Debunking the Bandwidth Capacity Myth; Stats and Misleading Marketing


Speed Comparisons

High speed cable broadband (on a coaxial) has about 52 Mbps bandwidth (capacity). Actual speed per household is more likely around 6 Mbps, maxing out at 10 Mbps. Below is a table comparing the different speed and download speed for various applications.

WAN (Wide Area Network – 10Base-T) 10 Mbps
Wireless G (802.11g) 54 Mbps
LAN (Fast Ethernet – 100Base-T) 100 Mbps
Cable broadband 52 Mbps (Coaxial)
OC-3 155 Mbps (Optical fiber)
T4 274 Mbps (Optical fiber)
OC-12 600 Mbps (Optical fiber)
OC-24 1.244 Gbps (Internet backbone)
OC-48 2.488 Gbps (Internet backbone)
OC-192 10 Gbps (Backbone)
OC-256 13.271 Gbps (Backbone)
Applications Transfer Rate
Web page or E-mails very minimal
Apple iTunes 128 Kbps
Music Streaming or Download 192 Kbps to 256 Kbps
Webcam video 352×288 at 15 fps 298 Kbps
Skype high quality video chat 400 Kbps
Netflix Standard Video 1,500 Kbps
Netflix HD video 3,800 Kbps
World’s Ave. Download Speed
South Korea (World’s Top) 37.62 Mbps
Singapore, Singapore (30th World City Rank) 18.47 Mbps
North America 8.51 Mbps
Canada (38th Country’s ranking) 9.79 Mbps

Bandwidth Capacity and Reasonable Caps

Canada’s internet backbone consist of at least multiple OC-192 with ever increasing number of channels on each. A heavy users that could affect the bandwidth will be one who download at maximum transfer rate of 10 Mbps for 24 hours a day. That’s 100 GB per day. Average user would only use the internet for about 4 to 5 hours a day (less if they watch cable or normal TV also). And is not likely to be anywhere near the 6 Mbps to 10 Mbps of sustained transfer rate. Web browsing and e-mail usage have negligible effect on bandwidth usage. Netflix at HD is at the higher end of usage for average user, who would only watch 3 or 4 hours at that transfer rate in a day. That is less than half of the per household bandwidth capacity. If heavy users hogging the bandwidth is the real concern, then a minimum of 250 GB monthly cap would be a good starting point for low end users. A real bandwidth hog (which make up only a very small percentage of users) will quickly reach that cap in couple of days. Otherwise, users who only reaches 250GB in a month poses no real threat to the bandwidth capacity.

From a casual survey of people’s surfing habit, there is indication that there were more people downloading larger movie files before Netflix was introduced. And back then you don’t hear the ISP’s crying about reaching bandwidth capacity. Now that Canada have multiple of the faster OC-192 backbone, and people are turning to the lower bandwidth Netflix videos, there is suddenly an outcry about reaching capacity and the need to crackdown on “bandwidth hog”.

Study and Data Contradicts CRTC’s Assertion

The fiber optic backbone is continuously being developed to allow even higher capacity. As with everything to do with computers and technology, the prices also continue to come down. Meanwhile, the fiber transmission capacity have grown by a factor of 200 in the last decade, far outpacing the rise in internet demand by a wide margin. Graph below shows increasing bandwidth along with increasing # of channels.


In fact, data transmission capacity is growing faster than data storage and computational power, leading some to predict that the transmission limitation, in the optical data delivery backbone system, will become obsolete.

Furthermore, a study conducted by University of Minnesota at the end of 2009 have shown that internet growth in the U.S. have slowed from the normal 50-60% down to 40-50%. A study by North American Network Operating Group (NANOG) agree with MINTS and CISCO’s study, which shows a manageable growth of 50% and dispelling the false notion of “Exaflood” bogging down the network.

South Korea, Japan, Singapore and China are on track to implementing Fiber-to-home network that would significantly boost the bandwidth in each household, providing 100 Mbps at an affordable price. Meanwhile, CRTC’s planned UBB would create an artificial limit on bandwidth capacity. This would eliminate the need for major ISP to spend money to improve the network. Canadians will be left behind with 20th century network technology while other country advances.

CRTC needs to be reformed and staffed with experts of the new information technology. It needs to shift away from a board totally dominated by ex-executives of the telecommunication firm they are supposed to be regulating.


Bell is promoting their high speed HSPA network as 4G. 4G is 4th generation cellular wireless standard with peak download speed of 1 Gbit/sec (stationary) to 100 Mbits/sec (on cars or train). Bell and other companies current speed is HSPA with speed of up to 7.2 Mbits/sec only. HSPA+ maximum speed is  21 Mbits/sec and is a 3.5G NOT 4G. Bell points to the U.N. body, ITU (International Telecommunications Union), redefining of faster 3G as 4G as a license for them to now market the same HSPA network as 4G. ITU’s re-definition of 3G as 4G is creating confusion and could lead to people being mislead into thinking they now have the next generation high speed wireless network when they do not.

ABI Research analyst Philip Solis points out that the true next generation will come with ODFMA and not HSPA. For the average consumer who is not too concern nor need such a speed, they probably won’t mind the relabeling. But it is causing unnecessary confusion in the technology standardization sector.

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  1. #1 by Tim Barrett on March 4, 2011 - 7:48 pm

    What you have written is all very true. Unfortunately, most people reading this wouldn’t understand any of it. That’s the advantage the telco/cable people have over the consumer. As the old saying goes: “BS baffles brains.” But, in this case, all they have to do is list some stats, any stats, and the average media consumer doesn’t have a clue what’s being said and most accept whatever they just heard, or read, as valid reasons for the telco/cable industry to raise prices and deploy bandwidth caps.

    My cable company says that an hour of HD video watched on my computer eats up approx. 1GB of bandwidth. True, but what they don’t/won’t tell you is that the same hour of HD watched on my TV also eats up approx. 1GB. They are BOTH delivered over the same cable. There’s an inconsistency here that is, or should be, criminal!

    In round figures, for the sake of comparison, let’s say that I have a $50/month cable TV pkg. that gives me X number of channels to watch. If I turn on a HD news channel, and leave it on 24/7, at the end of the month it has been on for approx. 720 hours, and I’ve used approx. 720GB, without incurring any extra charge for doing so.

    If, on the other hand, I have an internet connection from the SAME cable company that costs $50/month, I can only watch that SAME channel on my computer for 60 hours, after which I’m charged $2/GB/hour. Nobody can say that this is in any way fair. It borders on misleading, and criminal behavior. The fact that most consumers find this difficult or impossible to understand makes this the telco/cable companies version of “small print”, which in other businesses is regulated by law.

    A bare MINIMUM cap of 250GB is something that should be on the table before any talk of “regulating” internet usage begins.

    Timothy Barrett
    London, ON

    • #2 by John in Ajax on April 26, 2012 - 7:17 am

      I completely forgot that my cable TV and my internet connection share the same pipe. Any sympathy (which was not a lot to begin with) I had for Rogers is now completely gone. I wil be switching to Tech Saavy that has a 300GB cap shortly.

    • #3 by soulofspice on November 21, 2012 - 8:32 pm

      Thanks ! I had no idea tv & Internet are delivered via the same cable. I’m one of those users who doesn’t know much about Internet services &. Was caught off guard when our home Internet went over 25 gb
      Wasn’t it unlimited was my reaction 🙂

  2. #4 by Michael on March 6, 2011 - 2:34 am

    Just do what they do in England. When I went over 100g downloads per month they started traffic management limiting the download speed during peak hours which I believe were until 11pm. This was enough for the household to have one BBC or other TV stream but a second one would cause the video to stutter. I just did the bulk of my P2P downloading at nighttime until the next month when the traffic shaping was removed. No extra fees.

  3. #5 by Genik61 on March 6, 2011 - 7:06 am

    Is anybody really think that Rogers, Bell, and … start this UBB thing to protect light internet users (85%) against heavy internet users(15%)? or plan is to use human nature in some of those light users (most of them have “light” knowledge in internet)to protect there almost monopolies (they have exclusive right to put there wires in our houses) and destroy dangerous competition – independent ISP. Thank you 85%…
    What is next? Those light users will become heavy users and will pay for that, how?
    1. 1GB in internet now and 10 years before it is huge diff., and what will be in 5-10 years: TV, Phone, and many other thing is going on internet and Rogers, Bell understand that they loosing TV, Phone bus. and they looking for way to charge a household max in future.
    2. They can change usage cup to what ewer they want, any time and you became heavy user in second, even now when they have competition (many ISP). For example Rogers internet plans:
    a)Ultra light- $27.99- download speed 500Kbps, Monthly usage is 2GB !!!, additional GB is $5.00 !!! It is for month, but with these speed you can finish these 2GB for a 1 hour !? Why they doing it, just to push you to next level to pay more! Again, even we still have small ISP now.
    b)They have 6 int. plans and most expensive is $99.99
    In those $27.99 is everything included (cost, profit and …) but they need more.

    We pay for internet based on internet speed, in Rogers case cheapest is $27.99 and most expensive is $99.99. It is big difference in price, and “heavy” users paying for that.
    And if ISP have congestion in there network they have 2 choices:

    1.Build new modern network, what most developed countries do, or
    2. Sell dial-up internet or 500Kbps and do not sell 25-50Mbps internet.

    UBB is double charging system, it is similar like tomorrow Taxi will have 10 min usage cup
    and after 10 minutes they will charge for kilometers and $5.00 for 1 min add. time, let say because they afraid of congestion in traffic or after 10 min driving they too tired.
    Do they have right to do it, maybe.. but we need many, many of Taxi companies and maybe regulation, and hopefully it is never happens.

    250GB today seems a lot, but in future it will be nothing, do not kill competition between ISP, because at the end we and our kids will pay.

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