Sometimes pigeons are still faster than the internet

It may sound strange or unusual; however, there are still cases today where pigeons remain faster than the internet. Today, internet speeds do not resemble the era of the dial-up modem. While internet technology has advanced, sometimes the ancient method of the postal pigeon remains unsurpassed.

In Ancient Greece, the ‘sky mice,’ as pigeons were called, were particularly popular. The ancient Greeks used pigeons to disseminate the results of the Olympic Games. In 1850, Reuters employed a fleet of 45 pigeons to send news and stock prices over a distance of 75 miles between Brussels and Aachen, Germany. The journey took two hours—six hours less than a train would require.

The U.S. military also had its fleet of postal pigeons, sending 600 to France during World War I. Racing pigeons typically fly at an average speed of 50 kilometres per hour and usually cover a distance of 500 kilometres, roughly equivalent to the distance from Washington to Boston.

According to the American Racing Pigeon Union, a racing pigeon flies at an average speed of 50 kilometres per hour and typically covers a distance of 500 kilometres, approximately from Washington to Boston. With the aid of tailwinds, pigeons have been recorded travelling at speeds of 120 kilometres per hour and covering distances of over 1,000 kilometres. In some rural regions of America, where internet speeds may lag significantly behind the national average, the pigeon may be the faster choice.

Washington Post
Washington Post

Are pigeons faster?

To determine whether a pigeon can surpass internet speed, we need to consider three key factors: internet speed, distance, and data. In the vast world of the internet, whether we send a file to the other side of the city or the other end of the country, there is no difference. The size of the data being sent is what slows down the transmission.

It is a fact that today, most Americans have fast internet. However, this is not the case for some rural areas with unstable and slow internet connections. In 2020, nearly 1 in 5 residents of rural areas needed access to speeds of at least 25 megabits per second (Mbps) for downloads and over 3 Mbps for uploads. Speeds below this threshold can support regular internet browsing, email, and standard-definition video streaming for up to two users but not for more people or intensive tasks, such as streaming 4K video or using complex cloud-based software.

Even in areas where fast internet is available, carrier pigeons can have the advantage, which has been proven. This is exactly what YouTuber and software developer Jeff Geerling wanted to demonstrate a few months ago. He gave a carrier pigeon three terabytes of flash drives to see which was faster: the pigeon or the internet in his area. The result was indeed impressive. The pigeon managed to outpace the internet, proving that technology still has a long way to go.

Can a pigeon deliver my data faster than the Internet?

Internet speed statistics and facts

Even though the internet has become essential in contemporary society, a considerable number of individuals either lack access or contend with sluggish speeds. Research from reveals a global surge in internet speeds, particularly in affluent nations. The worldwide online population is growing by hundreds of millions annually, and a majority of people now have internet access. Nonetheless, a notable gap persists in internet speed and accessibility between countries with lower and higher income levels.

As of December 2021, Ookla, the operator of the world’s most widely used speed testing tool, reported a global median internet speed of approximately 60 Mbps for download and 25 Mbps for upload in fixed broadband connections. However, these figures only pertain to fixed broadband, as mobile networks exhibit significantly slower speeds, with median rates of 30 Mbps for downloads and 8.5 Mbps for uploads.

Internet speeds worldwide have experienced rapid growth in recent years. In a July 2021 update, Ookla estimated an annual increase of 31.9% in the global average speed for fixed broadband since 2017 and a remarkable 59.5% for mobile networks over the same period.

George Mavridis is a freelance journalist and writer based in Greece. His work primarily covers tech, innovation, social media, digital communication, and politics. He graduated from the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki with a BA in Journalism and Mass Communication. Also, he holds an MA in Media and Communication Studies from the Malmö University of Sweden and an MA in Digital Humanities from the Linnaeus University of Sweden.