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Posted on March 10th, 2014 by Barry Collins

Quickest way to upload 1GB? Hop on a train

Train blur

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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19 Responses to “ Quickest way to upload 1GB? Hop on a train ”

  1. David Wright Says:
    March 10th, 2014 at 12:56 pm

    Things never change, although I have 12mbps upstream at home… But in the 90s I was working for a client in Sussex who had a large OLAP database. It required recalculating twice a day. It was quicker for me to copy the data onto a ZIP disk, drive an hour home, recalculate the database on my home machine, copy the results back to the ZIP and drive back to the office…

  2. Test Man Says:
    March 10th, 2014 at 12:57 pm

    Unless you have fibre, in which case it trumps all.

    Really this article should have a caveat in that it’s Barry’s experience and not the experience for most people living or working in a 4G area.

  3. Chris Says:
    March 10th, 2014 at 1:28 pm

    Even if you’re on fibre it would probably still be faster. On an XL Virgin Media ‘fibre’ connection (the last mile is co-ax) with 60Mb/s download rate, the upload rate maxes out at 3Mb/s

  4. Andrew Pepper Says:
    March 10th, 2014 at 1:33 pm

    It begs the question of where the client is; if they’re close enough it would be quicker to get the train to them and hand them a memory stick.

  5. Barry Collins Says:
    March 10th, 2014 at 1:34 pm

    Test Man – of course, fibre would make a huge difference. But for me and millions of others not living in the major cities, that isn’t an option.

  6. Barry Collins Says:
    March 10th, 2014 at 1:35 pm


    Funny you should say that. I ended up dropping off a USB stick with the images on to the client, 10 miles away in Brighton.

  7. Chris Says:
    March 10th, 2014 at 2:52 pm

    I could not have said it better my self Andrew – ex chairman of vice

  8. David K Says:
    March 10th, 2014 at 3:49 pm

    and just how much per mb does that work out with the cost of the rail ticket……, time to get dressed, time to the station, cost of car parking, cost of the coffees and bacon roll etc etc.
    Maybe it would be cheaper to move, ultimately.
    I live on the outskirts of Ashford Kent and BTs cheapest infinity package gives me 37.5mbs download and 7.5mbs upload.

  9. Philip King Says:
    March 10th, 2014 at 4:12 pm

    They’re just rolling out 4G in Southampton for 3 customers. In one area, I’ve been able to connect to one of the 4G masts that 3 are sharing with EE, which gave me the improbable download speed test result of 65 MB/s. Apparently EE have bonded some connections to allow double-speed connections, which is pretty impressive, giving speeds around 10x what I normally get at home on ADSL.

  10. Danny Thomas Says:
    March 10th, 2014 at 4:41 pm

    Broadband for Rural Customers is poor. My internet is a mobile phone, stuck to a window and tethered

  11. Mike Clouston Says:
    March 10th, 2014 at 4:50 pm

    There’s no 4G here in Cornwall at all. There is 3G if you can find it, but in my experience, you’re lucky sometimes if you can get a 2G signal on your phone

  12. JonoH Says:
    March 10th, 2014 at 8:14 pm

    Why is it not a better use of money to get great 4G connections all over the country than running fibre to a select few locations?

  13. Danny Thomas Says:
    March 11th, 2014 at 8:35 am

    @JonoH – The fibre network is necessary as it also provides the backhaul from each cell tower. Also, a mix of fibre and wireless is ultimately more robust and resilient to disruption. What is true is that for rural areas, paying BT to install fibre in villages may be better challenged and mixed delivery subsidised.

  14. David Wright Says:
    March 12th, 2014 at 3:51 pm

    Sneaker net has always been faster than the Internet for large volumes of data and it will probably remain that way for some time to come.

    Still, it is quicker than this RFC from the IETF (Internet Engineering Task Force):

  15. Alex Says:
    March 13th, 2014 at 7:59 am

    I believe carrier pigeons can carry large numbers of micro SD cards, and are much cheaper than rail tickets.

  16. CRAIG BURDEN Says:
    March 17th, 2014 at 7:10 am

    Here in Qatar a 10 mb/s ADSL home line is £70 per month whilst an unlimited 4G service with average 50 mb/s is £80 per month, we also have virtually 95% population coverage with 4G. i have a feeling fibre rollout here will be still born as a result. 4G map:;_ylt=A0LEVygYnyZTenAAXnNXNyoA;_ylu=X3oDMTByYWptaDQyBHNlYwNzYwRjb2xvA2JmMQR2dGlkA0RGRDZfMQ–?p=qatar+4g+map&

    fibre map:

  17. PaulG Says:
    March 19th, 2014 at 1:27 pm

    Here in rural Canada, surrounded by bears, raccoons and skunk, I send smoke signals from the forest behind the log cabin.

  18. Julian Wilkinson Says:
    March 20th, 2014 at 9:22 am

    I’m in Stockport, south Manchester, I get 3mbps download speed ADSL. FTTC? 2015… Maybe.

    How about all those people screwed because they are directly connected to the exchange and yet surrounded by cabinets – Same shafting and who knows when that will be addressed.

    I had a client in the middle of a field in Staveley in the Lakes with a better internet connection than I have.


  19. Sofia Koutsouveli Says:
    March 22nd, 2014 at 12:50 pm

    Why should I care what my upload speed is? It’s the download that matters, right?


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