote the first piece, I am happy to say many of the explanation you’ve offered so far makes a lot of sense and happy to share them in this follow-up.

I had and raised questions in the previous article. Although they sounded trivial questions, I absolutely wanted answers to. So I’ll be answering the raised questions, based on the answers I received from Vodafone since the article.

Thanksgiving: Mr. Kofi Kwateng-Amaning (Manager, FQA Vodafone Ghana) helped assist in answering many of my questions. As annoyed and confused as I was with the here-and-there bogus jargon thrown around by the Vodafone Fibre website, he managed to bring me ‘home’.

Mr. Kwateng has been very helpful and patient with my questions so far. If not for the fact that we live in an alternate universe where Barry Allen has altered the timeline via his rogue Flashpoint attempt, I would have entreated Vodafone Ghana to add Mirakuro to Kofi’s monthly and or yearly bonuses.

He follow up a lot, and even set a chain reaction going in which, should my neighborhood be Vodafone Fibre ‘worthy’, we might have Vodafone Fibre cables dangling in front of our doorsteps before early 2018.

Thank you, Mr. Kofi Kwateng-Amaning.

Vodafone Fibre

These are some of the questions I had in my previous article, and thanks for your support, here are the understanding I gained. I might be wrong; I stand to be corrected.

10x faster?

Ans: It is a bullshit claim, just an attempt to psychologically make you feel better. It ain’t any factual than “covfefe” referring to a coveted team ensemble by Mr. Donald T.

Just take that claim with a grain of salt. Makes no sense, and isn’t in comparison to anything, as much as I learned.

I explain why further below.

Note: All the explanation and understanding I describe in this article are solely my own, and not direct responses from Mr. Kofi Kwateng-Amaning, or Vodafone Ghana.

4G Faster than Vodafone Fibre?

> As weird, crazy and deceiving as it appears, you are boldly selling something just about HSPDA+ (roughly speaking, 3G) network speed, in a can branded colorfully as “Fibre”.

> Is that so? Are there any hidden caveats and or gems we need to look beyond a fence wall to grasp?

Ans: Actually, there’s a catch. 4G networks, although can go up to 150Mbps (megabits per second), which is about 18.75 MBps (megabytes per second), they do not guarantee that speed. In fact, in reality, you will never get that performance from the network.

Even if your phone or modem is directly standing less than 500 meters away from the 4G cell tower, you won’t ever get that.

So, although Vodafone Fibre is 50mbps, the difference is, and take extreme note, Vodafone Fibre’s 50mbps is GUARANTEED! As in, Vodafone Ghana, can put their neck on the altar, and still be cool, as they are, to a very high degree, assured, as long as you’re connected to their network via Fibre, you are gonna get a guaranteed 50mbps.

Let that sink in for a second!

The keyword is, guaranteed! It makes all the difference. Imagine having a network connection where you could download a 1 Gig file for less than 3 minutes, and be able to do same, every day, any time of the day! That’s what the guaranteed is!

That’s the difference, and it is a big one.

 

 

What is Fibre?

Fibre Fibre Fibre! What the heck is Fibre?

Here. Traditionally, the Vodafone cables to your home are copper wires. So the Internet signals travel through the copper wire, back and forth, carrying your data, and internet requests.

As much as it worked for back in the day, data usage has increased recently, and the copper as a medium is rearing its ugly disadvantages and downsides, such as slow speed in data carrying.

If you really paid attention during your physics class, you would remember the bigger the cross-section of a metal, the higher the resistance. Plus, other factors like heat also highly affect conductivity (how electrons flow in a medium).

Fibre, on the other hand, instead of using copper as a transfer medium, or any other metal, it uses glass, in which the signals traveling through ain’t electrical signals, but rather, light pulses!

Light travels at 186k miles per second. To put in perspective, If you could travel at the speed of light, you could go around the Earth 7.5 times in one second.

Let that soak in for a second!

A fiber cable, the actual part carrying the light signals, can be as thin as a strand of hair, however, can carry an immense amount of data per second.

If you did not understand Fibre after watching both videos above, then I’m sorry, but can’t help you anymore.

10x Faster than Standard Broadband?

No! Vodafone Fibre is faster than Standard Broadband. Not 10 times faster, actually. Although standard broadband claims a 12mbps bandwidth, it ain’t “guaranteed”, due to the nature of the medium of travel – copper. With Fibre, they can guarantee you 50mbps.

Saying ’10x Faster than Something’, is a really vague and bogus expression. Just say how fast you go, and confident you are with the speed!

Is Vodafone selling us the speed of something way less than 4G, yet calling it Fibre?

Technically yes, but in reality, a big NO. 4G on paper is 150Mbps. Call me whenever you ever get 150Mbps on your 4G anywhere in the world.

What Vodafone is actually selling is something 4G can’t give you anywhere in the world, at least not in a consistent fashion as Fibre guarantees. With Vodafone Fibre, you’re guaranteed, 50mbps bandwidth, 24/7! Nothing less. Streaming 4K will never buffer on Vodafone Fibre!

That’s never a claim any 4G telecom has ever said that I’ve heard before.

Here’s something I might not be allowed to say, but what Vodafone Fibre is offering is much higher than the 50mbps. According to Mr Kofi, the speed Vodafone Ghana is sure of you getting with their Fibre is somewhere around 70-80mbps.

However, they market the 50mbps as the least, last resort you could go. So if you get 60mbps sometimes on Fibre, don’t be worried! You ain’t breaking any ToCs. Vodafone is just over-delivering, which is far better than under-delivering.

Lingering Questions

First: There’s one question I never got an answer to, which is, “How high of a bandwidth can Vodafone Ghana Fibre guarantee me or a business/enterprise/company?”

I ask this because Google Fibre offers up to 1Gbps. That’s some 90-fold of what Vodafone Fibre is guaranteeing!

Can Vodafone Fibre go that high? If I am a business, and I walk into Vodafone headquarters and tell them I want a 1Gbps Fibre connection at my premises, can Vodafone Ghana gimme that? Forget about the package cost, I want that! Can Vodafone Ghana deliver?

Second: Vodafone Fibre is available at many places in Ghana, way more than the ‘elite’ locations you’ve listed on your website. What is the rationale behind not telling people how extensive your reach is with regards to Vodafone Fibre?

Because as ‘trumpeting’ as a company like Vodafone Ghana might be when it comes to the ‘little’ they can do, it makes no sense they’ve NEVER mentioned they have such a service in other parts of the country.

For instance, if there’s 3G in your area, it is very likely the closest Fibre is at the cell tower the 3G transmitter is fitted on.

So the question is, Why? Don’t you want people to use Vodafone Fibre? Is it not the “ultra-fast” and “state-of-the-art” service? Come on, what is the catch?

It feels like you guys might be hiding something! Please come clean!

Summary

In summary, I think in relation to Vodafone Fibre, I’ve received enough information and answers from Vodafone. Makes sense, and how I wish some of this information were readily available and on their website, without the vagueness and tergiversate of the content they spill on the site.

With that in mind, I revamped the current Vodafone Fibre Homepage with a much more factual and compelling information (I think), unlike the ‘nonsense’  and ambiguity currently leaking everywhere on the website.

The marketing/copywriting team of Vodafone Ghana must have had a field day spilling out such ambiguity. I feel that gets the sales ramping up, however, not as many people are ‘internet-dumb’ these days. And if IT guys from organizations are gonna recommend the switch to Vodafone Fibre, you gotta give them some solid reasons to, right within the first few seconds on the page.

Telling them “10x faster” isn’t compelling enough, and just an extra point to discredit the whole brag and whatever the service you’re providing.

Accra is NOT Ghana. If you have Fibre in Kumasi, don’t be naive, only selling a service you have nationwide, however only in the crowded, hot city, namely, Accra! Think outside the box. Don’t limit your potentials, unless there’s a catch.

See the revamp proof of concept at khophi.co/vodafone-fibre *

* This is a mere proof of concept.

What changes did I do?

  • Instead of the “10x faster” bullshit, give visitors facts! If people are gonna switch from their standard broadband to Vodafone Fibre, the one question they might be asking is, “How fast?”. Answer that question as ‘fast’ as possible. “Download 1 Gig in 2.7 minutes.” Baam! Question answered
  • Fiber is in many places than the less than 50 places listed. Be honest, and open for business at other locations other than Accra. Again, Accra is NOT Ghana!
    • Be open-minded, and accepting businesses coming in from other regions too.
  • Use less jargon, and refrain from using sesquipedalian expressions, that contribute nothing to the overall meaning of the service you provide. “State-of-the-art”, “Ultra-fast”. Just NO! Stop that.
    • Although Google Fibre is somewhere 90x faster than what Vodafone Fibre is promising, this is how they start the conversation on their site:
      • “Google Fiber starts with a connection that’s up to 1,000 megabits per second. Super fast downloads.”
  • Use the word, “Guaranteed” because that’s actually the selling word! Remember, 4G is theoretically faster than the 50mbps, but in reality, the 50mbps is way faster than the 4G, simply because of the word, “Guaranteed”. 4G networks don’t Guarantee 150mbps. They don’t, and never will! However, Vodafone Fibre, the 50mbps is Guaranteed! That’s the word, Guarantee! See? Guarantee! One last time, Guarantee!
  • “We give you up to 15% extra data when you make payments via any of our alternative channels, except using cash or cheque” – What! How could you be that unreasonable? Why not rather award 15% to people who pay via any goddamn means, however on time? Someone walking into your shop to pay every month, on time, no bonus. Someone pays via online late, and gets 15%? You guys are confused!

The link is khophi.co/vodafone-fibre

Vodafone Cafe

About why I ‘enjoyed’ such an abysmal traffic speeds at Vodafone Cafe in Koforidua the other day, I was told I was unfortunate to be using the Cafe at peak hours. And that’s the reality. Peak hours affect almost all networks in Ghana, and there’s little to do to dodge.

Peak hours simply refers to the time of the day when the most number of users are using a network service. In Ghana, generally, it starts around 13:00 GMT to about 17:00GMT. It starts tapering off about 22:00GMT onwards.

That is why when you download ‘things’ somewhere after midnight, you get amazing speeds, yet during the day, you hardly could get ‘something’ downloaded.

The Facts

For the Koforidua Vodafone Cafe, I learn 100 megabytes, that’s about 800 megabits per second, is the bandwidth assigned.

Bandwidth refers to how much data is allowed to be transferred within the system per a time interval. In many cases, it is measured in seconds. Therefore, in the case of the Vodafone Cafe in Koforidua, 100 Megabytes per second assigned means, the maximum size of data that can be sent up and down at a second, will never exceed 100 Megabytes.

100 Megabyte per second is a lot! A lot! That’s enough to stream 8K video, I guess. Wow!

Of course, the 100 Megabyte isn’t for you as the single user connected. It is a shared network, therefore, the combined total of data transferred by all the users won’t exceed 100 Megabytes per second.

Indeed, of the 100 Megabytes, a percentage will be allocated to factors like network protocols, e.g SSL handshakes. Other factors like the ‘internet-drinking demon’ somewhere along the route, Koforidua to Accra will consume his share.

If we’re to assume 50 Megabytes is what is left (very unlikely, but going the extreme here), it is easy for such to get exhausted. Here’s why.

See.

People go to Vodafone Cafe’s primarily to do bulk tasks, such as downloading Wonder Woman in Blu-Ray and 4K. Others might just be looking to download the Season 01 to 08 of Castle, all which are ‘noble’ tasks. Duh!

During peak hours, this 50MBps bandwidth even drops further, as a result of ‘bottlenecking’ at Vodafone HQ.

So imagine 10 people are on the WiFi at Vodafone Koforidua Cafe, all sucking down 1 Megabyte of data per second (i.e 8mbps), that makes for 80mbps or 10MBps.

Enough of the theories. In reality, here’s what I got, the FASTEST at the Cafe so far I’ve had, when I was the 3rd person at the Cafe or so. I’m certain we were not up to 5 in the cafe using the internet as customers.

Vodafone Cafe Koforidua Fastest Connection

20 Mbps? That’s about 2.5 MBps. And yes, using torrent, I sometimes, rarely peaked at 2.2 Megabytes per Second, which was remarkable!

So of the 100 Megabytes allocated to Vodafone Koforidua Cafe, at the earliest time one could be there, when the routers etc are fresh up and not bogged down by anything, that’s the FASTEST I could get, namely, 2.5 MBps.

You can imagine how things will turn out if 10 people start using the network as I was.

The problem?

Allocating 100 Megabytes per second bandwidth isn’t all there is. For example, see this and tell me where the bottlenecking is:

Airtel Network – Traceroute via 3.75G to Google.com

The above was a random traceroute using the Airtel network. The majority of the delay, close to 500ms was within Airtel networks. So, trying to get to Google, Airtel delayed me some 500ms, that’s 0.5 of a second.

And before you go, “Just 0.5 second”, wait until you see this:

Computer time in Human time

Looking at the chart above, what do you think 500ms would be? Aren’t we looking at 50 years plus? A millisecond in the world of networks can mean a lifetime!

Think about it. As a network provider, it is extremely essential to make sure traffic going through your system impacts as little as possible on the overall experience.

For Airtel, my single request went through 5 of their servers, some located in India. Ghana to India is very far!

Likewise, if Vodafone has allocated 100 Megabyte per second to Koforidua, yet even at the least used times, users can’t go over 5 Megabytes per second, then what exactly is the culprit?

It is like giving me a Lays bag of chip, of which only less than 10% are actual chips, the rest just sweet-smelling air!

100 Megabytes/second, but only about 3 Megabytes/second usable?

And so…

My question therefore is, Vodafone says they’ve allocated 100 Megabyte per second. Fine!

In their tests from Koforidua (they can do it at 1 am in the morning), what is the closest they could get to the 100 Megabyte threshold?

How much of the bandwidth is actually available for use? What percentage is consumed by protocols, the internet-drinking demon, and all the factors combined?

As much as it might appear throwing more bandwidth is a quick fix, remember Brooks’s Law. How optimized already is what is given to Vodafone Koforidua?

How optimized already is what is given to Vodafone Koforidua?

All questions I have no answer to, and won’t know, but would love to learn. Throwing around words, and terms don’t cut it.

On that note, Mr. Kofi assures users of the Vodafone Cafe in Koforidua to expect performance improvements in the coming weeks and months as they go behind the scenes to figure out what is happening.

Conclusion

My previous article was more of a way to express my thoughts and frustration of how the explanation around Vodafone Fibre wasn’t clear, and the slowness of network speed at Vodafone Cafe in Koforidua. I am glad Vodafone HQ took a personal interest in my concerns and working to resolve them as best as they can.

As they say, ‘Time Tells’, so will be waiting to see the day all get fixed and we all go happy!

Another thing is, about the Vodafone Fibre to my neighborhood, if you guys figure out it ain’t gonna be commercially viable, just cut the crap out of it. No hard feelings. You don’t have to spend that much just to service me alone!

I strongly believe if people get to know it exists, they’ll use it. So going ahead might be commercially viable. Maybe!

I did a rough estimate, and bringing the Fibre from the closest point to my house is already somewhere in the realms of 200,000 GhC, unless the cables, poles, and manpower to set everything up will be for free. It is Vodafone, so you sometimes get these for free, right?

Update July 6, 2017: Duh, I was wrong about the cost

It would cost less than my rough estimate. I’m told it’ll be within the pricepoint of 50,000 cedis to bring the Fibre To The Home to our place. Hurray!!

Not as expensive as I imagined, yet still capital intensive.

In all, thanks so much for the time and resources dedicated to my requests. I believe when these concerns are resolved, I won’t be the only benefactor, and it’ll put a wider smile on the faces of the many customers you have.

Not all the networks spend the time to truly assist and listen to their customers, except just the usual “we are sorry”, “we’ll be back” soon old, dumb and boring excuses.

You do have a very extra advantage over the competition with your Fibre things. The fact that you’ve not evolved to lead the way so far is a bit surprising. Hopefully, that’ll happen soon.

All the best, Vodafone, and Godspeed!

An internet user,

Rexford