Pony Express faster than broadband

Last Thursday, a news story appeared on BBC titled SA pigeon “faster than broadband”. When I first read it, I thought it’s an interesting story, and oddly funny. Then, I went “meh”, so what? The pigeon has the unfair advantage in the form of (relatively) high tech 4GB memory stick. Instead, if the pigeon had carried the data via an old handwritten paper scroll, and still beat the broadband speed; then I would sit up and go “holy smolly!”

Yet, in the past few days, I have seen re-post of the story over and over again, in blogs and news sites, as if it’s an earth shattering news. It occurred to me then, to write a purely hypothetical counter story.

Supposed a company in San Franscisco needs to transfer large amount of data to the East. Oh, I don’t know, maybe to St. Joseph, Missouri.

First, some figures.

According to here, just 2% of U.S. users posted speed faster than 25 Mbps.

Let’s be extremely generous in my hyperbole calculation and assumed we have a fast 25 Mbps subscription plan. Taking out all the extras transmission overhead, etc, to simplify the calculation:

= 25 / 8 MBps
= 3.125 MBps
= 3.125 * 60 * 60 MB per hour
= 11.25 GB per hour
= (11.25 * 24) GB per day
= 270 GB per day


Supposed, the Pony Express is still operates between San Franscisco and St. Joseph. Here are some figures from the Wikipedia article.

1. The mail pouch called a mochila could hold up to 20 pounds or 10kg.
2. The first Pony Express ride left St. Joseph on April 3rd 1860 and arrived in San Franscisco on April 14th. Therefore, total travel time was 11 days.

Now, let’s say I have a bunch of 1TB harddisks. Typical weight of a harddisk is 0.5kg. Add in a judicious amount of packing materials (we do want the harddisks to survive the journey), and let’s called it an even 1kg per harddisk. I.e. 1kg per 1TB of data.

Now, the punchlines:

The Pony Express could carry 10TB of data in one trip of 11 days.

In comparison, the “superfast” 25Mbps broadband has only transferred (270GB * 11 days), or less than 3TB within that time frame.

The Pony Express beats the superfast 25Mbps broadband by at least 3 times!

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