Optus 3G accelerator spawns blurry pics

Optus 3G accelerator spawns blurry pics

Summary: Optus yesterday confirmed to ZDNet Australia that technology deployed in late 2008 on its 3G network not only reduces the time to download a website, but also reduces image quality.


Optus yesterday confirmed to ZDNet Australia that technology deployed in late 2008 on its 3G network not only reduces the time to download a website, but also reduces image quality.

The carrier started looking at 3G web accelerators, also known as proxies, midway through 2008, Optus mobile network director Andrew Smith told ZDNet Australia last year. That period had been busy for the carrier, with the company launching its popular iPhone offers.

Optus said at the time that web traffic for all handsets was being routed through the accelerator, achieving a 10 to 50 per cent improvement in downloading web pages.

Earlier this month, however, a small number of customers began to complain on the MacTalk forum that images were being recompressed before they arrived on their phone. The customers said that the pictures didn't look as good as they do on other carriers not using the web accelerator technology.

Below are screenshots of the ZDNet Australia website on Vodafone, Optus and Telstra on the iPhone (left to right).

Screenshots of an iPhone on Vodafone, Optus and Telstra

Screenshots of the ZDNet Australia website as seen on the iPhone via Vodafone (left), Optus (centre) and Telstra (right)
(Credit: Ben Grubb/ZDNet Australia)

Photographer and engineer Josh Marshall of Newcastle told ZDNet Australia that he first noticed what Optus was doing when he was designing his website to work on the iPhone.

"I was working on my website and my images just looked terrible," Marshall said.

"They looked like someone with a $99 point-and-shoot camera had shot them. It took me about an hour to realise that by going to some other websites as well that basically ... Optus is grabbing any image and recompressing it down."

Optus defended the web accelerator technology in a statement to ZDNet Australia yesterday, saying it believed it had been "a great innovation" for its customers and had "improved the quality and speed of our mobile browsing across the network".

The telco said that for "the vast majority" of customers using the iPhone and other devices, the quality of images within a web page was "not unduly affected when viewed in a normal or slightly expanded form"; however, it said that customers who used the iPhone "may find that the resolution of some images will be affected when significantly expanded on their display screen or when viewed on larger screens such as on a laptop".

The company was "reviewing other technology solutions which optimise mobile data transfer for customers who regularly view high resolution images such as those who use their iPhone as a tethered modem for their laptop", the statement said.

Marshall said the image recompression affected him personally on two counts: firstly, because he was "not seeing images as they should be"; and secondly, because when prospective clients using Optus came and looked at his site they weren't getting what he expected them to see.

"And that's something that they're going to blame me for, they're not going to immediately assume Optus is doing that," he said.

Does this affect your ability to browse the web? Or do you see it as an enhancement?

Topics: Mobility, Apple, iPhone, Networking, Telcos, Optus

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  • Judging from those screenshots alone I'm not sure how they could call that "not unduly affected when viewed in a normal or slightly expanded form".

    I use my phone as a modem every now and then and I'm with Virgin and I've never noticed any intrusive image compressing. Maybe this is only for iPhone or Optus direct customers?
  • I just checked on my htc hero and im with optus. All the images seem very clear. Either iphone customers are the ones getting those results or this article is bull. I wanna see more proof ie. different websites and devices other than an iphone.
  • The feature makes sense for people who care more about speed and preserving quota.

    But providers should not be performing lossful re-encoding of content without prominently disclosing this to the subscriber and providing an opt-in/opt-out. If I saved images while web browsing on my phone for later use, I'd be pissed if they were degraded versions. What's the next step - taking a 128kbps podcast and reencoding it to 32kbps if downloaded via your phone? This is pseudo Internet access taken to a new level.

    It doesn't seem to apply to my Virgin (Optus 3G), Nokia 5800, Opera Mobile browser (Opera Turbo disabled). I downloaded the screenshot image on this page and Sydney Opera House image at wikipedia, and they have the same filesize whether saved on the phone over 3G or on my desktop over ADSL.
  • Yet another reason to use HTTPS where possible.

    On the other hand, i guess it means my data usage will be lower when using Optus and this accelerator is in use.
  • Haha classic ......
    "a great innovation" for its customers and had "improved the quality and speed of our mobile browsing across the network".

    theres no innovation as it's just a cheap cop out to cheaply try and better there cheap network, the quality and speed of any network within Australia other than Telstra's NextG is utterly **** and 3rd world.

    what a farce.... I love the fact that Telstra's NextG network outperforms it's global competitors in every way yet Telstra doesn't have the finacial backing of parent companys such as Sintel or Voda...

    Yes I am a NextG user on Telstra and would never churn to another provider as I have used Optus, Voda and 3 before Telstra NextG and let me tell you the extra $30-$70 i pay p/m for my service is an investment worth while because the frustration of a service not working is a cost much greater to me.
  • My iPhone plan with Optus is about to expire, it looks like I have another reason to switch carriers.
  • I called Optus late last year about the poor quality of images via the web on my Iphone 3G (this appeared to happen overnight), they said it was a hardware issue and referred me to Apple. Apple said the phone was out of warranty and the only option to try and rectify this issue was the restore my iPhone. Did this and i still had the same issue. Now i find out about Optus lowering the image quality to all iPhones! I definately won't be renewing my contract with them.
    Are Optus not breaching any contract conditions in not meeting their service requirements to me?
  • Now i know why this happened to me in late 09 and not in 08 when it was rolled out. When i rang Optus to complain about networks speeds and coverage i was advised i was using a normal sim and not a 3g sim. After i changed over to a 3g sim i started to get blurry pictures......Optus...?...?
  • Optus has, in my experience, provided the single worst and most interfered-with Internet service in Australia.
    This is simply more reason to avoid dealing with Optus.
    Jeffrey Hammond Hammond
  • Wow, this is appalling! I'm with Optus prepaid and just did a test using my iPhone and an image loaded from a website I frequently use. The difference is quite substantial and unacceptable. I took some snapshots to compare, see the difference for yourselves:


    This has to stop Optus!!!
  • This is completely just poor Optus has sunk to a new low (wow was that even possible?) First they couldn't provide a service to it's customers... and instead of improving on the reliability of a service instead they downgrade it as a trade off to improve speed.

    Optus - reducing quality to improve speed does not equate to a win win solution for your customers it's just a workaround, and if I'm honest a pretty poor workaround at that. Another reason to take it to the Telecommunications Ombudsman, Optus you just lost another customer.... ahh so this is what is potentially feels like to break away from hell.
  • Would also explain why songs downloaded from iTunes over Optus 3G are sometimes (and at one point earlier this year always) corrupted. Having to lodge a ticket with Apple each time to re download over a stable connection that hasn’t been interfered with is a tedious.