By: MarkJ - 16 September, 2010 (8:42 AM)
trefandrory pigeon broadband uktimico uk ispThe Chief Technology Officer (CTO) for business ISP Timico UK, Trefor Davies, has pitted two several homing pigeons - Rory and Tref - carrying a microSD card with 200MB of HD video data, against a fairly typical rural broadband connection to see which is faster.

The comical stunt is designed to raise awareness of the often woeful broadband speed experienced by many people who live in remote and rural parts of the country. The pigeons will race between a farm just north of Beverley (North Humberside) and a loft in Wrangle (Boston), a journey of approximately 84 miles.

At the same time the farms owner will attempt to UPLOAD an identical copy of the 200MB video file to YouTube. Much as you might expect, the first one to play the video in Wrangle will win. In addition, Trefor Davies himself will also be driving a copy of the same data from the farm to Wrangle, which is estimated to take just over 2 hours (the pigeons are expected to be there first).

However Davies does admit that "there isn't a benchmark for pigeon data speeds", yet, which could leave any comparison open to interpretation. Never the less, short of the pigeons ending up in the wrong place, the race should show that it's "still quicker to use carrier pigeons in the UK than to do it by broadband".

The event seeks to recreate a comical South African experiment where a homing pigeon carrying a 4GB (GigaByte) data card was raced over 40 miles against a broadband connection trying to transfer the same information (here). The pigeon won.

For anybody that really wants to know, the video showcases Trefor Davies having his haircut. Pigeons are of course a very asymmetric method of data transfer and nobody has yet found a way to measure their latency (ping), although we suspect that even a slow broadband link would win that battle.

However ISPs need not worry just yet, we suspect that Pigeons will not be replacing broadband connections anytime soon because they're apparently not terribly good at live instant messaging or Skype. In fact any kind of dynamic content might be a problem.

In related news, Rory Stewart - an MP for Penrith - is holding a Cumbrian Rural Broadband event on 18th September to discuss some of the problems with rural internet access: Details Here.

UPDATE 11:35am

The race has just begun.. result in a couple of hours.

UPDATE 12:42pm

At least one of the pigeons has landed and YouTube upload is at 24% after 54mins.

Also the farms connection speed is just 100-200 Kbps (Kilobits per second), so it never really stood a chance of winning but then that's not the point smile .
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Comments: 24

asa logoRocklett
Posted: 16 September, 2010 - 11:51 AM
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I trust this experiment is standards compliant and follows the guidelines laid down by RFC 1149?
asa logoMarkJ
Posted: 16 September, 2010 - 11:53 AM
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I think it meets that "standard".
Multiple types of service can be provided with a prioritized pecking order. An additional property is built-in worm detection and eradication. Because IP only guarantees best effort delivery, loss of a carrier can be tolerated. With time, the carriers are self-regenerating.cheese
asa logocyberdoyle
Posted: 16 September, 2010 - 12:17 PM
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just wondering at 1.15pm where tref the stig has got to, not heard if he has landed yet...
great stunt in aid of the rural broadband conference, well done to all, especially the pigeons. It is a sad state of our times when a third of the country has such poor connections in this day and age. So much for a digital britain? Time to light some fibre.
asa logoRocklett
Posted: 16 September, 2010 - 12:36 PM
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There is a later RFC with guidelines including QoS over avian carrier. cheese
asa logoDeceth
Posted: 16 September, 2010 - 2:29 PM
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Yes, Larry the remote controlled pigeon is back!!!
asa logoAllenJB
Posted: 16 September, 2010 - 2:45 PM
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The race is blatantly unfair. The pigeons are travelling a much shorter distance than the data, which will be going to YouTubes servers, which are likely in Ireland or America.

And that's ignoring the fact that data doesn't travel as the crow^H^H^H^Hpigeon flies
asa logoMarkJ
Posted: 16 September, 2010 - 2:54 PM
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No doubt it's unfair cheese but the point of their stunt is to raise awareness of the need for good broadband in rural areas too. Goal achieved I'd say.
asa logoshtaffa
Posted: 16 September, 2010 - 3:03 PM
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I don't believe that the race is unfair. The data on the cards is being transported by pigeon and then being uploaded to Youtube. The geographic location of the Youtube servers is irrelevant.
asa logoSean
Posted: 16 September, 2010 - 3:11 PM
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Point is it could have traveled the distance four times (over 360 miles) before it was finished uploading at the farm.
asa logoRay
Posted: 16 September, 2010 - 3:12 PM
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The birds were officially clocked at 12hrs21mins54seconds by a Unikon Electronic Timing System using RFID technology. As the birds arrived Tref recieved a text message via the ETS confirming their arrival times. The birds covered 65 miles in under 1 hour 16 mins At that time Tref himself had twenty odd miles to drive and the upload, well thats another story, I think they are still trying!
asa logoSouthAfrican
Posted: 16 September, 2010 - 3:16 PM
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Our entire country is "rural" in this sense, but cities are now getting 10Mb/1Mb ADSL to residential/suburbia, but cable quality is generally limiting it to 4096k/512k syncs, and if your getting 1024k/256k syncs your "within their allowed service levels".

Getting 100-200kb/s up means nothing... ADSL is not meant for "uploads".. get a life.. our cheapest ADSL is 384k/128k, and is about 10 Euro's though.. without bandwidth.. about 1 Euro per GB now.

Complaining about rural ADSL is like complaining about cellular signal in the same areas.. low demand=low capacity.
asa logoCompton
Posted: 16 September, 2010 - 3:32 PM
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I think it's a fair test, if you're interested in upload speeds. But it is a marketing ploy, and so it is not without a healthy dash of misdirection and deception.

Crucially, ADSL is by definition slower when uploading than when downloading.

In fact, an upload speed of 100-200 Kbps is fairly normal for uploading even in the city.

However, even for businesses, download speeds are usually more important than upload speeds (in fact this is exactly why upload speeds are so low).

But when you're sat in your country office getting exasperated at the jerky YouTube clip you're watching ie DOWNloading, you might remember this stunt even though it doesn't address download speeds.

That's a clear win for the marketing department.
asa logoWill
Posted: 16 September, 2010 - 3:38 PM
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Did the pigeons have to pass government censors before delivering the content?
asa logoDave
Posted: 16 September, 2010 - 4:12 PM
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Rural; Lower data speeds, lower traffic headaches, lower
crime, better air quality. Urban; Blazing data speeds ( if you are willing to pay for it ), traffic jams, crime, poor
air quality. Each of us must pick our poisons.
asa logoMatt
Posted: 16 September, 2010 - 4:38 PM
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Another option:

Even better once KA-SAT launches and the next generation system is in place.
asa logoJohn Hardin
Posted: 16 September, 2010 - 4:50 PM
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There's a _very_ old quote in the computer industry:

"Never underestimate the bandwidth of a station wagon filled with backup tapes."

In the age of multi-GB flash drives that's even more appropriate.

I'm wondering why they limited it to 200MB?
asa logoMatt
Posted: 16 September, 2010 - 5:34 PM
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Yeah, the fastest way to travel has always been sneakernet. Even fiber - try to beat copying to several 2TB drives and hand carrying to your destination. There's just no comparison.
asa logoJonathan
Posted: 16 September, 2010 - 6:00 PM
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I am following this from Wisconsin, and it's one of the funniest thing's I have seen in a while. Very Monty Python, waiting for the final result
asa logoKing Arthur
Posted: 16 September, 2010 - 8:15 PM
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All I want to know is this: How many times a second will the pigeon be required to maintain air-speed velocity, and will it be required to grasp the 200MB of data by the husk?
asa logoChris
Posted: 16 September, 2010 - 8:18 PM
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For all those pointing out that 100-200k is typical for upload... I live in the city (London) and my upload is 1.8M with 10M download. I observe just under 200 kilobytes/sec uploading to a decent server, so I would expect to be able to send a 200M file in about 20 minutes.

This is fortunate, as I don't have space for a pigeon loft.
asa logoBernard Swiss
Posted: 16 September, 2010 - 8:43 PM
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To those complaining that the comparison is unfair, because the packets may have to travel a few times greater distance over the internet, than the pigeons have to fly, allow me to point out that pigeon flight is measured in miles/kilometres per hour, while electrical signals are measured in thousands of miles/kilometres per second (or as a fraction of "c", the speed of light).

Let me also point out that 200 MB is approximately one third or one quarter the capacity of a single CD.
asa logoPaul Beamish
Posted: 19 September, 2010 - 7:47 PM
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Http:// saved us from Internet Hell. They really know how to set up the system and they hid the satellite broadband dish from view very well.
asa logoKrista
Posted: 20 September, 2010 - 4:41 AM
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Is this true for residents in the United States?
asa logoLindsey Annison
Posted: 20 September, 2010 - 6:05 PM
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"Complaining about rural ADSL is like complaining about cellular signal in the same areas.. low demand=low capacity."

Low demand??! Rural areas have higher usage per person in the UK than urban. Ofcom did a report on it, which can be found errr...somewhere!

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