Quickest way to upload 1GB? Hop on a train

10 Mar 2014

I was in London last week when I saw the 4G symbol pop up on my HTC One handset for the very first time. I'm on the 3 network, which has upgraded its customers to 4G without fuss or extra charge — just one of the many reasons why I put up with its iffy reception down here in Sussex.

Naturally, I did the first thing any nerd would do: I ran a speed test. The results? 35.73Mbits/sec down, 12.45Mbits/sec up. Socks: blown off.

Then a rather sobering thought occurred to me, which was later confirmed by my back-of-an-envelope calculations. Just a day earlier, I had uploaded around 1GB of photos for a client from my ADSL connection at home in Sussex, which has an upload speed of only 0.71Mbits/sec. Would it have been quicker for me to make the one-hour train journey to London, upload the files using my (unlimited) mobile data account and head back, than to upload 1GB of photos from home?

Mr Hood, my psychopathic maths teacher, always insisted I show my work, so here goes:

1GB = 1,024MB = 8,192Mbits

Home ADSL speed = 0.71Mbits/sec

Time to upload 1GB over home ADSL = 8,192/0.71 = 11,538 secs, or about 3 hours 12 minutes

4G speed at London Bridge = 12.45Mbits/sec

Time to upload 1GB on 3’s 4G network = 8,192/12.45 = 658 secs, or just shy of 11 minutes

So, yes, it would have been faster for me to jump on a train to London, zonk the files up via 4G, and get back, even giving myself an extra hour for the inevitable delays.

You'll forgive me, then, for letting out a little whimper when I write stories about the prime minister talking up 5G networks that will download a movie in less time than it takes Hugh Grant to hoist his eyebrows aloft, when large parts of Sussex still haven't got a fixed-line connection that can transfer data faster than First Capital Connect, and a thoroughly brassed-off hack/photographer.

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