Musings on Broadband

Every so often I read news stories about one telecoms provider or another increasing their broadband speeds to N million customers. Just recently I read that one company was increasing its top end speed from 100Mbps to 120Mbps. And I started to think about why would I need 100Mpbs broadband? And if I did need it, why would I need a bump to 120Mbps? First some context, my first “broadband” connection was just 64kbps (that is 0.0625 Mbps in today’s terms). I think the cable company didn’t call it broadband as it wasn’t much higher than the 56kbps modems that existed at the time, but the key was that the connection was permanently on, no more dial up!

64kbps was brilliant, surfing the web became enjoyable and large downloads became a reality (if I let them run over night). Of course at that time (this is back in 1999) there was no YouTube, no streaming of live video webcasts, no iTunes, no NetFlix. Fast forward a decade and a bit and I know have 10Mbps which is 160 times faster than what I had in ’99. Is 10Mbps useful? Yes. Downloads from iTunes would be unrealistic without at least 2Mbps and now with kids in the house there are lots of devices sharing the same connection.

But do I need 100Mbps or even 120Mbps. 100Mbps is 10 times faster than what I have now and 1600 times faster than what I had in 1999. If I buy a movie from iTunes it is normally about 1.5GB in size. My top download speed is about 1MB a second, so to download it takes 25 minutes. Downloading the latest version of Ubuntu Linux takes about 11 minutes. This is quick. If I wanted to watch a film, and it was a “on the spur of the moment” thing, I could start the download, boil the kettle, pop some corn and the film would be downloaded. If I had 100Mbps broadband then it would download in 2.5 minutes. Do I really need to download a whole 2 hour movie that quick? I think the answer is no. Recently a different broadband provider in our area tempted me to change to their service. They offered 50MBps. Did I change? No I didn’t. I like what I have, it is reliable, economical and does exactly what I need.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.


2 thoughts on “Musings on Broadband

  1. You don’t really need that much. Here in Cyprus I downgraded my service from 6Mbps to 4Mbps saving an extra 10 EUR/month. I always thought that there are more important metrics to a satisfactory broadband service than download bandwidth. For example ping response time, degradation during peak hours, quality of service etc. Once I’ve passed the threshold of being able to stream HD videos without delays than the extra bandwidth doesn’t really provide any additional benefits. Does it really make a difference if it takes 12mins to download a 1 GB file instead of 10?

  2. I recently upgraded to ~80Mbps download primarily because the _upload_ speed was increased to 20Mbps. I also got unlimited bandwidth at the same time.

    The result of that was that 20GB of photos could be backed up on SkyDrive in a reasonable time.

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