Ice Wireless recently began offering home internet service in Whitehorse. Their service is competitively priced and represents respectable competition for the North’s historic incumbent.
I’ve had a home internet modem from Ice for the past week or so, and I’ve managed to get a feel for the quality of the service. It’s decent, but there’s plenty of room for improvement.
The speed in general is good. I measure, on average, about 11 to 12 Mbps download speeds and between 3 and 5 Mbps uploads. Those speeds may seem low, but for general purpose internet access, they’re adequate.
The main problem with Ice’s service is that it feels “laggy.” This is because of the service’s “latency,” or “ping rate,” which runs at an embarrassingly high 190 to 270 milliseconds.
The high latency can make internet services feel unresponsive. When you initially request a web page over an Ice connection, there is generally a long delay, often of several seconds, before the page loads. When you watch YouTube or Netflix videos, the caching time before they play is much longer than normal, often over 10 seconds. Whatever you’re doing over an Ice connection, there is generally a pause, or a sense of delay, before it gets started.
Once the data begins to flow, pages load quickly and videos play at acceptable resolution. Because of the high latency, though, getting things started can be frustrating.
For comparison’s sake, my cable internet service with Northwestel has a latency rate of just 10 to 13 milliseconds. My mobile data service from Telus also beats out Ice, running between 140 and 180 milliseconds. Still high, but almost imperceptible. (Interesting side note: Telus’ mobile internet service is tops in overall data speed, consistently measuring a blazing 36 Mbps download and 14 upload. My cable service seems to be capped at about 25 Mbps download and 6 upload.)
I’m hoping latency is something that Ice is working on and that they have plans to improve this aspect of the service in the very near future. The current state is unfortunate because, while their speeds are very good and their data prices are competitive, the high latency makes the service feel slower than it really is, so the overall experience with it can be frustrating.