Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Some Ideas About Download And Upload Via 3G - How much bandwidth and speed do you need?

Ever wonder how much speed and bandwidth is needed to do some tasks on your mobile device like the iPhone, iPad, Blackberry, or Android device?

Well, I can help out a bit here.  I've got the iPad tethered to the my G1.  Currently at work and there is no wireless Internet.  So, this is what I've been able to get.

  • A Skype VOIP call to a regular telephone number took about 30-35kbps.  That's both upload and download.  It's incredible how little bandwidth and speed we need.  Another observation.  The same call via the 3G iPad should take similar amount of bandwidth and speed.  However, while I"ve got full set of bars on the G1, my 3G iPad has not been able to get a full set of bars.  Plus, the quality varies.  You need a minimum of half the set of bars to get good call quality.  I don't understand why that is.  Perhaps, the Skype app thinks I'm on an access point versus the 3G iPad isn't, that might matter.  I think it'll take a while longer for Skype to tinker with the quality of the Skype app.
  • I'm watching "V" right now via the ABC player app.  I can tell there is a lot of buffering.  At times, I don't see any data going through.  For the most part, the app seems to link to the server when it needs more data for buffering.  It's taking anywhere between 450-800kbps download.  Average is about 650kbps.
  • With the Sling app, the speed is about 370kbps to my box at home where I've got 512kbps upstream.  
    • With another Slingbox half a world away, I am getting 300-500kbps.  My friend does have one of those insanely fast Internet connections that we can only dream of here in the US.  
  • app is the next one I tested.  
    • I loaded up an episode of NCIS "Good Cop, Bad Cop".  The video started but then I got the "Carrier network supportin audio only.  Video resumes when connectivity improves".  So, I can hear the audio but no video after 30 seconds into the playtime.  
    • Not watching to give up, I loaded up a CNet clip about the iPhone 4.  The Intel commercial about the robot Geoffry loaded just fine but when the video started, I am getting between 50-300kbps from the G1.  The the "Carrier network supportin audio only.  Video resumes when connectivity improves" came on.  
    • Again, I refused to give up.  MacGyver?  Failed.  An episode of the original Star Trek?  No go.
  • So, I decided to do something easier.  So I streamed a podcast on NPR.  "Tips For Coping With Bad-News Burnout" from Science Friday.  I wasn't not able to get a good read.  It switches between 0kbps and about 200kbps.  I'm guessing the speed isn't an issue here.  Being in Los Angeles, I asked the NPR app to find me the nearest NPR station and it used the GPS function (the iPad with Wi-Fi only has no GPS) to find it for me.  It also switches between 0kbps and about 200kbps.  Perhaps, audio isn't that big of a deal for the wireless network.  
  • Now, we come to the big one:  Netflix.  This is the one where I think most iPad folks and mobile warriors want to hear about most  After all, what good is a 10" screen if not for viewing and streaming TV and movies.  Rumor has it that Hulu will be joining Netflix soon.
    • Blue Clue.  It was the first thing that popped up when I opened up the app.  I was entertaining my nephews over the weekend.  400kbps.  Alright, I had enough.  After about a minute or so, it chewed up about 5MB.
    • Since this is an iPad, I picked "Up".  I was seeing 450-800kbps.  I think the mean speed is about 500kbps.  I stopped the movie at about the 10 minute mark.  I dont' want to be sad going beyond that point.  In ten minutes, 45.5MB were streamed.  "Up" is a 96 minute long movie.  It would have taken 436.8MB to finish the whole movie.
    • How about a TV show?  "Weeds" looks good.  Episode 1 of Season 4 was up next.  Again, the average speed was about 350-400kbps.  I was not able to pin down an average speed because the meter fluctuated widely.  There was a small hiccup at the beginning.  The 30 minute-ish episode chewed up 150MB. 
I just want to note my G1 is about to get about 600-800kbps through various mobile speed tests.  It's a far cry from the 3.6Mbps that T-Mobile advertises.  However, I am hopeful that once HPSA+ becomes available, I will be able to get much better video quality.

Now, video quality. The reason I mentioned video quality is because it is worth noting ABC video quality over 3G isn't as good as when I watched the same episode of "V" at home with Wi-Fi.  There are a lot of graininess as well as artifacts.  Even though the iPad was tethered to the G1 and it was acting as an Wi-Fi access point, I wonder if some how it knew that it was pulling data from a 3G network.

With Slingplayer, The quality is on par with what I've got at home. Also, keep in mind that the app has not been optimized for the iPad  Pretty satisfied.

Finally, we come to Netflix.  The Blue's Clues quality was quite good.  Perhaps it's a cartoon and for kids so it's not that big of a deal as far as quality goes.  I certainly could care less.  The quality for "UP" was a bit better than "V" and close to Wi-Fi quality.  I think Netflix put a lot of work into the app and it really shows.  I can't wait to see what they do with the iPhone version.  "Weeds" wasn't bad either despite a lower download speed.  But then, it could be because my girl, Mary Louie Parker, looks good at any kbps.  

The audio only stream did not give me any measurable speed.  I suppose we will know once people start using their NPR or Pandora app on the iPhone 4 with their metered wireless access. I came away with this in mind: I love my T-Mobile unlimited wireless plan and I don't think I want to give that up so easily just yet to go with an ATT metered plan.  For all the mobile warriors who are being lured to the iPhone 4 but will have to give up wireless plans on other networks, stay strong or at the very least, be sure you know you will be giving up quite a lot.  

Note:  This is not a scientific experiment and I did not apply my past statistical training from my days running organic chem experiments in college.  I only want us to have a good idea what we're dealing with when we're on a 3G network.  

Another note:  ATT's 2GB limit is dismal and an insult compared to what Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile offers.  But just maybe, they are not that far off in that the average user doesn't go beyond 2GB.  But by golly, ATT is basing their data on pre-tablet information.  I think that's just as flawed as my data collection here.


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