How Does the Speed of the Internet Compare?

When you put it in to perspective that 20 years ago we would sit through the noisy, time-consuming dial-up connection sequence with very little complaint; it really puts it in to perspective how today’s internet users expect and demand speed – after all, many of us throw a “first world problem” tantrum if Google doesn’t answer our question within milliseconds.

And it seems that, on the whole, these demands for speed are being met. Most households can now achieve speeds in excess of 12Mbps if they’re in a fibre area. In fact, since 2008, we’ve seen the average speed of fixed line residential broadband rise by more than 300 per cent, from 3.6Mbps to an astonishing 14.7Mbps in 2013. OFCOM reports that now, in 2015, fixed broadband in the UK averages an impressive 22.8Mbps.

Faster Than a Speeding Bullet?

Throughout much of time, man has had an unwavering obsession with speed. Over the centuries millions of research and experimentation hours have been poured into the just cause of making things go faster. If there is even a mild hope that they can be made faster than they currently are, we have undoubtedly tried to make them so. But,what are the fastest things on the planet right now?

Usain Bolt – Bolt ran 100 metres in 9.58 seconds, that’s an average speed of 27.78mph. This makes him the fastest human being in the world, ever. Often, many find it difficult to comprehend such speed. So, here’s a useful exercise, get hold of a metre ruler, and really look at it. Now image someone running 100 of those in less than 10 seconds. Impressed? You should be.

A cheetah: Cheetahs are famously the fastest animals on earth, but one particular cheetah gave us a spectacular demonstration of just how fast these cats can be. In 2012, Sarah, a cheetah from the Cincinnati zoo, ran 100m in a neck breaking 5.95 seconds; with a top speed of 61mph. Sarah clobbered Bolt’s 100m record by a massive four seconds, and almost doubled his top speed. Sorry, Bolt.

But what about the internet; how fast does information travel around the globe?

How Does The Speed of Broadband Compare?

Contrary to popular opinion, all data travels at pretty much the same speed, no matter where you are or how sluggish your connection seemingly appears to be.

Fibre optic broadband transmits data using packets of light. The light travels down the optic, at the speed of, well, light. Some, hardly noticeable, reduction should be accounted for in a multi-mode cable, due to the miniscule bouncing around that light does. But in any single mode cable, the light will effectively follow the path of the optic, reaching speeds of 670,616,629mph; the speed of light.

But what about those poor souls who are yet to get their upgrade to fibre, and still rely on cable to meet their internet needs? Well, you might be surprised to know that CAT5 copper cable also transmits data at almost the speed of light, achieving 96% of the speed you would get with a fibre optic connection. If you’re keeping track, that’s around 643,791,963.84mph.

So, Why Does My Page Take so Long to Load?

After reading the above, the next question that forms in most minds is “if information can travel through cables at almost as fast as the speed of light, why on earth are my web pages taking ages to load?”

A narrower bandwidth will mean it takes longer for all the information from the web page to reach your computer, whereas an internet service provider (ISP) who has invested in lots of bandwidth will be able to offer you a bigger sized ‘pipe’, letting the data flow through noticeably faster.

No matter how fast your (light speed) internet connection is, it is, unfortunately, always the bandwidth that will determine the performance you actually get. This is why your choice of ISP plays a critical role in the speed you receive. Put simply; buy more bandwidth, get faster internet.

So the next time you stare infuriatingly at a slow loading webpage, feeling like you want to launch your laptop out of the nearest window. Remember, the internet is actually the second fastest thing on the planet, there are just a few little things holding it back.

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