For almost two months, I have had the holy grail of broadband services in Ireland: UPC's 100 megabits-per-second (Mbs) Fibre Power package.
As the trial period comes to a close, I can only say that most of the time, the service delivered what it said on the tin.
That's right: "most of the time". For, even though I achieved blazing hot speeds of up to 108Mbs (I've heard of others getting up to 120Mbs), the service sometimes played up a little. As in, occasionally cut out for no good reason. In fairness, few broadband services are perfect all of the time, so the occasional service interruption can be overlooked: I'm willing to give UPC the benefit of the doubt.
I did observe that the speed and signal strength fell off dramatically, if I was using the service over wi-fi. In the same room, the laptop clocked 60Mbs, a 40% fall-off (with about 5Mbs upload speeds). But two rooms away (about six yards), that fell to 30Mbs. Don't get me wrong; 30Mbs is a great broadband connection. But it's a long way off 100Mbs. In fairness to UPC, broadband speeds always fall off a little over wi-fi. To me, 70 per cent seems like a lot, though.
By comparison, my current broadband service terminates in the same room as the UPC package. It is a 6Mbs service. But two rooms away, it clocks 3.5Mbs, a fall off of just 45% (and not 70%). And that's on a mature broadband service with several other people in the area also using the technology.
So what did I use the 100Mbs service for? Do I now have a library full of high definition films, downloaded in minutes from The Pirate Bay?
Nope. By and large, I used it for the same stuff I use my 6Mbs connection for. Uploading photos. Web-browsing. Some light streaming. You know, regular home stuff. This may show my impending stuck-in-a-routine, old-fartness. Or it may be indicative of what most people do: I'll let you decide that. But I would certainly struggle to make a strong argument for a broadband service much faster than the one I have at present.
Granted, I am starting to download films from iTunes a bit more, but that's mostly in advance for trips away: it doesn't make a huge difference whether it takes 7 minutes or 27 minutes. And I do dip into Xbox Live a bit, too: the extra speed certainly helps for downloading games. But as they're not really much cheaper than buying the boxed game, and I can't trade in a digital download, I don't generally choose new release downloads over DVDs.
Perhaps if there were a lot more mass-market TV or movie downloading services online I'd get real value out of 100Mbs. For example, I'd certainly go for a HD film-on-demand streaming service straight to my TV, which would take something in excess of 20Mbs to guarantee.
But without something like that, it's hard to see a pressing need for anything over 10Mbs.
In conclusion, I can say that you'd want to be a fairly extreme downloader to really get your use out of this 100Mbs broadband service. Or have a really big family, all of whom use the service at the same time. Or use it as part of your small business. After all, €87.75 per month (well over €1,000 per year) is a lot of money for your broadband. (It's €80 per month if you also subscribe to a UPC television package; there's a 'reduced' €80 connection fee, too, when ordered online. UPC says that the service is now available to about a third of its installation base.)
Oh, and don't expect anything like 100Mbs if you're hooking up a wireless router: you'll be lucky to get close to half that speed.