The Bandwith Blob

Most telcos agree: the future of TV isn’t about broadcasting anymore. It’s on demand, IPTV, server based, what ever. The idea of the network as a programming entity will be replaced by networks as a technical layer, where the videos are hosted and delivered, and a social layers, which assists you in choosing programming you want to get.

Sounds godd – but has some ramifications. That’s why Google and cable firms warn of risks from Web TV As Vincent Dureau, Google’s head of TV technology, explained at the Cable Europe Congress 2007: The Web infrastructure, and even Google’s (infrastructure) doesn’t scale. It’s not going to offer the quality of service that consumers expect.

Statements like this have always to be taken with a grain of salt. But to deliver high quality TV content you need either have to wait for multicasting to finally take off (whcih means just broadacsting). Or you need quite some barns full of servers and access to cheap bandwith (The Google Way of life). One nice looking solution might be peer 2 peer networking. Joost is doing a great job here, trying to push p2p from the digital fringe into the consumer mainstream. But mind that: currently, the biggest chunk of all Internet traffic is alreday related to p2p-file transfer.
How can you scale this as an ISP? Only if you own your network from core to edge, from backbone to the last mile. And you will have to host as many peers as possible, so that you can keep as much traffic in your own network. Even than, it’s a rat’s race. As one Cable Operator explained at the Cable Conference: People (Internet service providers) don’t like to talk about (the fact) that just to stand still, they have to invest.

Tom Evslin has a nice post on this. If we all shift to watching TV on the Internet, the total bandwidth (Internet and other) required INTO our homes will decrease and the load on the Internet backbone and the regional distribution portions of the Internet will be – well – interesting. Of course, his calculation is a bit misleading. Most of your home-bandwith of today, used for broadcasting, is one way traffic on a shared medium.

As there’s no such thing as a free lunch: where’s all the bandwith coming from? And who’s going to pay for it? That’s why operators want to build up their walled gardens. And charge everybody else for putting stuff on their networks. Question is: do we really want to upgrade the delivery network monopolies of today into virtual content distribution monopolies, with some wholly owned social networking attached?