Our home is connected to the internet using the local phone company’s DSL; up to 11-mbps to be precise about the bandwidth. Why DSL instead of the local cable network’s internet? For the most part, the DSL connection has been stable and dependable throughout the day while the cable network’s internet is sporadic; especially in the morning as the day begins, and the early evening.
Every couple of years I would add the cable network’s internet connection to see if stability and dependability had improved. It has not. The most recent attempt to try cable came about when two cable network representatives knocked on doors in our neighborhood to tell potential customers about newly installed fiber option connections. So, I took them up on an offer to add cable internet (month-to-month); 20-mbps for $20 per month (half price special). Same old, same old. Every morning between 6:00 AM and 9:00 AM, and every evening between 6:00 PM and 9:00 PM the cable network internet connection would falter; and unlike DSL, sometimes disappearing entirely for half an hour, or slowing to a dial-up-like crawl. So much for 20-mbps, right?
Just days before I was ready to cancel the cable network’s internet service I received a promotional flyer. No, not lower prices. No, not more options. More bandwidth. Five times more bandwidth for the same price. That meant my so-so 20-mbps bandwidth became 100-mbps bandwidth overnight.
So, how fast is 100-mbps? In tests, that much bandwidth screams. In real life, not so much. Here’s a test of the download and upload speed.
Not shabby for $20 per month (fear not; that’s a one year promotional price, plus $8 per month rental for the modem), right?
Here’s the problem. Five times the bandwidth is barely noticeable. That’s right. Barely. Web pages render a bit quicker, file downloads and uploads are faster, measurable, of course, but not anywhere near 100-mbps and 10-mbps, respectively.
Our Wi-Fi connection uses Apple’s AirPort Extreme and bandwidth tests yield the above rates, but actual internet usage seems only appreciably faster. Netflix and Apple TV still streams in high resolution, email remains mostly a background process, FaceTime videos appear a bit sharper and clear, website pages load a bit quicker, but far from instant, and far from five times faster.
Don’t misunderstand. I’m not complaining about having five times the bandwidth for the same price as 20-mbps. But all that extra bandwidth does not translate into five times the speed for Mac, iPhone, or iPad. Yes, the average internet connection isn’t anywhere near that fast (my estimates for average bandwidth performance are 5-mbps to 9-mbps, which makes the 11-mbps DSL connection about right. 100-mbps is good to have, but I have yet to run into any real-world situation which exploits that much bandwidth. Except network tests.
So, what happens to your Mac, iPhone, or iPad when you have a 100-mbps internet connection? Not much.