All those watches! All that bandwidth?

by on September 6, 2009 at 1:55 am

Traveling Geeks 2009 UKBeing on the road mid-summer, and having to watch my use of bandwidth, I noticed an uptick in the number of spam messages encouraging me to buy cheap watches; or more watches; or fabulous watches; well, you get the drift. Since I already have enough watches, I would like to ignore these messages, but rather than cause me to look at other folks’ wrists, they have caused me to look at the ticking clock of my broadband network usage.

The issue is the use of bandwidth by these messages, and for that matter, the use of bandwidth by everything else. Bandwidth, in spite of our living in the Internet age, was a recurring theme for the entire Traveling Geeks crew. We were on BT Mobile Broadband, which for the most part was reliable. I’d say that we varied between a high of 2.5mbps (mega bits per second) and a low of 4kbps (4k, yes), but if you disregard speed, we seemed to have access almost everywhere in London and Cambridge. Service winked out for a few minutes on the road between London and Cambridge, but regardless of that, there were several geeks online using their laptop computers during the entire bus journey that morning.  And I used BTOpenZones, which is a commercial service provided via wi-fi in public places, cafes and hotels. We were given complementary service by BT[1] and I can see that an average (non-business) user is going to get pretty good service for £10 to £15 a month, but heavy users are going to be bumping against the account limitations and the issue for the geeks is really how much data we are pushing into the cloud. I uploaded a couple of really large videos one day, and overstepped the 4GB cap on my account without knowing it. So BT “topped-up” the account for me, but several of the geeks seem to have hit their limit more than once.

Although I travel a fair amount, I’m seeing that bandwidth is hard to find. Even with wi-fi access, I’m getting top speeds in the 100kbps to 200kbps range. I’m gathering that it is because I’m sharing the connection with others, and yes it does seem that speeds are best in the early morning when few people would be online – and that they can be pretty low when another geek in the same hotel is uploading video – so perhaps shared bandwidth is the real issue.

[1] Disclosures: BT Corporate gave the Traveling Geeks free wi-fi and broadband modem access during our trip to the UK.

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