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UK Broadband Connections Too Slow for Skype HD Video Calling

Posted: 06th Jan, 2010 By: MarkJ
Skype HDSkype, the popular Internet voice (Voice-over-IP) communications provider, has launched a new beta (4.2) version of is Microsoft Windows client that includes support for HD (High Definition) video calling. Unfortunately many UK broadband ISP connections will be unable to cope with the "sustained 1Mbps symmetrical bandwidth" recommended for its use.

Josh Silverman, CEO of Skype, said:

"With HD-quality Skype video calls, we can bring our users even closer to the ones they love through an even richer, more meaningful video calling experience. Imagine being able to see the sparkle of your grandchild’s eyes or the setting of your best friend’s engagement ring. Through the innovation of Skype’s engineers and our hardware partners, these scenarios are now possible without having to buy expensive equipment or software."

To run the HD feature requires a reasonably good PC, HD equipped webcam and a connection that can not only do download speeds of 1Mbps but also uploads at the same rate. 1Mbps download performance is quite common, although many UK consumers have connections that would struggle to get 1Mbps through uploads.

The most common form of ADSL based broadband in the country is still ADSLMAX (up to 8Mbps), which is limited to consumer upload speeds of 448Kbps (0.45Mbps) or 800Kbps (0.8Mbps) with Office grade packages. Even newer ADSL2+ (up to 24Mbps) technology and some Cable Modem packages can sometimes struggle to get above a stable 1Mbps upstream rate.

Much as we reported earlier this week, the average upload speed for the UK in December 2009 has remained almost static since November and currently stands at 0.467Mbps (here). Suffice to say, Skype's new service in the UK won't have many takers until the faster ADSL2+, fibre optic and Cable Modem services receive wider adoption.

Those few who are able to use the service will need to keep an eye on their monthly usage allowances and or Fair Usage Policies (FUP), which are adopted by many ISPs to keep excessive downloading in check. Some ISPs do not count upload usage towards such allowances, though many others do. Either way the HD service is sure to place a strain on your package, well.. assuming you can use it in the first place.

The importance of upload performance is often ignored by UK broadband ISPs and the technologies they employ, but in an era of online video and content sharing services it is becoming increasingly important. In this instance it's more a matter of technology availability than bandwidth.
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