Download a full HD movie in less than one second … someday
It’s a dream we all have: to tap, click or select our favourite HD movie and have it stream or download instantly – without buffering, choppiness, wait time or lost connections. You don’t need to hold on to your hat, but those days are coming.
Earlier this year BT and Alcatel-Lucent performed a test of a new method to increase Internet bandwidth. They managed to get speeds of 1.4 Tb/s (that’s Terabits, 100 times greater than Gigabits) between one location in London and another in Suffolk. The technology could mean BT is able to upgrade its existing fibre cable infrastructure more quickly and cheaply than by adding more fibre to handle the ever increasing demand for high speed internet. The press release on the trial estimates the 1.4 TB/s is as fast as downloading 44 uncompressed HD films in one second. Can you say no waiting? No word though, on when it might come to your neighbourhood.
Across the pond, Google offers 1 Gb upload and download speeds but only in a few select US cities so far. They have plans to expand to an additional 32 cities but there’s no definitive timeline. As impressive as the Google fibre speeds are they don’t come close to what BT achieved in their test. But they plan on offering basic internet free to anyone in the areas they serve (basic meaning today’s average speeds. You have to pay for the higher gigabit speeds).
But Google doesn’t offer the fastest connection in the US by far. Military and scientific traffic uses another network called the Energy Science Network (ESnet). They recently tested a segment of the network and were able to transfer at 98 Gb/s using existing commercial hardware. And that’s the real takeaway of all this: ESnet invested in off-the-shelf commercial hardware along a route from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Florida to the University of Utah. Everything they used is available today (and has been for several years).
The ESnet test indicated it was possible to get such speeds without the need for the new technology Alcatel-Lucent is developing in conjunction with BT. Still, it will be a while before we’ll see any of these high speed networks available for home use. The section of ESnet tested was a direct line between the two locations. In reality, the Internet (remember it’s a totally different network than Google’s or ESnet) is filled with junctions, or hubs, where the information is sorted on its way to us. It takes information a long time (relatively speaking) to navigate from point A to point B because there is congestion at these hubs. And they aren’t all owned by the same company. Upgrading one part of the network doesn’t mean everyone will get a speed improvement.
What these tests do offer is hope. There will come a day when we can sit back and stream video content so fast we won’t even remember what buffering is. I can’t wait. Can you?