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There was a time, not all that long ago, when a house­hold could get by on a few gi­ga­bytes of data each month, but that has ceased to be the case over the past five years or so, with data re­quire­ments now through the roof even for a rel­a­tively tech- light home. With no sign of the smart de­vice gravy train slow­ing down any­time soon, it’s never been more im­por­tant than it is right now to arm your­self with an In­ter­net pack­age that’s ca­pa­ble of cov­er­ing you and your data re­quire­ments com­fort­ably ev­ery month. And to il­lus­trate why band­width is so im­por­tant we’ve de­cided to take a look at how data re­quire­ments have in­creased

over the past few years…

The sta­ple of any broad­band con­nec­tion is, of course, good old web brows­ing. Whether stay­ing up to date with the lat­est sports news, chat­ting with friends and fam­ily over so­cial me­dia or re­search­ing top­ics for school or work projects, there’s a whole lot to see and do on the web, but as the net has grown and evolved, even sim­ply web brows­ing has be­come a far more data- hun­gry pur­suit than it had been pre­vi­ously.

Back in sim­pler times, aka the mid- 90s, the av­er­age web page weighed in at a svelte 14.1kb, house­hold with a sin­gle com­puter and a cou­ple of tablets or smartphones would be eas­ily ca­pa­ble of eat­ing its way through 40- 50GB of data per month on web pages alone. So what has been the cause of this mas­sive in­crease in page size? Like most things in tech­nol­ogy, in­creased speed doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily mean that things will load faster, but rather that de­vel­op­ers can de­liver more and more me­dia to users from a sin­gle web page in roughly the same with site cre­ators hav­ing to be in­cred­i­bly mind­ful of the painfully slow ac­cess speeds of dial- up, the main ac­cess method of the time. As com­mu­ni­ca­tions in­fra­struc­tures grew and im­proved, the size of web pages be­gan to creep up­wards, and by 2000 the av­er­age page con­sumed around 240kb; a mon­strous in­crease on just five years ear­lier. That up­ward trend con­tin­ued, gain­ing even more mo­men­tum, and by 2005 users were see­ing web pages gob­ble up around 500kb at a time. At this stage, the broad­band revo­lu­tion was well and truly amount of time, while all the tricks web de­vel­op­ers used to be forced to use to re­duce page load times are grad­u­ally forgotten about since they’re not ne­ces­si­ties any more. Tra­di­tional web­sites aside, there’s also been a marked in­crease in the amount of video stream­ing that peo­ple are en­joy­ing each month. YouTube alone ac­counts for more than 6 bil­lion hours of video stream­ing each and ev­ery month, with 300 hours of new video con­tent be­ing up­loaded to the site un­der­way, with users able to eke vastly su­pe­rior speeds out of their new con­nec­tions than they could ever have imag­ined on dial- up, but still the page sizes grew. By 2010 the fig­ure stood at around 1.2mb per page, and in the past five years that has in­creased even fur­ther to more than 1.6mb mean­ing that to use 1GB of data, users were re­quired only to view around 640 web pages - not sites, PAGES. If that fig­ure con­tin­ues to grow, and there’s no rea­son to as­sume it won’t, and it’s not en­tirely out­landish to as­sume that a twop­er­son ev­ery sin­gle minute - that’s a lot of view­ing to get through! And then there’s Net­flix. It’s es­ti­mated that around 30- 40% of evening traf­fic in Canada is from Net­flix, and with es­ti­mates plac­ing the ser­vice in the homes of around 25% of all Cana­di­ans, that’s un­likely to change any time soon. Stream­ing video has be­come a ma­jor part of our in­ter­net us­age, and that means band­width us­age has sky­rock­eted well be­yond

pre­vi­ous lev­els in a rel­a­tively short space of time. And with 720p ( 800- 900MB of data per hour) and 1080p ( 1.2- 1.4GB of data per hour) be­com­ing the norm, and the av­er­age Canadian house­hold stream­ing around 75 hours of video each month, that’s a LOT of data use. There’s more than that to con­sider, too, with soft­ware also play­ing a ma­jor role in in­creas­ing our band­width re­quire­ments each month. Keep­ing your most used pro­grams up to date used to in­volve down­load­ing a patch maybe a cou­ple of times a year, if you were the type of per­son to go to all that ef­fort, but th­ese days soft­ware will hap­pily down­load and in­stall up­dates by it­self with­out any user in­ter­ac­tion - some­thing that can prove to be a mas­sive headache for those who aren’t par­tic­u­larly tech­ni­cally- minded. Op­er­at­ing sys­tems can be par­tic­u­larly trou­ble­some on this front, of­ten re­quir­ing up­dates and patches that can run into the gi­ga­bytes over the course of a month, with in­dus­try- stan­dard cre­ative soft­ware like the Adobe suite be­ing an­other worth not­ing. Like the av­er­age size of a web page, the size of soft­ware has gone through the roof in re­cent times. Typ­i­cally con­strained by the size of the phys­i­cal me­dia avail­able to it in the past, the ar­rival of on- de­mand dig­i­tal down­loads means that it’s not all that un­com­mon for soft­ware to run in ex­cess of 5GB - with video games in par­tic­u­lar now re­quir­ing mon­strous amounts of band­width. PC gamers were the first to adopt dig­i­tally dis­trib­uted ti­tles as the norm, helped in no small part by Valve’s Steam ser­vices, but nowa­days there’s any num­ber of plat­forms of­fer­ing im­me­di­ate ac­cess to the lat­est games, of­ten di­rect from pub­lish­ers them­selves, ala Ubisoft’s uPlay and Elec­tronic Arts’ Ori­gin. This ex­plo­sion in op­tions for PC gamers has meant some se­ri­ously com­pet­i­tive pric­ing, but as the tech­ni­cal re­quire­ments of AAA games has in­creased, so too has the size of games, with ma­jor ti­tles now of­ten con­sum­ing as much as 50GB of band­width - and that’s with­out the regular up­dates and patches that are re­leased, never mind op­tional down­load­able con­tent or the ( ad­mit­tedly rel­a­tively low) data re­quire­ments of on­line gam­ing. Con­sole gamers don’t have it quite as good as their PC coun­ter­parts, but things are im­prov­ing. All three ma­jor con­sole man­u­fac­tur­ers now own and op­er­ate their own dig­i­tal stores, ac­ces­si­ble from their con­soles, that al­low gamers to pur­chase games as down­loads, sav­ing them a trip to the store - but that, too comes at a cost. Ti­tles like Bat­tle­field Hard­line or Kil­l­zone: Shadow Fall weigh in at more than 40GB apiece with­out up­dates, while even rel­a­tively mod­est indie ti­tles can of­ten reach 4- 5GB each, mak­ing an un­lim­ited pack­age ab­so­lutely es­sen­tial for

keen con­sole gamers, par­tic­u­larly those who have made the move to dig­i­tally dis­trib­uted ti­tles. If it wasn’t clear be­fore just how im­por­tant a high band­width, if not un­lim­ited band­width, pack­age is for the av­er­age mod­ern home, then it’s likely to be now, how­ever we’re still miss­ing a very im­por­tant part of the pic­ture: the fact that most homes have mul­ti­ple de­vices gob­bling up data at var­i­ous rates. Smartphones, tablets, desk­tops, lap­tops, me­dia boxes, gam­ing con­soles, por­ta­ble con­soles, Smart TVs and even the most mod­ern house­hold ap­pli­ances are ex­tremely re­liant on data th­ese days, with in­bound and out­bound com­mu­ni­ca­tion play­ing a key part in their core func­tion­al­ity, as well as some nifty bells and whis­tles that are be­ing added all the time - a fridge that lets you know when you’re out of milk via email or SMS, for ex­am­ple.

It’s all part of the much- vaunted In­ter­net of Things, a phrase that’s been around for a while now, but that’s only re­ally start­ing to be­come im­por­tant in any mean­ing­ful way over the past cou­ple of years. Even­tu­ally, there’s a good chance that al­most ev­ery­thing with a plug will be equipped with the abil­ity to connect to the net, al­low­ing users to in­ter­act with their homes re­motely to keep an eye on the kids from work, or fire up the cof­fee maker au­to­mat­i­cally when their smart­phone comes within a cer­tain range of the house dur­ing cer­tain hours. This all means that it’s get­ting tougher than ever to not only keep an eye on your data us­age, but also pre­dict it, know how much you’re likely to use in any given month, and en­sure that you’re not hit with ex­pen­sive over­ages un­ex­pect­edly. Thank­fully, TekSavvy sub­scribers are able to keep track of their monthly data use via the My­Ac­count sec­tion of the web­site, and those who aren’t on an un­lim­ited plan, but are happy to take a per­for­mance hit dur­ing peak hours, can avail of the Zap the Cap func­tion, which of­fers un­lim­ited band­width in ex­change for re­duced speeds dur­ing the hours of 8pm to 12am ev­ery day. Of course, the most ob­vi­ous so­lu­tion for heavy band­width con­sumers - we’re look­ing at you Net­flix junkies and hard­core gamers - would be to opt for an un­lim­ited broad­band con­nec­tion, but there are def­i­nitely op­tions avail­able for those who are try­ing to keep monthly costs down. What­ever your own take on the ever in­creas­ing re­liance of mod­ern so­ci­ety on the in­ter­net, the fact is that band­width us­age is at an all- time high, and it’s not go­ing to de­crease any time in the fore­see­able fu­ture ( or, more likely, ever), so get­ting to grips with iden­ti­fy­ing what de­vices are us­ing what kind of data, and know­ing your own per­sonal lev­els of data con­sump­tion be­fore things start to get too crazy is def­i­nitely ad­vis­able!

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