What's it like to surf at 10 gigabits a second?

Internet speeds of up to 10 gigabits per second can be reached at South Africa's universities and research institutions. (Getty)

Internet speeds of up to 10 gigabits per second can be reached at South Africa's universities and research institutions. (Getty)

It’s the 2015 equivalent of the old modem dial-up tone, that discordant klaxon with overtones of rage, hope that it will work, and despair that it probably won’t: the YouTube buffer circle.

But Duncan Greaves, chief executive officer of Tenet, the private not-for-profit company that secures the bandwidth capacity for South Africa’s universities and research institutions, says he has heard that such a buffering circle exists, but that hasn’t experienced it himself.

Running through the South African National Research Network (SANReN), a backbone of fibre that loops through the country, which Tenet operates and maintains, is 10 gigabits per second (Gbs) of capacity linking local institutions. This capacity is shaped by the individual institutions and spread across more than 200 sites, but it is still more than the rest of us could hope for.

For some context, if you were hypothetically downloading a season of Game of Thrones (legally because no one in South Africa would ever have the need to do something like that illegally) with access to the full pipe of that capacity, it would take you about three seconds on that delicious torrent of bandwidth. On one of the best-you-could-hope-for lines that South African consumers could purchase for part of a kidney (about four megabits per second, which is about 0.4% as fast), that would take you more than two hours.

According to Akamai Technologies, a cloud services provider headquartered in the United States, if you want to gorge yourself on internet, the best place to be is South Korea.

In its State of the Internet 2014 report, the top 10 places for internet speed are:

1. South Korea (25.3 Mbs average connection speed)

2. Hong Kong (16.3 Mbs)

3. Japan (15 Mbs)

4. Switzerland (14.5 Mbs)

5. Sweden (14.1 Mbs)

6. The Netherlands (14 Mbs)

7. Ireland (13.9 Mbs)

8. Latvia (13 Mbs)

9. Czech Republic (12.3 Mbs)

10. Singapore (12.2 Mbs)

So if you want to say good bye to that buffer circle of torment, you’re going to need to move to one of these far flung places. Or go back to university here in South Africa.

Sarah Wild

Sarah Wild

Sarah Wild is a multiaward-winning science journalist. She studied physics, electronics and English literature at Rhodes University in an effort to make herself unemployable. It didn't work and she now writes about particle physics, cosmology and everything in between.In 2012, she published her first full-length non-fiction book Searching African Skies: The Square Kilometre Array and South Africa's Quest to Hear the Songs of the Stars, and in 2013 she was named the best science journalist in Africa by Siemens in their 2013 Pan-African Profiles Awards. Read more from Sarah Wild


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