Internet Bandwidth: A Key National Development (Part 2)

The internet is a packet switched network. In a lay man’s language it  means  if  you are sending a  picture from  one system to the  other via  the …


The internet is a packet switched network. In a lay man’s language it  means  if  you are sending a  picture from  one system to the  other via  the Internet, the picture  will burst  keeping in  mind that every piece  will be numbered before leaving the sending computer. When the picture  arrives at  the  receiving  computer, it will reintegrate based  on the  previous  numbering, and  if  one piece  is missing then the  receiving computer  will  request for  that  particular piece alone  from  the  sending computer.

Here is an analogy.  Let’s  say in  a  Chelsea Vs Barcelona  match, after the  first  half when the players  returned to  the field, the  referee  suddenly  finds out that a  Messi is  missing. The referee then communicates to the Barcelona’s coach; what the coach will do is simply take Messi’s number 10 jersey and put it on any player to fill up Messi’s place. So this is how packets move on the Internet.


To connect to the Internet, you need two things: a domain name like, and a number (IP address) like, all these can be provided by an Internet Service Provider- ISP. In 1990, Brookline, Massachusetts-based, became the first commercial ISP in the world (Wikipedia). There are different kinds of ISPs among which are:


Access ISPs directly connect clients to the Internet using copper wires, wireless or fiber-optic connections.


Hosting ISPs lease server space for smaller businesses and other people to host their websites. Hosting ISPs routinely provide email, FTP, and web-hosting services. Other services include virtual machines, clouds, or entire physical servers where customers can run their own custom software


Transit ISPs provide large amounts of bandwidth for connecting hosting ISPs to access ISPs.


Virtual ISP is an operation which purchases services from another ISP (sometimes called a “wholesale ISP” in this context) which allows the Virtual ISP’s customers to access the Internet using services and infrastructure owned and operated by the wholesale ISP. Many ISPs in Nigeria pay for bandwidth space to upstream ISPs and ISP host companies in Europe and most especially America and then route it back to Nigeria for retail sale to clients. Just as their customers pay them for Internet access, ISPs themselves pay upstream ISPs for Internet access. An upstream ISP usually has a larger network than the contracting ISP and/or is able to provide the contracting ISP with access to parts of the Internet the contracting ISP by itself has no access to.


When you approach an ISP for subscription, you will hear them say something like ‘we will give you a bandwidth of 120MB uplink, and 500MB downlink’. 120MB uplink is the bandwidth you will use in uploading data to the Internet, and 500MB is the bandwidth you will use in downloading data from the Internet. Users download more than they upload which explains the lower uplink. In this regard total bandwidth = uplink + downlink.


Also, when a user is on the Internet, we can view bandwidth from two different perspectives – from the user’s perspective; and from the perspective of the website a user is currently on. Bandwidth is expended in both ways because the website is running on a particular server. The data we want is on the server. You will have to make a request for data on the website server. Your ISP pulls that bandwidth from the server; the server’s ISP pushes that bandwidth from the server and gives to you. This is why websites have monthly download/bandwidth limit.


A website owner needs to bother about website download limit. Let’s say your website is 200 kilobytes which is fairly realistic; assuming that your website is simple with limited flash, and no high resolution pictures or anything to download. If your site’s homepage is 100KB, and a user visits your site’s homepage he pulls off 100KB of your website’s bandwidth. If 10 users visit just the homepage of your site they pull 1000KB (approximately 1MB) of your bandwidth. Therefore, if  you are allotted 100MB a month by your website hosting company, 1000 users on your site will max your bandwidth allocation (i.e. 1000 x 100 = 100,000KB), and 100,000KB = 100MB. Therefore, you can buy more bandwidth from your host or wait for the next 30-day cycle for your bandwidth to be reset.


Also, you can view it this way too: When your site is allotted 100MB monthly bandwidth and you upload a 5 MB video file you are left with 95MB. When 10 users download the music files from your website (10 x 5MB = 50MB), you are left with 45 MB out of 100MB. As usually the bandwidth resets itself after every month.


When you are dealing with ISPs you cannot easily know what ISPs are selling to you. Some of clients pay for dedicated bandwidth, and they are unknowingly placed on a shared connection. The truth of the matter is  that you can know exactly  what  the  ISPs are  giving you because most of the  speed meters  online don’t give  realistic  readings and there is  no  such  thing  as unlimited bandwidth. If you are on a shared connection, your contention ratio determines the speed of your connection. If other contenders are not browsing then you experience full bandwidth. For instance, if you are on 256kps connection with a contention ratio of 1:3 that means three other clients are sharing the connection. When everyone is browsing, you can only be guaranteed about 85kps, but when others are sleeping, you can have the full 256kps.


It is very important that developing nations have access to broadband Internet connection. High-speed, low-priced, reliable broadband is a key in transforming African economies and creating job opportunities in sub Saharan Africa.  This will to give young people access to opportunities, access to markets abroad, access to ideas, and the new emerging knowledge societies. The most developed  nations in  the  world  consume more bandwidth  on  a  daily  basis  than the less developed nations, this  means  bandwidth consumption is  directly proportional  to  the  level  of development, as a larger proportion of the current global economy is online based. To assimilate  this  fact, we  need  to go back about four years  when  Barrack Obama paid a visit to  Google head office and  he was taken to a Gigantic screen hosting the  map  of  the  world’s internet traffic. The brighter a region is on the map the more Internet traffic there is. The brightest part of the map was The US, followed by Europe and then Asia. Sadly, Africa was almost completely dark.


Information Technology is now integral to most organizational operations and transactions as corporate assets is fast relocating  from bricks and mortars to bits and bytes. The vast majority of  corporate  intellectual properties, sensitive  client  information and  valuable  trade   secrets  are  now stored  in  digital format. This means the core of the   operation of most organization is now software. That is why software can account for more than 50% capital expenditure in some companies. But adequate bandwidth is needed for people to take advantage of software technology.


We are just moving into the broadband Internet bandwidth. By its very definition, broadband is a high speed Internet connection – which is also always on. Broadband provides improved access to Internet services such as: Faster World Wide Web browsing, faster downloading of documents, photographs, videos, and other large files. For a lay man, the way a broadband carries packets can be likened to a 20-lane express way, imagine the number of lorries, cars, and bikes that can move freely, and at top speed compared to a 2-lane express way (dial up and OTA). That is why you can do heavy voice, data, and video simultaneously over broadband. Usually, in a broadband connection, the broader the band, the greater the capacity for traffic.



The educational sector is a  bandwidth   greedy sector, as education is being reinvented to take advantage of new technologies, online mediums and web applications. Therefore, broadband  has  become  a  core  enabling infrastructure  for  learning, and  modern  school operation. Broadband has become the enabling technology of modern learning environments. It  is  the  medium  through  which  educators  can  expand the  boundaries  of  the  classroom, and  teacher – student interaction beyond the  usually 2.00pm closing time. To compete globally and develop students with divergent knowledge base, our country must provide all students with adequate bandwidth in the classroom, in the home, and wherever learning takes place, regardless of their economic status or geography. In this case, we can have more connected students that ever. We want a situation where every student and staff has  ready access to  technology, and  robust broadband  connection because university  students  rely  on  technology  for academic  success.


Now that teaching is no longer limited to school building, bandwidth availability determines which online content students and educators will be able to access. Students and  educators  engage in bandwidth greedy activities such as streaming educational videos, because  video  files  are much  bigger  than text, graphics, music, and  hence  consume  more  bandwidth. E-textbooks contribute to the demand for bandwidth because they incorporate online content and services, including online tutorials, multimedia, simulations, and a wide range of web-based educational resources. In addition, in some cases students can highlight resources and build a digital notebook. This new e-textbook environment effectively packs more information into textbooks and other learning vehicles, and increases the demand for broadband access.


This increasingly essential educational activity can be seriously degraded by a slow Internet connection. Being able to share information in real time, to edit work, and add resources, provides additional opportunities for feedback and collaboration, both during class and outside school. Students don’t have to wait days to meet with a group or for the teacher to grade a stack of papers; they receive instant feedback.


One useful metric in measuring the bandwidth need of schools is bandwidth-per- student/teacher, which directly determines the quality of a student’s online experience. It defines a framework for assessing bandwidth requirements based on what students and teachers truly need to engage in the range of activities that necessitate an Internet connection. The State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA) of the US in a paper titled The broadband imperative made the distinction between two bandwidth requirements in schools (K-12 school) by 2012 among which are, Internet level (outside connection speed) and at intranet level (internal connection speed) these are 50mbps per 1000 student/staffs and 1gbps/1000 staff/student respectively. These are standards we in Sub Saharan Africa should be aspiring to catch up with. In designing a campus network we must consider the number of concurrent and peak connection times in schools when evaluating school’s broadband needs.


Bandwidth to homes and schools in Taiwan, France, South Korea, Sweden, and Japan is super great and more widely available than anywhere in the world because the governments of those countries support national efforts to increase broadband access at affordable prices, including public WiFi.5. For example, some areas of Seoul provide commercial Internet speeds of more than 100 Mbps for merely $30 per month. With this type of speed, a consumer can download an entire HD movie in five minutes – a process that can take days sub-Saharan Africa.


According to LG electronics, to watch a full uninterrupted movie via Netflix (Internet) for instance one requires a minimum of 1.5 mbps. 3 mbps will provide the best visual and audio effect during playback for standard definition content. For high definition content playback 5mbps is required. Assuming there is only one user on a 200 Kbps connection, downloading a  1MB digital  book will take about  40 seconds; if  you  increase the connection to 3Mbps download  the same  textbook  will  take just  over a  second. (i.e. assuming there is  no other  traffic). The 4 mbps recommended threshold  for  household  could  download a  4MB music file  in just  over  5 second s, and  6 GB video file  in just  over 2hrs. on  a 10 Mbps  connection, the  book, the  music  file, and  the video file could  be  downloaded in 0.3 second, 1.3 second, and  33 minutes  respectively. That  is  why  in any bandwidth analysis  on a  network  the  number  of  concurrent  users  must  be  taken into consideration.


internet service  provider Comcast offers a  chart on its website showing  examples of  download  speeds for  different  video quality levels, from a  4GB HD movies (5 minutes  at 105 Mbps; 1.5 hours at 6  Mbps) to a  standard definition TV  show ( 20 seconds at 105 Mbps; 7 minutes at 6 Mbps).



In the  US, Internet2  is using  the  government ARRA fund and  state- of- the- art 100G  technology to establish  the US Qualified Community Anchor Network ( US UCAN), a  project that seeks to deliver network  connectivity to  more that  200, 000 community anchor institutions nationwide at the  speed of 8.8 terabits per second including hospitals, colleges , libraries, health centers etc to support  the  next generation Internet based  applications. The 100G technology can support 5000 virtual classrooms that use high definition large screen videos to allow professors from any location to instruct and interact with students in remote areas.


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