Since the beginning of the internet, faster internet speeds have always been at the core of the game. How fast is your internet connection, how fast can you download a song, an album, a movie, a whole season of your favorite TV series?
Well a simple and quick search got me to these articles, boasting internet speeds in the range of Gigabits… that’s right, gigabits! A 1Gbps service in Chattanooga (Tennessee) and a 1Gbps service in Hong Kong (China). Also don’t forget the old Swedish dame’s domestic, lightning-speed, 40Gbps connection showcase.
We have hit “The Gigabit Age”.
Also found this very informative post on the top 10 most connected cities in the world (Link).
Now here’s where all this gets very interesting.
People always like to look at the numbers; quantitative analysis has by-far always been the most preferable approach in comparing services such as internet speeds… of course though, there’s going to be a “but”.
There are a few limiting factors that tend to go overlooked by consumers, mainly because these issues are not advertised, and it would take an engineer to point them out.
1. The Wireless Network Speed Issue
As everyone knows, wireless network coverage has exploded in the past decade, where nowadays you have a wireless LAN in almost every household, to say the least. It’s convenient, it’s simple, but more importantly it’s SLOW.
The best throughput you can get on today’s WLANs is 600Mbps on a top-of-the-line 802.11n connection (barely available in the market and quite expensive). Not to mention that this is a half-duplex connection, so effectively you’re only going to see speeds of about 200Mbps – 300Mbps, if you even get that.
If you got yourself a 1Gbps connection, you’re not even taking advantage of half of the connection you paid for.
2. Home Networking Equipment Issue
Granted (wired) home networking equipment that supports 1Gbps connection speeds is available in the market nowadays. I don’t have much to say about this, except is it worth your $$$?
3. Computer Hardware Speed Issue
Of course you’re most probably going to be using a laptop or a mobile device to be surfing the internet. The best-case scenario would be to use a computer (desktop or laptop). Now let’s assume you’re downloading some really large files and of course these files are going to be written to your hard disk.
So let’s examine this a little, the hard disk is connected to a SATA II port with a top transfer speed of 3Gbps; and that’s only for the channel, not the hard disk itself. The hard disk itself; let’s assume it’s a top-of-the-line Solid-State Disk (SSD) that can achieve write speed of 2Gbps.
Going back to that 1Gbps connection, you’re somewhat in the clear (in an ideal-world scenario of course). If you were to bump it up to a blistering 40Gbps, all I can say is: “LoL!”
4. Server Speeds Issue
What is the internet? In simple terms, it’s a bunch of high-speed servers with high-speed connections providing data services to millions of clients around the world, like me and you. And believe it or not, these servers have a limited internet connection speed as well… shocking information, right?
Well, back in the days of 512kbps and 1Mbps connections, a server with 1Gbps or multiple gigabit connections could function rather well and normally, performing at optimal speeds. But now that we hit the gigabit barrier, with the fastest possible speed per connection per server being 100Gbps we get to a new bottleneck. A server that could have served 1000’s of clients in the past now can only support 100 clients, at best.
5. Round-Trip Time (RTT) Delay issue
This one’s is one of my favorites. 😉
The rules of the game are not that the faster your connection the faster you’ll get those files you want so bad; it does saturate at some point.
This is where the RTT comes into play.
One of the first things you learn in an undergrad computer networks course is that if you were given a network link with unlimited bandwidth, the transfer rate of that connection will then be limited by the distance between the two end-nodes.
These issues are all mentioned while assuming ideal-world scenarios, where you actually get the numbers just as they’re advertised with no latencies or overheads (unless otherwise indicated), which in and of itself will never happen due to real-world inefficiencies. Also, there are so many more issues that can be addressed, but I decided to limit them for the sake of not turning this post into a lecture on telecommunications.
In conclusion, don’t feel so bad when you read that other countries are hitting such insane high speeds of internet connectivity, you really don’t need all that speed… I’m going to admit though, I really wouldn’t mind a few more 10’s of megabits added to my connection.