Tobold's Blog
Tuesday, May 16, 2023
Internet speed

When I discovered my very first MMORPG, Ultima Online, in the 90's, I was still on a dial-up internet connection. That not only was very slow, but also pay-per-minute. So my first foray into MMORPGs ended after a month, when I received a $500 telephone bill. I restarted online games a few years later, when I got my first unmetered DSL connection. It also was much faster, at 6 Mbit/s. DSL works over the copper telephone line, and over the years the technology improved, without changing that line. In 2010 I went from ADSL to VDSL, which at first had about 20 Mbit/s speed. And with subsequent updates the speed went up further, to now about 70 Mbit/s.

As I mentioned before, I am currently building a new house. Moving away from the city to a more rural area has certain advantages, but of course internet speed was a worry. In most places in the world, rural internet is a lot slower than urban. But it turned out that in this case the opposite was true: My new house is on a new street, so they had to build new infrastructure for electricity, water, gas, and internet/telephone. And because Belgium is currently starting to roll out fiber optics, they didn't even bother to lay the old copper cables for telephone and internet in the new street. They went directly for fiber optics.

Yesterday the cable guy installed the fiber optics internet connection to the new house. So I was able to test it, and got a whopping 700 Mbit/s internet speed for downloads, 200 Mbit/s upload. Actually measured, not theoretical (in theory this is a 1 GBit/s connection). And that was over WiFi! The only problem is that I have 700 Mbit/s in the garage, the speed drops to 50 Mbit/s in the living room, and there is no signal at all on the first floor. I built a low energy house with great thermal insulation, but that also stops electromagnetic waves to some extent. Fortunately I had thought ahead, and all the rooms in which I am most likely to use internet come with Ethernet ports, which are connected to the router in the garage. And I already have a Technicolor OWA0130 WiFi Booster, which can be plugged into one of those Ethernet ports. So I am hopeful that I will be able to have both plugged-in internet devices like TVs and computers, as well as fast WiFi internet everywhere in my house.

Note that 700 Mbit/s is nearly 90 MByte/s, but you can only achieve such download speeds if the server on the other side is actually providing data at that speed. I've read that Steam is not providing data faster than 60 MByte/s, so further increases of download speed on my side would be useless. Note that a typical 10 GB game download at that speed takes just 3 minutes, and the unpacking and installing might actually take longer than the download. My internet plan comes with a 3 TB/month limit, and at maximum speed I could download that much data in less than a day; not that I can imagine wanting to download 3 TB of data. The speed is even more useless for streaming, because streaming for example Netflix at the highest possible 4K/UHD resolution just takes up 15 Mbit/s or 2MByte/s. I can stream maximum resolution Netflix on 45 devices simultaneously, if my subscription would allow that, before I'd run into a speed limitation.

So this is probably the end of the line for my internet speed. Faster internet exists, but serves no practical purpose. If my internet provider offered me a 2 GBit/s instead of 1 GBit/s connection for $10 more per month, I would decline.

I've had a fibre optic service since the early 2000s because the city where I live was cabled for cable TV and the same company who provided that also offered their own ISP. I never used the cable TV but I was using their infrastructure to play EQ via whatever passed for broadband back then in 2001. Before that we did use dial-up for a while but the actual fibre optic cables were in place in the 90s.

This year, we've had all the streets dug up again as they put in a whole new fibre optic infrastructure for superfast Broadband but I have no idea how much better it's supposd to be than what's already in place. I have no complaints about the speeds I'm getting, so I don't plan on swapping to the new provider when the inevitable invites start appearing - unless, of course, they're also significantly cheaper. When we move, which we might in a few years, internet speed is going to be a key factor in deciding where we'll go but by then I expect almost everywhere to be at least as good as what I have now, which is good enough.
I've found myself in the same situation. I currently have a good 1Gbit connection (with an effective 975/1000 speed) and the ISP offered me to double it, up to 2.5Gbit. The thing is... I wouldn't be able to "use" that amount of bandwith, because the upload speed would still be limited to 500Mbit, which means I couldn't transfer files between my home and the office at full throttle (both locations have that 500Mbit upload cap).

I deal with files, servers and uploads on a hourly basis and I can confirm that you're almost always limited by the "other" side. You may be able to download a file at 150mb/s but the server will be always capped at a much lower speed. YouTube, Torrents, Netflix, whatever. There is no way to saturate that amount of bandwitdh unless the connection is shared with (many) other family members.

On a side note, games are growing like crazy too. The era of "100gb preload" is upon us already.

I still remember when I needed a full night to download Ultima VI...
I'm curious, how much do you have to pay a month for your connection? I moved to the "country" in the US last year and one of the reasons I was able to do that was since the house had fiber to it (which is rare in rural US, but expanding). I pay $70/month for 100Mbps, but if I did want gigabit speed it would be $500/month.
I live in Italy, I pay €25/month for 1Gbit. The upgrade to 2.5Gbit would cost €35/month.

Rural/mountain areas are almost always reached by a FWA connection, which is a sim card plugged into a the router (just like a sim in a smartphone) and it uses the 4G-5G connection. Maximum speed is 100Mbit. Total monthly downloads are also capped (500Gb-1TB/month depending on ISP choice) but it's the best option for those who don't even have a phone at home.
I don't know how much I will be paying for the 1 Gbit/s fiber optic internet. One reason for that is that there was a deal between the construction company that built the house for me and the internet provider, so I get 6 months for free. The other reason is that even for my current internet, it is hard to say how much I am paying, because it comes as part of a bundle: Fixed line telephone, mobile phone, internet at home and over 4G, and television. All together $120 per month up to now, not sure if it will go up a lot in 6 months.

It seems to me that internet and mobile phone plans are deliberately opaque, to prevent people from comparing offers. But if I bother to find out and then switch provider, it won't be before I use up the free 6 months. :)
Unfortunately where I live, like many parts of the US, I'm essentially stuck with a regional monopoly. I either choose the large regional carrier that services my area or I take a worse, albeit cheaper, smaller provider that just leases cables from that large ISP. I'm advertised 1000 Mbps down and I think like 10-50 Mbps up but it's rarely ever anywhere near those speeds being cable. No fiber connections have made it to my city yet for residential use.

I have the option of satellite I guess but it's way more expensive.
@ Tobold

We also have those offers, here in my country. They call them "all inclusive" and they never tell you the exact price of the individual services. "Pay once, be happy forever". It works, because the offers are usually very cheap (limitless fiber connection + mobile 200GB + TV rarely goes above 50-60€). The downside is that you're tied to those offers for a long time, 48 months and beyond.

On a side note, I've just noticed that I've been reading your blog since you started it in July 2023. That's 20 years ago. TWENTY YEARS. And I don't even know you. It feels weird and eerie at the same time. Stay healthy, I want to read you for another 20 years minimum, ok?
It is funny that game downloads are probably the single most demanding internet use in most households these days. Even with four adults watching 4k movies the total bandwidth doesn't exceed 100MB/d whereas downloading a large AAA game will max out your internet for half an hour or so. I am old enough to remember leaving my computer on overnight to download a whopping 5Mb game (I think it was Doom 2) over a dial up modem.

Post a Comment

<< Home
Newer›  ‹Older

  Powered by Blogger   Free Page Rank Tool