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Do we need more bandwidth or are we just impatient?

Posted by James Donovan on 22 October 2014 Connect with James on LinkedIn Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

We need more bandwidth… NOW!

Waiting for files to download is a frustration we’ve all felt at one time or another, but is it fair to blame our network? Are we losing valuable working time or are we just too impatient?

File transfer applications are probably the most common data activity on users’ devices, whether they be PC, tablet or mobile devices attached to cellular and other networks. In many cases the user or device must wait for the file transfer to complete before allowing the user to act on the file. If a file transfer takes too long, the user finds the delay unacceptable and also loses productive time.

It is the user’s subjective reaction that determines what ‘time to wait’ is acceptable. As the time to wait is directly linked to the bandwidth and speed of the network doing the transfer, we can see why very simply bandwidth demands will continue to increase.

I’ll stick with what I’ve got thanks

For years, I have heard ‘non believers’ say that they have enough bandwidth now or that they will not need more speed, such as is the case today with talk of 10Gbps speeds. As with any faith it is often difficult to prove every point but sometimes one needs to just believe it happens.

Today, the size of files transferred varies over many orders of magnitude, as shown in the table below. The time it takes to transfer the information is linked primarily to the data rate of the network. From this particular table (which shows transfer times at 1Gbps rates) it may appear that this level of data rate may not be required today, except in specialized cases and areas where the data streams aggregate. However, this assumption does rely on what is regarded as acceptable wait times.

Users get frustrated waiting for applications to download

It probably explains at least why mobile and cellular users and also users accessing networks over the wide area and across internet are eager for the next level of 3G, 4G or broadband service which are still a far cry from 1Gbps speeds available in LANs. Users get frustrated waiting for applications to download and want instant response, in fact users will wait longer for a website to load on a desktop than they will on a mobile device!

Let’s be honest, we are impatient by nature and technology will have to keep pace with us, the users.


File Type TypicalSize(bytes) Transfer Time(seconds)
Page of text 3 KB 0.000024
Email message 10 KB 0.00008
Spreadsheet; large Web page 100 KB 0.0008
Digitized photo 1 MB 0.008
VGA color screen 2.5 MB 0.020
PowerPoint file; or X-rays 10 MB 0.08
Download application and data to thin client 100 MB 0.8
Large database; or back up data from user’s hard drive 1 GB
HDTV (compressed) – 10 minutes; or standard US video (compressed) – one hour 4.8 GB 38.4
CAT scan 10 GB

Table 1 – File Transfer Times at 1 Gbps