100Mbps is great but it’s not just about content consumption

superhubHigher-speed broadband arrived at my house this week when Virgin Media flipped the switch to deliver over 100Mbps download speed via a fibre-optic cable connection, doubling the 50-60Mbps I’ve been enjoying for the past few years.

I knew this was coming as I’d had to upgrade the cable modem last month to Virgin’s Media’s Superhub – an attractive bit of kit (made by Netgear, incidentally) that incorporates a wireless router – in preparation for the higher speed.

Setting it up was a breeze, so I’ve been ready for the ‘ton’ of speed for some weeks now.

So what does a download speed of 100Mbps give me? According to Virgin Media:

[…] A fast and seamless experience for the whole household. Connect all your computers, smartphones, tablets and games consoles to one secure, superfast home network.

Up to 100Mb is 9 times faster than the UK average broadband speed, allowing you to download an entire music album in just six seconds, a TV show in 30 seconds and a movie in just 90 seconds.

Sounds good!

One of the first things I did following the switchover was run a network speed test from the desktop PC into which the cable from the modem connects, using Speedtest.net. That one test showed a download speed of 104Mbps. Terrific!


But take a look at the upload speed. Just 4.86Mbps. That’s pretty miserable, hardly an improvement on what I had before.

Why is upload speed important? The way I see it in simple terms, the faster the speed, well, the quicker you can upload content, eg, audio podcast MP3 files as I do from time to time. They’re not huge files by any means, certainly not compared to video.

Yet wouldn’t you think that the upload speed should have increased at least in proportion to the doubling of the download speed? Virgin Media says speed matters although they only talk about download speed.

Does the pitiful comparative upload speed suggest that Virgin Media thinks all anyone will do is consume content? Just download it, whether that means actually downloading a music album, a TV show, a movie or streaming content, doing all the to-ing and fro-ing that you do online without thinking about how it’s working?

Increasingly, though, people are creating and sharing content, not only simple stuff like Facebook posts, tweets and blog posts but also richer content like YouTube video.

It’s a question I asked Virgin Media’s tweeters. Here’s what they said:

No indicator of when, but, ok, Virgin Media, I’ll wait. Hope it goes up before 120Mbps download arrives

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Neville Hobson

Social Strategist, Communicator, Writer, and Podcaster with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Believer in an Internet for everyone. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.

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