The Line Is Busy But You Don’t Notice

I recently surfed the web with my Nokia N95 over my home Wifi network using the OperaMini browser while simultaneously downloading a movie from my online video recorder at the full DSL line speed (7 MBit/s). What quite surprised me was that despite the line being 100% busy because of the file download, the browsing experience on the phone was perceptively not slower than if the DSL line was not used at all.

There are a number of conclusions that can be drawn from that:

  • It shows the huge difference in bandwidth requirements of different applications and due to the little bandwidth requirements of one application the user does not even notice that a network with a significantly higher bandwidth is already fully loaded.
  • From a technical point of view mobile web surfing with compressed page downloads costs almost nothing compared to the transmission costs incurred by other applications such as huge file downloads and full web browser use.

The situation obviously changes when even small screen devices download full web pages including high resolution images. Mobile web browsers such as Opera Mobile, the Nokia N- and Eseries web browser and the iPhone already do that today. However, for most web pages the experience is not as good not only due to the high amount of data that has to be transfered but because the processor is not being able to render the page as quickly as on a PC. Over time, this might well change but I guess there is still a lot of time left where the OperaMini compression approach will deliver suprerior results in most cases.

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