Is Dial-up Fast Enough for You?

July 3, 2009 at 2:26 pm (Dial up, DSL, Internet surfing) (, , , , , , , )

Although dial-up Internet services were quite popular a few decades ago, some believe dial-up has become thing of the past. However, there are still many thousands who use dial-up as their primary home Internet connection today. Every day, there are people considering starting a new dial-up account, either to save money or because no other affordable option is available. Here’s an in-depth look at what dial-up should be capable of and some of the factors that effect a dial-up connection speed.

Let’s start with basic web-surfing. How long is it going to take to load a web page on dial-up? Although dial-up and dial-up modems have only improved in quality, websites as a whole have greatly increased their use of multimedia layouts, including video and audio features. This has resulted in dial-up Internet services loading webpages more slowly overall than they did even five years ago.

However, there are also ways that technology has made webpages easier to load using compression technology, etc. There are ISP’s, software programs, and even certain browsers offer tools that can effectually speed your browsing time. Some websites load parts of their page (like backgrounds and images) separately so that you don’t have to wait for the whole page to load before you can begin using it. Other sites, such as gmail.com, allow you to load the site in a simpler layout for faster loading on dial-up. All of these factors affect your loading time. Here are a few examples to give you an estimate for some familiar pages :

  • Google.com has a very simple layout with mostly white space and very few images. On a dial up connection speed, this page should load in about 5-7 seconds.

  • Yahoo.com, even with its busy home page loads in a user-friendly 35-45 seconds on dial-up.

  • CNN.com has many columns, headings, and images. Using a dial up connection, the home page should load in about 3 minutes.

These times are estimated based on a 56K dial up connection, with the consideration that no one ever connects at 56 kbps. Even the best connection will establish at about 50 kbps and often closer to 48, due to technology and legal restrictions. There are other several factors that can effect your connection speed. If you have an older modem or a poor phone connection, you’re actual speed could be closer to 28 kbps or less. You will notice the difference much more on downloads than on loading webpages.

How fast are downloads on dial-up? Small downloads are usually not a problem. A song, for example, is typically about 3 MB in a compressed format, which is what MP3 players and cellphones use. If you download a 3 MB file on a 56K dial up connection, it take about 8-10 minutes, or on a 28K connection, 15 or 20 minutes.

The latest version of Firefox, 3.5, is 7.6 MB, which would download in just over 20 minutes on a 56K connection, or about 45 minutes on a 28K connection. It is possible that your connection speed changes while you’re connected. Intermittent noises on the phone line can slow your connection speed or even cause it to drop. If you already have a slower connection due to poor phone lines (because you live some distance from the phone company’s central office, or you have aged phone lines with static or humming), you may need to make several attempts to download programs that are longer than 2 hours.

Suppose you want to download a large program, like an anti-virus program. The latest version the free AVG 8.5 is 63.1 MB. On a 56K dial-up connection, that would take over 3 hours, or nearly 6 hours on a 28K connection. Since most ISP’s have a maximum 4 hour disconnect, you will probably not be able to download anything larger than 40 MB on a 28 kbps connection. This same file would download in about a half hour on DSL. If you have dial-up and require an occasional large download, go to your local library or coffee shop with free wireless and download the file to a disk or flash drive. Then install it on your home computer when you get home.

Dial-up is not for everyone. Those who require fast connections for real time streaming that is necessary for watching videos and playing online games should look for a broadband connection. For those who just want to surf web pages, play small flash games, check email, and do some online banking, dial up will be sufficient. It might be slower, but unless you plan on being online all the time, the money you’ll save will be worth the wait.

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