What does super-bandwidth mean for PC gamers?

Dan Stapleton at

I’m very satisfied with my home DSL connection’s top speed of six megabits per second (Mbps). I can download games off of Steam in a few hours, stream Netflix in HD, and generally enjoy all the best of what the internet has to offer.

Satisfied, that is, until I see something like this: Engadget has posted evidence that Comcast may begin offering insanely fast 105Mbps connections in the very near future. It’s not cheap—the asking price is $200 per month, and that’s after the $250 installation fee and another expense for the specialized cable modem purchase—but can you imagine what it’ll be like for gamers when that kind of speed comes down to consumer-level pricing?

For perspective, 105Mbps equals 13.125 megabytes per second (MBps). Ok, that’s still just numbers. How fast is that, really? Well, assuming constant top speed for one hour (which isn’t a given, by the way—Comcast only guarantees top speed for the first 30 seconds of downloading), in that time you can download Just Cause 2, Torchlight, Assassin’s Creed 2, BioShock 2, Dragon Age: Origins, Supreme Commander 2 and Splinter Cell: Conviction.  That’s 46 gigabytes per hour. What will you download in the second hour?

So yeah, it’s pretty damn fast. Sure, it’s still not as fast as installing from a DVD, but the ease of handling the installation with a click rather than having to fiddle with discs makes it a worthwhile tradeoff in my mind. And with that kind of bandwidth, assuming the latency is kept low, online game streaming services like Onlive don’t seem so pie-in-the-sky anymore (though Onlive’s pricing model still does). The entire concept of “cloud computing,” where all your data storage and CPU power is rented from some uber-computer in Google’s underground bunkers, feels like it’s suddenly within our reach. Of course, they’ll have to pry my machine’s graphics card from my cold dead hands, but I’ve got to admit that the idea that we CAN do it is pretty cool.