Since the dawning of the internet age, ISP’s have pretty much sold us one number, and one number alone. The download speed. This prominent little number was king when it came to selling you a new 12 month contract, and it was with good reason that you paid attention to it. In the days where a 2MB/s line was the norm, choosing between 1 and 5MB/s could mean the difference between watching Youtube kitten videos uninterrupted, or spending most of your online life staring at a buffering wheel.
These days, with the likes of ultra fastfibre broadband becoming more and more attainable, you would be forgiven for thinking that your online speeds don’t really matter anymore. “All internet packages are fast enough these days, right?” Not necessarily. While most download speeds over 30MB/s will placate the average internet savvy family, there is one other internet speed that a lot of us overlook, the humble ‘upload speed’. While we have ignored our upload speed for a while now, this is starting to change, and in the future, your upload speed could become almost as important as your download speed, and the reasons for this are multifaceted.
High Definition Video
High definition video has been putting a strain on our download speeds for a while now, but with the addition of good quality HD cameras in our phones, our tablets, our desktop computers and security cameras, our upload bandwidth is being challenged in a way that it wasn’t five years ago. If you are someone who video calls regularly using Skype, Facebook Messenger, Google Hangouts or Whatsapp, then having decent upload bandwidth is a must. Right now it is possible to video chat in beautiful 1080p HD on Skype, but having such a stellar image quality uses way more bandwidth than the grainy video we have been used to over the years. Chances are, it won’t be stopping at 1080p HD either, with 4K video readily available on streaming services (albeit with a limited supply of content), it is only a matter of time before video calls will be beaming across the globe is startling clarity. For that, we are going to need much higher upload speeds, and for heavy users of these sorts of services, upload and download parity would be something worth looking at. Some broadband providers are starting to offer packages with this sort of bandwidth parity already, so if video chatting is your thing, it may be worth checking out a package that suits your needs next time your contract is up for renewal.
With cloud storage becoming ever more affordable, and in some cases even free, backing up your data is now something most of us do without even thinking about it. Whether that is backing up your family photos to Google Photos, or syncing your work files via Dropbox, we are constantly copying our data and storing it in the cloud for safekeeping. When it comes to video and photos, the higher the quality, the larger the file, and the larger the file, the more bandwidth is needed when sending your ‘bits’ to the cloud. In a household of 4 people, each backing up the data on their phones, tablet, and laptops, this can start to add up to a substantial amount of traffic. If your phone happens to be 4K ready, your video files can be extremely large, so having a decent upload speed is essential for a busy house where large files are being synced on a regular basis.
While the actual volume of data that online games use is relatively low, having upload bandwidth that can comfortably cope with your current needs is hugely important if you don’t want to experience any stuttering or lag. If your upload bandwidth hits capacity, you can end up with an unplayable connection, which any self respecting gamer probably won’t want to tolerate for very long. The latest generation of consoles have also made is super easy to stream gameplay videos, which has resulted in a surge of gamers showing the world just how good or bad they are at Call of Duty, which in turn puts a strain on the less robust broadband connections out there.
The Smart Home
Whether it be Amazon’s Echo, Google Home, or Roomba vacuum cleaners, our homes are becoming more and more connected. While the communication channels can differ depending on device, plenty of smart home gadgets require the movement of data to the cloud. If they do, then this obviously impacts on your upload bandwidth. Right now, with the exception of security cameras, most IOT devices use very little bandwidth, but with more and more antiquated products being revamped for the modern era, it is only a matter of time before all this extra traffic starts to take its toll.
So which services should we stop using?
None, of course! Rather than demanding that the kids stop Skyping their friends, we should be demanding more from our ISP’s. No longer can the upload speeds be an afterthought, or listed on the second page of the package deals. As the importance for this neglected little number increases, we need to see more companies offering parity when it comes to upload and download speeds. Some fibre broadband providers are already doing this, and to those companies we salute you, but there are still too many ISP’s disregarding the importance of how much data we are uploading to the cloud. They either need to catch up, or lose their customers to other’s who do.