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So how useful is broadband?
Tuesday 03 February 2009 17:03:06 by Andrew Ferguson

Answering questions of why do you need faster broadband are always difficult, as the reasons it is needed often vary a lot from person to person. The heavy snow fall in the UK has meant many schools are closed, but it seems a lot of people are finding that broadband allows them to work at home and is one of the reasons for wanting a connection that can cope with someone working, and kids home from school doing what kids do online.

Plusnet invariably talks about unusual spikes in usage on its blog, and the snow event has been no different, with what looks to be a large increase in the amount of VPN, remote desktop and other home working type applications. The BBC covers the problems that a number of websites that provide travel information have suffered. This reveals one downside of relying on mobile broadband, since mobile networks are generally contended at both the bandwidth and availability of sessions to access it at a level that is often much greater than most fixed line broadband services.

So perhaps it could be concluded that UK broadband has been a help during a time of disruption to the transport network. Certainly the floods and fuel strikes of the past appear to have lead to more firms investing in systems to allow staff to work from home. Of course, not everyone can work from home, there are still jobs in the UK that require working with actual physical goods.

Drawing the conclusion that UK broadband is up to the job and simply needs some in-fill to get 100% coverage would be a dangerous thing. Home working relies heavily on a two way exchange of data, and due to a combination of the technologies currently deployed and pricing decisions, millions upon millions of broadband lines can only send data at around one tenth of the speed they receive it. The end result which some are experiencing now is that you find it taking ages to send a decent resolution image of the snow to family and friends, but doing this at the same time that dad is trying to hold an important VoIP call or access the company database can result in deadlock.

A woeful omission from the Digital Britain report was consideration for the fact that broadband is meant to be a two way path, and true broadband should give as fast uploads as it does downloads. The USO has been debated since 2003, so maybe it will be another six years before those elected to run the country realise that we are falling behind, and that the tools of business are changing. Come 2012 there will be video bloggers from countries used to 100Mbps and 1Gbps networks visiting the Olympics finding out their usual facilities are not there.


Posted by Dawn_Falcon over 8 years ago
Uhm, the issues suffered by websites with insufficient resources (server or bandwidth) are not the same as the bandwidth from the home...
Posted by Dixinormous over 8 years ago
It appears BT aren't aware of the two way path either going by Ebbsfleet's 2Mbit upstream on the 100Mbit downstream product, this on a delivery system that gives 2.4Gbit/s downstream and 1.2Gbit/s upstream to each 64 homes.
Posted by clivejenner over 8 years ago
The video Bloggers at the 2012 Olympics will not notice the slow Broadband that the rest of us are having to put up with as they will have the best facilities that the rip levy on the payers of rates in London can provide!
Posted by Groovehound over 8 years ago
Once again, one of the major reasons I had a go at Virgin is that they should be concentrating on upstream bandwidth, not 50Mbps downstream when the fastest their expensive, flagship product can go is a relatively pathetic 1.5Mbps. That's if it's working at full technical capacity, which it won't.
Posted by Groovehound over 8 years ago
That's the bandwidth that webcams, file uploads/remote access, gaming AND simple ACK packets from that huge download bandwidth are taking (well, the latter add a BIT of upstream, no pun intended). Try living in a house with a few people (and this will be common I imagine in the demand for high bandwidth) and you're STILL going to have problems. Virgin should have invested in bonding technology if they didn't already.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 8 years ago
While the major broadcasters will for sure have access to uber broadband pipes, the myriad of people visiting to twit/blog or whatever is the fashion in 2012 will probably just have whatever 3G, Wi-Fi is available.

Micro-casting as in people with the equivalent of the old public access cable has big potential at events like the Olympics since supporters of an athlete can cover them, even when the main broadcaster is not.

Even some larger countries will be wanting to use the Internet to upload material, as satellite capacity is a lot more limited than terrestrial broadband.
Posted by rian over 8 years ago
hammn.. Let's wait and see what will the ppl coming from the Fibre enable countries said on 2012.
Posted by hminney over 8 years ago
complaining about 1.5Mbps upstream? Hmm, peak times (eg every evening) I only get 50k downstream. I would love to be able to use Skype let alone video. USP should apply in minor cities as well and BT should face huge fines if they fail to comply.
Posted by Dawn_Falcon over 8 years ago
hminney - If it's a contention issue, look to your ISP, not BT.
Posted by Dawn_Falcon over 8 years ago
Andrew - Then they can buy a business product, since they're running a business. Residental products, by and large, don't need significant upstream (it just helps, bluntly, p2p and there's no incentive to enhance it's usage for ISP's).
Posted by Dixinormous over 8 years ago
*sigh* Dawn. If there's no incentive to enhance upstream why do we have upstream averages of half the 'world average' on

Clearly there's some interest from the other hundreds of millions of Internet users even if you can't see it.

People microcasting is hardly running a business any more than vlogging is.

Oh yes there's no real business broadband products either with much upstream so it's a non-issue anyway.
Posted by Dawn_Falcon over 8 years ago
Because of selection bias which favours high upstream users and problems with's recording mechanisms? Also, I said *for ISP's*. And I meant for ISP's.

Microcasting from a commercial event is, with very few exceptions, business. See: British Law.
Posted by Dixinormous over 8 years ago

Try a good video conference on the 768kbps or lower that most offer.

No selection bias, those averages were of all speedtests, we do suck for upstream in the UK, fact.
Posted by Dawn_Falcon over 8 years ago
Video Conferencing for home users per-se using raw bandwidth is a silly concept. Face tracking using data points and software can work across far smaller amounts of bandwidth.
Posted by Somerset over 8 years ago
Video conferencing has been about for years but is there really aa demand for it? Once you have seen the people at the other end once you don't need to see them again. Much more useful is document sharing on PCs during an audio conference.
Posted by cyberdoyle over 8 years ago
Skype is a godsend to grannies, it means my grandchildren can see me and I can see them, we skype every day. Even my 3.5 yr old grand daughter can skype me whenever she wants to as she has access to the home pc. This means that no matter how far away they live we can keep in touch, and are not strangers when we meet.
Posted by cyberdoyle over 8 years ago
When the athletes come here for 2012 they may be very disappointed, but that may wake govt up as the shame will get to them and they may decide to light the fibre they should be lighting now.
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