How fast is dial up Internet?


Just how fast is dial up internet? Thats easy, 56k. In fact the term
” 56k ” is synonymous with ” dial up “. Lets look at what 56k means numerically, then what it means relative to download speed. To fully understand what 56k means you have to look at it long form. 56k is short for 56kbit/s. Lets lengthen 56kbit/s further.

K is short for the prefix Kilo. Kilo means 1000.
A ” bit ” is the computer data. A bit is either a 0 or a 1.
The / means per.
S is for seconds of time.
Per second makes 56k a rate of speed like miles per hour.

And so, if I asked the question how fast is dial up internet, the long and more descriptive answer would be: The rate of speed one computer can download data from another computer over standard telephone lines is 56,000 bits every second.
56,000 zeros and ones per second doesn’t tell me how fast I can download a song or a book. We can use 56,000 bit speed to determine how long it will take a 1 page document. The length of a txt file, or any file, is defined in units of bytes. For this example I will say the txt file we are downloading is a 1 page document containing 3000 letters. Each individual letter or character on the document is 1 byte. It doesn’t matter what the character is. ” a ” ” & ” ” 9 ” are all valid characters and individually they are 1 byte long. That means our txt file is 3KB in size.

A byte or letter is 8 bits. (3000 x 8 = 24,000). Our document contains 24,000 bits. Since dial up is 56k, it would take approximately a little less than half a second to download this 1 page document.

Compare this to an mp3 file that is 5MB (megabytes) long. There are 1024 bytes in a kilobyte. There are 1024 kilobytes in a megabyte. That means there are 41,943,040 bits in a 5MB song. That equates to 12.5 minutes if you download using dial up internet. All these figures are approximate and are assuming a 56k modem connection, which never happens.


What is dial up speed?
Maximum dial up speed is 56k. There is a reason why there is a limit to dial up speed. There is also a limit as to how much electric power can be used to transmit analog signals over conventional telephone lines. The federal communications commission imposed a power limit to prevent a phenomenon known as”cross talk”.

If you’ve ever talked on the phone and heard someone else faintly talking or a fax tone in the background, thats cross talk. If too much power were used during data transmission, “cross talk” would increase between adjacent phone lines. As a result additional erroneous data would be created during transmission and defeat the purpose of increasing signal strength to achieve a higher dial up connection speed.

This signal to noise ratio is known as Shannon’s limit. Assuming all computers, modems, telephone lines etc are working flawlessly, Shannon’s limit for computers communicating with each other over a dial up network is 56k.

Prior to 2002 the modem speed limit in the united states was 53k. Also, there is still alot of information on the internet suggesting that the limit still remains at 53k. Here is a link explaining modem speed limit was officially raised to 56k since 2002. Current dial up speed limit

Regardless if the speed limit is 53k or 56k, the maximum dial up modem connection speed is always unattainable. To reach a connection speed close to 56k, you’d really have to be at your internet service provider and get the telephone lines out of the loop entirely. If you’re only connecting at 33.6k or less, your residential telephone line could be emanating from a repeater.