The Problem With Gigabit Broadband

Internet technologyIf you’re a warehouse shopper, you’ve probably been enticed by one of those multi-pack deals that’s just too good to resist even though you know in your heart that you’ll never actually consume all that you buy. Gigabit broadband service is a lot like that 6-pack of mustard you thought you needed for a Fourth of July party, and let me tell you why.

In the first place, you’re probably not currently equipped to handle Gigabit broadband. Most providers tell you (in small print) that in order to obtain the full gigabit speed, you should employ Ethernet cabling. Even if you have Ethernet, it’s likely to be Cat5 which means that your Gigabit speed just dropped to 100Mbps unless you want to rewire.

If you don’t want to rewire, you can get a gigabit wireless router for as little as $250 – $300. But of course, almost all of your devices will be using 802.11N standard (300Mbps), so you’ll need to buy 802.11AC adapters for your computers to get them up to speed. Here’s a tip: make sure you get the USB 3.0 adapters because USB 2.0 limits transfer speed to 450Mbps. And, if you have tablets or SmartTVs, you’re stuck with the built-in wireless, which hopefully is 802.11N.

For the sake of argument, let’s assume that you plunk down the cash and prepare yourself for that gigabit of bandwidth. Here are some of the common Internet tasks you might perform, and recommended bandwidth speeds:

Gaming 6 Mbps (estimated)
Netflix (HD) 3 Mbps
Hulu (HD) 3.5 Mbps
Amazon Video (HD) 3.5 Mbps
Pandora 150 Kbps
Spotify 160 Kbps
Skype Video Call 1.2 Mbps
Google Hangouts Video Call 1 Mbps
VoIP Phone 100 Kbps per call


Again, for the sake of argument, if you have a family of six and each person is simultaneously watching a streaming video and listening to a music service while conducting both a video chat and VoIP call during an intense online gaming session, the total bandwidth needed would be about 66 Mbps:

Gaming 6 Mbps
Streaming Video 3.5 Mbps
Streaming Music 150 Kbps
Skype/Hangouts 1.2 Mbps
VoIP 100Kbps
Total per person 10.95 Mbps
Bandwidth for 6 people 65.7 Mbps


So with that in mind, what do you plan to do with that other 934Mbps? You can’t really store it with the five jars of mustard you have left from that party, though I guess you could invite 85 friends over for hot dogs and tell them to bring their laptops.