Short-distance data transfers just might be for the birds

Pretty much everyone agrees that broadband is a good thing. People want it in their homes and their handsets, and politicians want to put it in every classroom. But there is broadband and then there is broadband.

It can mean extremely high transmission speeds, or, as in the apparent case of South Africa, it can mean “not dial-up.” Workers at an information technology company in Durban, fed up with the country’s asynchronous digital subscriber line service, decided recently to test an employee’s contention that they could send data faster via carrier pigeon.

They attached a 4G memory card to the leg of a bird named Winston and sent it off to Howick, 60 miles away, while sending 4G of data to the same place via the country’s biggest ADSL provider, Telkom.

The pigeon made the journey in 1 hour, 8 minutes. Downloading the data from the card took another hour. Meanwhile, transmission of the data via ADSL was 4 percent complete, a rate that would have taken more than 50 hours for the entire file.

Of course, most Internet connections couldn’t compete with a bird — or a car — on large files over short distances, and any advantage of carrying the data from one place to another would diminish over distance. But for short trips, the options might be worth considering.

Maybe the sneakernet isn’t dead yet.

About the Author

Kevin McCaney is a former editor of Defense Systems and GCN.

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