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Broadband Speed Overkill?

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Broadband services are offering faster and faster speeds,

but consumers should be careful

before they pay more for bandwidth they may not need.

Most services that tout faster speeds are overkill

for the majority of broadband users today, analysts say,

since the multimedia applications that consumers use

only consume a fraction of the available bandwidth.

Beware of broadband speed overkill

By Marguerite Reardon Staff Writer, CNET News.com

"Unless you live with five Internet addicts, it's hard to come up with a use case for some of these high-end bandwidth packages," said Joe Laszlo, an analyst with JupiterResearch. "The cable operators are trying to keep up with Verizon's Fios service, and they can't look like the slowest guy on the block."

Laszlo's reality check comes as cable operators and telephone companies compete to offer the fastest, most expansive broadband service around.

The company with the network to beat appears to be Verizon Communications, which is extending fiber directly to homes to carry a triple play of services including high-speed Internet access, television and telephone service. It currently offers three tiers in its Fios service: 5Mbps (megabits per second) downstream/2Mbps upstream for $34.95 per month; 15Mbps/2Mbps for $44.95; and 30 Mbps/5mbps for $179.95.

In March, Comcast, the nation's largest cable operator, doubled download speeds of its fastest broadband service in four cities to 16Mbps for downloads and 1Mbps for uploads at a cost of $52.95 per month. It offers 8Mbps downloads in the rest of its territory.

Laszlo's reality check comes as cable operators and telephone companies compete to offer the fastest, most expansive broadband service around.

The company with the network to beat appears to be Verizon Communications, which is extending fiber directly to homes to carry a triple play of services including high-speed Internet access, television and telephone service. It currently offers three tiers in its Fios service: 5Mbps (megabits per second) downstream/2Mbps upstream for $34.95 per month; 15Mbps/2Mbps for $44.95; and 30 Mbps/5mbps for $179.95.

In March, Comcast, the nation's largest cable operator, doubled download speeds of its fastest broadband service in four cities to 16Mbps for downloads and 1Mbps for uploads at a cost of $52.95 per month. It offers 8Mbps downloads in the rest of its territory.

Cablevision, which also competes with Verizon, offers consumers two tiers of service: 15Mbps/1Mbps for $49.95 or 30Mbps/2Mbps for $64.95.

Time Warner has also jacked up the speeds of its service. In certain areas of the East Coast it offers a 7Mbps/384Kbps package for $39.95. In other Time Warner regions, users get 5Mbps/384Kbps for $39.95.

Of course, it's not all a speed competition. Though consumers may not yet need all that broadband, carriers argue that customers tend to make their buying decisions based on speed.

But JupiterResearch's Laszlo said most of the services that tout faster speeds are overkill for the majority of broadband users today because the multimedia applications that consumers use only consume a fraction of the available bandwidth.

For example, a good quality video streamed from CNN.com, Comedy Central's MotherLoad or even CNET's own site only takes up between 500Kbps and 600Kbps worth of bandwidth. Streaming audio consumes even less bandwidth. A service such as Real's Rhapsody music player, which offers near CD-quality sound, uses about 128Kbps to 256Kbps. Then there is Internet telephony, which only uses about 56Kbps.

Downloading music and video takes up even less bandwidth. It could take 10 to 12 seconds longer to download a song from iTunes using a 768Kbps connection compared to using a 6Mbps connection.

Laszlo says he believes most households with one or two computers sharing a broadband connection would be fine with between 1Mbps and 2Mbps of download capacity. He said the real need for speed increases is in upload speeds rather than download speeds.

Both AT&T and Verizon offer plans with relatively low-speed connections for less than $20 per month. Verizon offers 768Kbps for $14.95, when ordered online. AT&T is offering its 1.5Mbps service for the first year of service for $12.99 per month.

But what about the future?

"Verizon's 768Kbps might be sufficient for today," said Albert Lin, an analyst with American Technology Research. "But it will be inadequate for the majority of users in two years."

But the biggest driver for super-fast broadband connections will likely come from high-definition video. Depending on the compression technology used, one high-definition stream on one TV eats up between 10Mbps and 20Mbps of bandwidth. Standard definition broadcasts use between 2Mbps and 6Mbps per channel, depending on the compression technology used.

AT&T, which is upgrading its network to offer IPTV (Internet Protocol TV) service, will need to offer consumers a minimum of 20 Mbps into the home, said Laszlo. Cable operators and Verizon, which will also offer HDTV, have built their networks so their high-speed Internet service is separate from the capacity that delivers TV. But as more content providers like Walt Disney's ABC offer programming directly over the Internet, consumers will need faster connections to handle the streams.

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I'm hopping that the UL will be the next big battle ground.  If Comcast was smart :haha: they would be pushing the UL instead of trying to compete on the DL side.  I would not switch my 15/2 fios package to a 30/2 package even if it was just a few dollars more.  However, I would pay allot more for a 15/15 package.

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Laszlo says he believes most households with one or two computers sharing a broadband connection would be fine with between 1Mbps and 2Mbps of download capacity.

Laugh.

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So I guess the question would be, why don't they give out more U/L?

because the more upload they give the more p2p traffic they get. and traffic costs money. also they don't want people hosting stuff on their connections. and the more upload they give the more people will be tempted to host small sites off their home links (where the isp has to pay the traffic) versus at a webhoster (where the webhoster pays for the traffic)

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monitor what? the amount uploaded? analyze all traffic and connections for every user? it's easier to just look for p2p traffic and crap on them if it looks like a lot and to keep a general eye on the amount uploaded.

i for one would like more upload for the times i do upload stuff because then i wouldn't have to wait so long for it to finish. but for regular use my 3/256 is fine.

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