Dial-up: Is it Fast Enough?

by Hannah Miller 28. September 2009 21:41

Trying to describe the connection speed of dial-up is difficult. You're using 56K modems, but it's not really 56 kilobits per second. Here's an in-depth explanation of dial-up speeds and what they can accomplish.

Basic Web Surfing. Most webpages will load with dial-up. How long it will take depends on almost a dozen factors. For example, in the last ten years, many more websites are using multimedia technology (videos, music, animations) that are difficult to load on even the best dial-up connection. However, compression technology and other techniques in graphic and web design are improving, making webpages easier to load than before. Some websites have a simple layout view that you can choose if you are on a dial-up connection. Many website will load the prominent features first, then all the pictures and backgrounds. If you see the link or form you were looking for, you don't have to wait for the entire page to load to click or type on it.

Many Internet services, software programs, and browsers that offer tools to help you load webpages faster. You can probably use a combination of these three that will work best for you. These will not change your actual connection speed (measured in kilobits per second, or kbps), but compress webpages or use different loading techniques.

Most dial-up connection speeds are about 28-50 kbps. If your connection is less than 28, you may need to check with your ISP, phone company, and local computer technician for ways to improve your connection, if possible. Assuming you have a typical connection, here are likely loading times for three websites, without acceleration:

  • Google.com-On a dial up connection, this page should load in about 5-7 seconds.
  • Yahoo.com-This page is much busier, so it would take 35-45 seconds on dial-up. Keep in mind, however, you can begin searches and click on links as soon as they appear, so you rarely need to wait for the entire page to load.

  • CNN.com-This site is heavy with text, headings, and images. Using a dial up connection, the home page should load in about 3 minutes.

Downloads. The difference in connection speeds are most visible for downloads. Accelerators can't change download speeds and, on dial-up, every kilobit counts. Smaller downloads (about 1-10 MB) are usually not a problem. If you download a 3 MB song, for example, on a 50 kbps dial-up connection, it take about 8-10 minutes, or 15-20 minutes on a 28 kbps connection.

Firefox 3.5 is the latest version of Mozilla's free browser. It is 7.6 MB, which would take just over 20 minutes on a faster dial-up connection, or about 45 minutes on a slower. If you get disconnected occasionally because of line noise, etc., you may need to make several attempts to download programs that are longer than 2 hours.

Large downloads, like an anti-virus program or major software upgrades are sometimes not possible with dial-up because most dial-up providers have automatic disconnect at 4 hours. The free version of AVG 8.5, for instance, is 63.1 MB. On a good dial-up connection, that would take over 3 hours; on a 28 kbps connection, nearly 6 hours. A download larger than 40 MB would probably not ever download on a 28 kbps connection. You can often download large programs like these to another computer (like the library or your laptop on a public wireless connection) and transfer the installation file to your computer later. Read more about ways to improve your downloads on dial-up or how to calculate download times.

Video/Audio Streaming. Live streaming, like a radio station's website, YouTube, and many interactive multimedia sites are not going to work on dial-up. In some cases, you can play a short video or audio clip if you wait an hour or more to load it. If you need to attend live web seminars or classes, or want to play online games, movies, or music in real time, dial-up will simply not be satisfactory. However, if you need an Internet connection to surf the web, check your email, play small flash games, and pay bills, dial-up will be fine. The money you'll save might make waiting a little easier.


Written by Hannah Miller, Online Marketing Representative and Customer Service, Copper.net.

Copper.net is a nationwide Internet services provider that is all-American owned and operated. Call today, 1-800-336-3318 or sign up online at www.copper.net! Check out my blog for more articles! 

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About the author

Hannah Miller is an Online Marketing Representative for Copper.net - America's best provider for Dial-Up Internet Service since 1997.

Hannah has been a Customer Service and Tech Support agent for Copper.net since 2007, which has supplemented her knowledge of dial-up, computers, and the Internet. The entries that are posted in this blog are professional articles relating to our industry. Email your questions, suggestions, and other comments to hmiller@copper.net.

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