Stories
Four facts and fables about your internet speed

Four facts and fables about your internet speed

From coaxial cable and optical fibre to 5G

An internet signal in the air is worth two in the ground. And for really fast internet you must have optical fibre. Both statements are rubbish. And there are more untruths like this going round when it comes to internet speed. So, what are the facts of the matter? In this article we will, once and for all, explain what the real deal is by looking at four facts and fables.

There are various ways to connect with the internet. The starting point is always the core network of a provider. In the case of Vodafone and Ziggo that is a ramified optical fibre network. But if the signal is received by cable, the last part of the journey will be by means of a copper coaxial cable. The modem then retransmits the signal as a Wi-Fi signal or as cable internet. When you are using your smartphone, the core network will send the signal to the nearest transmitter mast. The antennas will transmit it over the air to your device. How does the choice of network impact the speed at which you use the internet? Does it make any difference whether you use optical fibre, coaxial cable or 4G – and in future 5G? 

Fact: 5G is superfast, but Wi-Fi will remain quite crucial
5G will be a superfast type of internet. In theory you will be able to achieve download speeds of 4.2 gigabit per second (Gbps). In practice this will be more like 1 Gbps, or in some cases 125 megabyte (MB). In comparison: 4G generates an average download speed of 20 megabit per second (Mbps), which is approximately 2.5 MB. Wi-Fi networks offer around 44 Mbps (5.5 MB). So, what does this mean in practice? Downloading an HD movie of 650 MB will take two minutes with 4G, one minute with a Wi-Fi network and a mere 5 seconds with 5G. 

The possibilities of 5G are endless, from autonomous cars to remote medical operations. However, there is one but, the speed of 5G cannot be taken for granted. For example, if you are further away from a transmission mast, the speed will drastically decrease. Fog, rain or snow can also affect the reception of 5G. As do the windows of your home. That makes 5G not the most suitable network at home. Any alternatives? Yes, for the time being you’d best stick to the familiar Wi-Fi network - which is by the way becoming faster and faster - that enters your home by coaxial cable. 

Fact: coaxial cable is just as fast as optical fibre
Optical fibre was introduced after coax as a way to connect with the internet. It is also reputed to be much faster than coax. But what are the facts? Optical fibre is indeed the best way to transmit lots of data fast. After all, 97% of our network consists of these highways of light. It is also the best way to transmit data over long distances without difficulty.  

Now, for quite some time optical fibre gloriously defeated coax when it came to upload and download speeds. It is quite normal to achieve a download speed of 100 to 500 Mbps (12.5 to 62.5 MB) with optical fibre. And with coax we now reach speeds between 50 and 500 Mbps (6.25 to 62.5 MB). So internet by coax has since become as fast as by optical fibre. But new technology enables us to actually boost the performance of coaxial cable. Due to DOCSIS 3.1 the old TV cable can equal the speed of optical fibre. In the fall of 2019 the VodafoneZiggo customers in Utrecht will be the first to test that. Make no mistake, cable can handle even much higher speeds. We are already looking at technology that allows us to offer download speeds of 10 Gbps (1.25 GB). It proves that coax is anything but an obsolete technology. On the contrary, it is going to be the technology enabling extreme speeds. 

Fable: for gaming you need very high internet speed
Many internet users are familiar with this scenario: A new game has been released and they want to download and play it as soon as possible. Any self-respecting online game easily amounts to 60 GB. A fast internet connection does wonders of course. An average internet connection with a bandwidth of 250 Mbps (31.25 MB) will allow you to download that game within half an hour. After that, it’s not so much bandwidth, but rather latency which determines whether or not you can game without interruptions. 

Latency is the time between sending and receiving data. If latency is low you can game without noticeable delay. If you fire something in the game, your opponents see that, if latency is low, more or less immediately. Extra high internet speed is great for downloading files fast, but not a precondition for gaming. That is why 5G is so interesting for gamers who are often on the go. 5G has a much lower latency than 4G. In this case because the 5G signal uses higher frequencies over shorter wavelengths. The shorter the wavelength, the higher the speed ánd the lower the latency. Flawless gaming while on the move will become possible in future. 

Fable: to watch Netflix you need optical fibre
No way, you don't necessarily need optical fibre to stream films and series. What counts, like with gaming, is sufficient speed and as little latency as possible. To stream a film properly, you need at least a download speed of, let's say, 5 Mbps (0.63 MB) for HD and 25 Mbps for 4K. The most basic Ziggo subscription easily offers double that amount – by ordinary coax cable. Netflix sets its own standards for required internet speeds. Their own ranking always lists us as one of the fastest providers. Because we keep investing in faster and faster connections, you will always be able to watch Netflix flawlessly through Ziggo. You can even use your Vodafone subscription to watch Netflix on your mobile, although you need to keep an eye on your data bundle. Watching Netflix is therefore possible wherever you are and is brought to you, anytime, by optical fibre, followed by coax, Wi-Fi, 4G or in future 5G.