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Safaricom’s 400GB/s

No doubt, Huawei and Safaricom are going on with this plan to roll out a 400 G network backbone. Many questions would arise but not financial ones… we already know Safaricom can manage that. Questions arise around the authenticity of the network speeds as indicated. Let us face it, even with Safaricom’s 4G network, you will never get to speeds of over 100 MB/s and therefore, 400 GB/s sounds utterly unreasonable… improbable.
Read on as we debunk misconceptions and lead you to a truth.

I shall just get this out and not delay any further – there is no lie.

When the big numbers are mentioned, what is being talked about is bandwidth. It does not mean that your phone will be streaming videos at 100 GB/s, no. You shall definitely expect reasonable internet speeds increase especially with the roll out of 5G in the near future but enough with predictions, let us get into technical  concepts.

Over the last few years, technology has been evolving so fast most of us can barely keep up. You wake up tomorrow and something new is up. The concept of fast networks has been around for a while. There is also a term in data that has been around for quite for some time: terabyte. In layman’s terms 1 TB = 1024 GBs. What has this to do with networking though?

Data transfer speed are measured by the amount of data that can get sent / received in a unit time. Data is measured in various ways, just like a pound of meat which can translate to about 0.45 kilograms. With more people accessing the internet, network engineers needed to come up with faster cables that could serve just as many people. They aimed for the sun and for now, they are still on the moon. Any cable that can transfer data in speeds of above 100 GB/s, rather any speeds above such are referred to as Terabit Ethernet and shortened as TbE. Currently, we have 100, 200 and most recently 400 GB/s TbE’s.

Before we get more technical, let us mention something broadly significant. For each standard that is developed, it must be backed by some institution. For networking, Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) is important. There are other institutes like the Ethernet Alliance but I won’t go into that.

These Ethernet speeds are bound to increase and what we see in the movies shall indeed come to be. As many people (specialists) have deduced many times over, speeds of about 1.6 TB/s are expected to be reached around the year 2020. This is after 800 GB/s speeds are reached. To achieve these speeds, there are many factors that are taken into consideration. These factors include distance, compatibility of hardware and installation of all necessary infrastructure.

What of the end user you ask?

The end user, a person like I shall not be getting to those speeds any time soon. As mentioned earlier, hardware capabilities play a very crucial role. Consider this one factor, your mobile smart phone. Assuming you are using a recent, authentic LTE (4 G) enabled phone with a decent network card – not a fake one suggesting you can access 4G but… These are the considerations you take in place:
– The theoretical maximum speed achievable through LTE is 1GB/s,
– Telcos can achieve a maximum of 100 MB/s for their mobile users,
– Signal strength of the network and,
– The maximum data transfer speed accessible to the server you are accessing.

Regardless of the 400 GB/s roll out, you are not getting a very significant network speed boost.
Now you know.

Gichuki P. Mwangi

A computer scientist with a passion to solve real world, day to day problems using new computer technologies and those already in existence.

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