WHY HIGH BANDWIDTH IS ESSENTIAL IN 2015
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!