Broadband bandwidth download speed

by Colin Bryant, TelecomsAdvice

A rapidly spreading Web addiction is sweeping across the UK. Symptoms include colleagues acting suspiciously, furtively angling their screens out of the boss's view; hot flushes brought about by frantic mouse-clicking to view just one more page until the end of the lunch hour; and fists banged on desks in desperation at the length of time taken for pages to download. One page leads to another, one click leads to the next and before you know it, the vice-like grip of Web addiction has taken over your life.

In the UK, nine out of ten of us now work in companies that are connected to the Internet. More of us work in businesses which take part in trading on-line than in a number of countries, including the US and Japan. We are the largest e-commerce market in Europe - British consumers now spend over GBP1 billion a month online - six per cent of all UK retail sales [IMRG February 2003]. And, last year, half of all UK firms bought goods and services online [DTI, December 2002], spending GBP23 billion in the process [Office of National Statistics, August 2002 - figure excludes companies in the financial sector].

Now so many of us have this compulsion, we want more from our Internet service. We want faster, better, smarter ways of working. And this is where bandwidth comes in.

What is bandwidth?

Bandwidth is the transmission capability of the lines that carry the Internet's electronic traffic. The amount of bandwidth you need generally depends on the applications you use - for example, if you run a design company sending and receiving large multimedia files, you will need wider bandwidth. Think of pipes carrying water - the more water the pipe needs to carry, the broader it will be. Broadband refers to a service or connection that enables vast quantities of data to be carried at very high speeds and offers a greatly improved service - not only to those sending and receiving large files, but to anyone who is frustrated by the ‘World Wide Wait’.

Most UK Internet users access the World Wide Web via dial-up modems, with maximum speeds of up to 56kbits/s. As exciting as this seemed at first, website designers are taking advantage of the higher speeds and sites have more multimedia content so we are now demanding far more from our Internet Service Providers. The more Internet traffic that develops, the more bottlenecks and gridlocks encountered, leaving many of us idly (or furiously) waiting for the information we needed instantly.

Our Internet access has to keep up with our frenetic lifestyles. Broadband or high-speed Internet does exactly this, through remarkably fast Internet access and a vastly improved service via wider pipes.

Broadband can be delivered through a range of media - cable modems, digital subscriber lines (the DSL part of ADSL), wireless transmission and satellite dishes (plus fibre-optic cables currently available in the US). Think of these as having bandwidth capabilities up to a hundred times faster than your average modem, and you can begin to get an idea of just how fast broadband is. A videoclip that takes nine minutes using a 56.6K modem would download in less than 30 seconds...

High-speed Internet isn't just about speed, however. It has the advantage of being "always on" - there is no need to dial in, as the connection to the Internet is always made whenever your computer is switched on - so it's cost-effective and convenient too.

According to a report by Datamonitor, a third of all Internet access will be broadband by 2006. The UK will be Europe's second largest consumer broadband market after Germany by this time, and half of all broadband modems will be installed within TV set-top boxes.

Business benefits

So what benefits does broadband pose for your business? Predominantly, the service saves your company valuable time spent dialling in and time spent waiting for pages to download. This timesaving factor is hugely important - recent research has identified that small businesses waste 400 hours a year waiting for dial-up and download. That's 11 working days. But more than this it makes the Internet a usable general business tool for smaller enterprises.

Rather than trying to surf the Internet during the brief daily period of slightly faster Internet access when Japan's workforce has (eventually) gone home and America's working day hasn't yet begun, your access will constantly be faster. Much faster. Search times are virtually non-existent, as you can glide through reams of webpages with ease. Faster Internet enables you to work more efficiently, and has major implications on your daily schedule.

If your work involves downloading video clips or webcasts the quality will be far better than with a standard modem - no more viewing newsreels in the style of a fuzzy cine film. The images are clearer, sharper and more defined.

Another advantage of this service is that it provides you with ability to use both voice and data services simultaneously, over one phone line. If you are a very small business, this could be invaluable to you - rather than restricting your Internet time to the hours when you are unlikely to get business calls through, you can use the Internet whenever you want, without your customers getting the frustrating engaged tone when they call you.

Broadband is also more cost-effective than standard dial-up modems. And dismiss the taxi meter image - most broadband Internet access is available for a flat rate fee, so rather than the meter ticking away for every second you are on-line, you simply pay a one-off installation charge, then a standard monthly rate. This in turn makes it easier for you to plan your budget - each month you will know the exact cost of your Internet bill.

Several service providers in the UK including Telewest and BT currently offer high-speed Internet access dedicated to businesses. The prices are generally extremely good value for the improvement in Internet service.

So next time you're waiting to dial in or download, bear in mind that for many, the World Wide Wait really is over.

See the TelecomsAdvice information sheet broadband guide for business for links to ADSL and broadband service providers.

Reviewed January 2011

last updated : 21/01/2011



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