First Click: Do I really need 1Gbps internet?

July 19th, 2016


I fondly remember dialing up to the internet back when I was a teenager and 56K modems and usernames like “cooltom123” were trendy. The reassuring whistles and chirps shoved packets of data down a telephone line that was originally designed for voice communications. Browsing the internet back then was painful most of the time, and Wi-Fi was non-existent. I used to desperately try free dial-up services at the weekend, and play Grand Theft Auto PC multiplayer by dialing my friends phone number. My PC gaming was only interrupted if my mom decided to pick up our home phone to make a call.

It’s hard to imagine the days of the 56K modem compared to today’s internet. I carry the internet around in my pocket now, and there are no whistles and chirps accompanying it. Bandwidth has come a long way. Through the years I’ve always been lucky enough to get the fastest internet available at home. Whether that was getting BT ADSL installed and being one of the first customers in my borough, or buying a Nokia phone with access to WAP pages. I’m a technology addict, and I always want the fastest gear.

I’ve tried a variety of ISPs over the years, and for the past two I’ve been using fiber on BT that manages speeds of around 70Mbps. Streaming, gaming, and general downloading have all been fine, but I’ve been jealous of friends with 200Mbps connections on Virgin Media. I just moved apartments at the weekend, and I was initially shocked to learn that there are no high-speed internet options available from providers like Virgin Media or BT. Moving house is stressful enough without having to worry about your internet addiction

Thankfully, I found an ISP that is literally a dream come true in the UK. Hyperoptic, a five-year-old company I’d never heard of, has been providing 1Gbps internet speeds to homes and businesses across London and other parts of the UK. Luckily enough, the building I’ve moved into can support 1Gbps speeds on Hyperoptic. I had the option to choose between 10Mbps, 100Mbps, and 1Gbps, but the choice is pretty clear if you’re an internet addict. Hyperoptic doesn’t force you to spend money on a phone line like BT does, so I simply opted for the 1Gbps package to see what it would be like to have that speed in my own home.

I’ve only had the service less than a week, but I’ve honestly struggled to witness the differences between nearly 100Mbps speeds and the impressive 1Gbps connection. Streaming 4K content seems just as reliable as before, and web pages for the most part aren’t noticeably faster. The big difference is the huge 1Gbps upload. I can send large files to OneDrive or Dropbox in what seems instant, and even sending files to friends and family is a lot quicker.

When I switched from 56K to ADSL, or from ADSL to a fiber connection, there was a powerful and noticeable bump in speed. I honestly haven’t felt that yet with this connection. I’ve been getting speeds that are very close to the maximum achievable over a wired LAN, but they haven’t made a huge difference to the way I work. Websites and services just aren't setup to fully utilize a 1Gbps connection. That’s not entirely surprising here in the UK as the government is still struggling to get the nation on super-fast connections. The bar has been set at a minimum of 2Mbps for 95 percent of the nation, and it's such a low base speed that the investment in the infrastructure required to make use of 1Gbps connections just isn’t going to happen at a rapid pace until businesses and consumers can make use of such speeds.

Wi-Fi is also a bottleneck with a 1Gbps connection. I can manage around 400Mbps max using an AC router, but the more I move away from the router then the less bandwidth I get. It’s tempting to say that a 100Mbps connection is all you need, and it probably is for now. If history has taught us anything, though, it’s that we’ll look back at 100Mbps internet connections and chuckle that we even used something so slow. The future of super high-speed internet is already here, but we just need everything else to catch up and pick up the pace.

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