ADSL download speed race

New satirical website aims to shed light on data transfer speeds in South Africa

By - September 7, 2009
ADSL download speed race

A new project called Pigeon Race 2009 aims to highlight the inadequate data transfer speeds over fixed lines in South Africa.  The website states that “The Unlimited faces great challenges in getting data from its locations across KZN back to its central location for storage. These are large files, and it was postulated that a pigeon could do this faster than a normal landline could.”

The company behind the Pigeon Race 2009 is The Unlimited World describing themselves as a “dynamic company that is Making a Difference in South Africa.”  The company offers insurance and lifestyle products including 911Assist, Motor Assist and SOS Assist.

The Pigeon Race project could be viewed as a viral campaign which is mainly aimed at promoting The Unlimited World brand and giving the company additional exposure through an innovative online advertising campaign.

Online transfer speeds versus movable data storage

The Pigeon Race2009 campaign follows a similar campaign a few years back where it was shown that it was cheaper and faster to fly to Hong Kong, download 100 GB of data and fly back to South Africa than download it here using Telkom’s ADSL service.

While the Hong Kong example holds some value, since it compares broadband speeds and cost, the Pigeon Race2009 project is of more satirical value than it’s real ability to reveal poor broadband performances. 

The mathematics behind this type of experiment is quite simple.  The time taken to download a file of a certain size is: time = ‘file size’ / ‘connection speed’.  The time for the physical movement of data – in the case of Pigeon Race 2009 which is around 50 minutes – must therefore be smaller than the file download time for the experiment to be successful.

This is easily achieved by making the ‘file size’ sufficiently large – in this case 4 GB.  Even in the case of a 100 Mbps connection where 35 GB can be downloaded in 50 minutes the experiment will work by merely increasing the size of the flash disk to 64 GB.

It is in fact possible to force a favourable outcome – in this case to prove that it is faster to physically move data using a homing pigeon – by either decreasing the time (shorter distance to fly) or increasing the file size to transfer. 

The pigeon named “Winston” will make its first carrier flight – from Howick outside Pietermaritzburg to Hillcrest in Durban – on Wednesday.

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