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The Forgotten Importance of Broadband Internet Upload Speeds

Wednesday, Aug 20th, 2014 (10:08 am) - Score 41,834

A quick look around reveals that some of the big ISPs, such as BT and Virgin Media, even promote their own online and multi-GigaByte sized cloud/storage services. Equally, modern video games are becoming more complex and some even allow you to share real-time picture and video content into the virtual world. Not to mention the separate importance of other services like FTP and web servers etc.

Crucially all of the above rely upon upload performance in order to get your data to where it’s needed, but the experience can be painful. For example, let’s say you can get a respectable 16Mbps from an ADSL2+ line and so even big downloads aren’t too much of a pain. So far so good, but if you’re not familiar with the asymmetric nature of that technology then you might end up being shocked at how long it takes to upload a 200MB video stream of your recent holiday to a private family YouTube channel (i.e. around 30mins on a 1Mbps line vs roughly 2mins if the uploads also ran at 16Mbps).

On top of that it’s so easy to consume all of the available bandwidth on a slow upload link that it can easily end up impacting the performance of everybody else sharing your network. Just try playing a multiplayer game while somebody else is uploading a video on an ADSL2+ service, it quickly turns into a slow and choppy experience.

Over the years ISPreview.co.uk has also received complaints from consumers who thought their connections were suffering from a problem because the speeds had dropped considerably, only for a quick investigation to reveal that the issue was actually to do with the fact that they didn’t realise upload speeds would be slower than downloads and thus felt misled by the ISP. In fairness some, albeit not all, providers do reflect a predicted upload speed when you first run a check during signup.

At the same time Ofcom and the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) should share some of the blame for this situation by failing to encourage greater transparency of this aspect among ISPs. The Government’s national Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) scheme has also focused its goals almost entirely around a minimum download speed of 24Mbps+, while completely ignoring any semblance of a target for upload performance.

On top of that ISPs could be missing a trick by ignoring uploads, which would help them to push the latest “superfast” broadband services because even those with currently good download performance from last-generation ADSL2+ service will suffer due to poor uploads. The importance of this as a selling point should not be overlooked.

As content quality and sharing grows then issues like those highlighted above are likely to become increasingly common place and certainly we also see a lot more questions about upload performance now than we ever have in the past. Consumers are clearly waking up to its importance and perhaps the big ISPs should start to do the same.

By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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