/* Google Webmaster Tools */ Baker Pacific Blog: Swimming upstream – What about upstream bandwidth?

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Swimming upstream – What about upstream bandwidth?
The big 5 ILECs and the big 5 cable companies nearly all have broadband offerings that provide downstream bandwidth of up to 5-8 Mbps for $45 per month or less. In two cases, Verizon and Cablevision, each has a set of broadband services that provides up to 10-50 Mbps downstream.

That kind of downstream speed covers the bulk of consumer applications in use today and coming in the near future.

However, what about upstream bandwidth? In many cases, that speed isn’t even listed in the main marketing materials, and one must do some digging to find it. Yet upstream bandwidth is becoming more and more the limiting factor to having a satisfactory broadband experience. Even the higher-end broadband offerings currently max out at 512-768 Kbps in most cases (see table below), and the lower-end offerings are generally stuck in the 128-384 Kbps range.

Today’s higher-megapixel digital cameras produce photos with larger file sizes. Uploading just ten 1.5 Mb photos at 256 Kbps takes 8 minutes, a wait time that we’ve become unaccustomed to. As more video is either uploaded (YouTube or other video sharing) or streamed (Slingbox, video conferencing, etc.), it’s clear that the current maximum speeds will be insufficient. Upstream bandwidth will move toward the forefront for many consumers, and in turn for broadband competition.

Upstream bandwidth requirements

Here are some representative upstream bandwidth requirements.

Video Phone 256-512 Kbps

Slingbox 256 Kbps

Upload 10 digital photos of 1.5 Mb each:
     8 minutes at 256 Kbps
     4 minutes at 512 Kbps

Upload a 4 Mb digital video:
     2 minutes at 256 Kbps
     1 minute at 512 Kbps

Speed of high-end broadband offerings

For reference, below is data on the some of the high-end offerings of the main broadband providers, generally $40-45 per month. All speeds listed are “up to,” so the consumer’s actual speed will almost always be less.


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