Science

Get Connected

Listen up, house hunters! Next academic year, unless you plan on waiting ridiculous hours for YouTube to load, you’ll want a superfast internet connection. Impact can help.

So, what is broadband? It’s basically a ‘broad’ tunnel to the internet – the larger the road, the more cars (or Christian Bale rants) can drive on it. UK broadband services are growing ever larger and learning to compress ‘traffic’ in more efficient ways, but jargon often obscures the truth.

People trip up on Advertised Speed – the maximum potential of the service – and Actual Speed – the speed of your setup- normally significantly less. This can be affected by your hardware, other people in your house sharing the connection, and the worldwide traffic of the provider (usually busiest between 5pm and 11pm).

Speeds depend on location. In Lenton, most providers go up to 20mb – about the equivalent of 20 movies, 4,000 tracks and 20,000 photos per month.

The term ‘unlimited downloads’ is thrown about a lot when in fact all packages have download limits. This is to ease bandwidth congestion and ensure every customer on the same package is privy to the same speeds. Your connection can be slowed down or even cut off from the provider should you download more than your share. This is called throttling. Dumeter.com is a tool enabling you to keep tabs on everything coming in or out – good having when you’re a heavy downloader.

It’s inevitable you’ll be courted by numerous service providers, but many companies don’t know their own megabit from their petabyte. Thinkbroadband.com, the only website that a study by Virgin Media has found to measure broadband speeds with accuracy, is a great place to brush up.

Deals are often never as good as they appear. To avoid confusion, remember this rule: 8 Megabits = 1 Megabyte. Knowing that 1 minute of MP3 audio is relative to 1 megabyte is a useful context.

With TV on demand over the internet and broadband penetration growing rapidly, speeds are set to rise. Case in point: Youtube now uses the same amount of bandwidth as the entire internet did in 2001! Currently, Virgin Media is conducting a trial of its 50mb broadband (an entire album in 11 seconds, anyone?) while BT has plans for a 100mb broadband underway.

Until then, though, the current fastest broadband service available in the UK is Be Broadband – bethere.co.uk – offering speeds of 24mb, while BT’s 8mb broadband is the cheapest at £7.78 per month. Before you buy, check for tests on the provider’s website designed to ensure your area and setup are supported, and make sure there’s a 24/7 helpline.

Though we still have troubles like student loans, looming deadlines and drunken nights that we’d rather forget, now having the right internet connection needn’t be one of them.

Interesting facts:

Facebook currently has 10 billion photos on- that’s just over one petabyte. (That’s around 10,000 hard drives full of purely photos)

BBC iPlayer accounts or 13% of all internet use in the UK

10 hours worth of video is uploaded to YouTube every minute.

ISPs are paid no additional fees for carrying iPlayer/YouTube traffic

Most internet traffic is carried globally by large optic cables on the sea floor, capable of transferring 100Gb per second.

Apex DC++, the file sharing software of ‘dubious legality’ we used to love using in halls, was shut down 2 years ago when a student phoned the official Uni IT helpline to ask how to set it up.

Sneakernet has been developed for poorer countries and remote villages, where there is only one internet connection- a USB stick preloaded with sneakernet software is plugged in overnight, and downloads relevant pages- news, weather, sport etc, which can then be shared around the village

Ben P. Griffin

Categories
Science

Leave a Reply