Gigabit ISPs: Real World Usage vs. Speed Tests

One of the things I talked about recently in my Gigabit Pro update video is that even though you have the bandwidth you likely will never make full use of it on any single task.

Sure it’s possible to run a speed test to fully saturate the connection as I have done many times, but when doing real world tasks things work differently. So even though I have a full six gigabits available, I’m usually only getting about half a gigabit to each location I’m sending data to.

The image above was taken from my Unifi app as I was uploading an 8.7 GB video to YouTube and Floatplane simultaneously. Each can only take about 500-600 megabits per second.

Remember the Internet is not one network. So it’s possible that within Comcast’s infrastructure I can utilize the full bandwidth. But once we cross outside the network it depends on how different networks interoperate and what kinds of bandwidth they allow across those crossing points. In some cases there are multiple networks to traverse!

New Video: Comcast Doubles “Gigabit Pro” Speeds to 6 Gigabits Per Second

About a year and a half ago I installed Comcast’s fiber optic Gigabit Pro service at my home. I documented the process over the course of several weeks that you can see on this playlist.

When the service was first installed in October of 2020 it offered a 2 gigabit connection over an SFP+ circuit along with a second 1 gigabit RJ45 circuit. A few months later they increased the SFP+ speed to 3 gigabits.

This past week Comcast announced they were upping the speed again, this time doubling it to a full 6 gigabits per second over the SFP+ while still maintaining the 1 gig circuit for a total of 7.

But what can you do with that amount of bandwidth realistically? Well, it largely depends on what you’re looking to do along with network conditions and interoperability agreements.

As you’ll see in this week’s Weekly Wrapup, it’s relatively easy to hit the full speed when running a speed test to one of Comcast’s servers, but it’s harder to reach those speeds when testing servers on networks outside of Comcast’s infrastructure. For example when I upload YouTube videos rarely do I see the connection hit 1 gigabit, let alone 6.

Still having a multigigabit connection has been a real game changer for my workflow. I’m very happy with the service reliability and the dramatic reduction in upload times for my videos.

Comcast Ups Gigabit Pro Speeds

Comcast’s fiber optic service got a huge speed increase this week – the plan went from 3 gigabits symmetrical to a whopping 6! This is the second speed increase I’ve received for no extra charge since I had the service installed in 2020. You can see my series detailing the adventure here.

In addition to the six gigabit circuit (available as an SFP+ connection) there’s also an additional 1 gigabit circuit running on ethernet for a total of 7 gigabits. The link speed is 10 so there’s still a little more room to grow. The funny thing when you’re running this fast is finding a speed test that can actually handle the bandwidth!

After taxes I pay around $320 a month for the service. It pays for itself by the fact that uploads that once took me 45 minutes to an hour can now be done in about 30-45 seconds. That means I can upload much closer to my deadline vs. before. Most of my videos get uploaded to three different platforms (YouTube, Floatplane and Amazon) so not having to babysit uploads is a real efficiency gain for me.

Reliability is also immensely better than the coax service. Over the last two years I’ve had maybe 30 minutes or so of downtime. Streaming is rock solid even when pushing 10’s of megabits upstream to multiple platforms. This is metro ethernet, not a shared GPON connection, so you’re getting a very reliable industrial grade connection here. My circuit connects directly to the “head end” about eight miles away with nothing in between.

Getting installed depends on how close you are to a splice point or node. I was fortunate that I lived right down the street from a fiber splice so the construction costs were within the scope of what they cover for an install. If you go beyond that allowance you have to pay the difference. If you’re not near a node or a splice point it can get very expensive.

While there are far less expensive fiber options out there in my area Comcast is the only game in town. That is changing though and I suspect these two big speed increases in the course of the last year are evident that competitors are beginning to catch up.

Frontier, the local phone company here in Connecticut, has emerged from bankruptcy and running fiber all over the place. Verizon and T-Mobile are also offering wireless service for the home along with Starlink.