Last week BT announced Infinity customers can double the speed of their connection from 37.5 mbps to 76 mbps at no extra cost. There’s nothing wrong with that offer, so off we went to the BT website to look for the magic button. We found it, clicked it, and signed up a new 2 year contract.
Nothing happened immediately, but last night, I realised the speed had increased when I actually noticed it! I didn’t think it would make that much difference, but I was downloading an App to my new phone (via our home WiFi) and hit the download button and the phone said “Installed”. It never even got as far as showing the downloading bar, it was that fast. At that point, I went and checked on the PC and it was showing 59.9 mbps.
Later in the evening it had risen to 69.9 mbps so I guess BT were still tweaking things. As we’ve been getting precisely the advertised 37.5 mbps for the past year (It hasn’t degraded at all) I confidently expect it will be showing the newly-promised 76 mbps by this evening.
What I have noticed is that the speed of download or upload now depends not on our connection, but the speed of the responding website or service. Some sites, like Google, are amazing fast. Fotothing.com, which Sheila uses a lot is fast too. Twitter, on the other hand is incredibly slow. I think they need to work on their technology a bit. I suspect their popularity has outgrown their capability.
One also notices things such as the way YouTube handles the sending of data to you. Things have changed! When we got Infinity a year ago, calling up a full HD video would fill the download bar in about an eighth of the time the move runs for. I.e. if you were watching an 8 minute full 1080p HD video, the grey ‘loading progress’ bar would be full after about a minute.
They have however changed the way they do things. Now, the progress bar flicks to about a minute or so ahead of where you are watching then stops. When playback gets close to the amount loaded, the bar flicks again and loads the next minute or two and so on. There’s no difference in the viewing experience, but I can understand why they have changed things. Given the fact that many people probably don’t actually watch to the end of something they’ve clicked on, I guess it saves YouTube a lot of bandwidth if they don’t load the whole thing all at once – loading data that in fact may never be watched. Clever!
This would not have been noticeable before having that sort of speed though. I wonder if they recognise a fast connection and adjust this ‘on the fly’? “Oh, this one’s fast – we’ll send the data in chunks!”
It’s interesting to watch how things develop. When we got Infinity, I said to Sheila, there’s a lot more capability in that box on the corner of the street than BT are letting on. I bet in a year or so they offer to double the speed for an extra fee. Well, they’ve done that, but no extra fee! You just have to sign up for a further 2 years. No problem! :-) I suspect there is still more capability on that box as well.
I remember Guy Kewney saying that 90% of the fibre under the streets was “dark” – not even turned on yet. With BT’s £3bn programme to move the entire British phone structure to IP, they must have put in more capacity than they need by a huge factor. I would lay money that the “box on the corner” is capable of giving us all 500 mbps!
As we’re discovering, the bottle neck now moves away from the local connection to the service providers and beyond them, to the international lines that link countries – and that is where international cooperation and investment becomes key to the future.
Oh any by the way, after FTTC comes FTTK reducing the distance the signal has to travel over copper from maybe 300 yards or so to 30 ft. THEN we’ll see something. Super Hi-Vision 8k TV ‘over the phone’? It’ll happen! :-)