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IP Video Will Drive Bandwidth Buildouts
IP Video transmission may become the true killer app that clogs the copper and fiber optic pipes.

IP Video has been described as the emerging killer app for everything from cell phones to HDTV. Ironically, video transport may well be the application that sucks all the bandwidth out of the pipe. The short lived bandwidth glut from the tech boom meltdown could soon become the bandwidth famine that caps technology deployment.

We've Seen It All Before
There is precedent for this. In the early days of the PC, 640K was all the RAM in the world... for text editing. Windows Vista will now suck up a Gigabyte or two before picking its teeth. That's more than a couple orders of magnitude. One Megahertz was a screaming processor in those early days. Now who's going to settle for a Gigahertz CPU unless they need the low power consumption? Communications bandwidths rapidly accelerated from 300 bps to 3600 bps to 36 Kbps to 3.6 Mbps or so.

The thing that has been driving these waves of forklift upgrades, and you often need a forklift to wheel out the pallets of obsolete computers, is user applications. Text editing to word processing, email to Web browsing, file transfers to software downloads, ASCII graphics to JPEGs, batch processing to real-time transactions, and now online publication to online video.

Video Gobbles Up Bandwidth
Desktop videoconferencing, webcasts and embedded video clips might be satisfied by today's broadband Internet speeds. But video isn't stopping there. Video downloads now include TV shows we would have videotaped or DVR'd if we had remembered. Now the networks have a few weeks of prime time shows archived to download and watch. YouTube is reported to be regularly adding bandwidth in 10 Gbps chunks. Verizon is busy installing FiOS to the home with multiple wavelengths including IP at 622 Mbps down and 155 Mbps up. That's similar to the speed of OC-12 fiber optic MANs, a resource recently used only by large businesses.

Bandwidth demand isn't sitting on the flat top of the S-curve. Not really. We're actually in the early adoption phase of the next wave which will be IP Video, including high definition IPTV and VoD Video on Demand almost universally. The move to digital television is only fanning these embers. Most new TV sets are flat panel displays, just like computer monitors. DVRs have hard drives just like PCs. Video will soon never leave the digital domain. .

Can The Network Buildouts Keep Up?
Digital video production, transport, streaming and downloads will sop up available bandwidth far faster than the move to VoIP telephony or VPNs for small and medium size businesses. Video is a bandwidth hog the way graphics programs are memory hogs and simulations are processing hogs. Standard TV broadcasts for HDTV need 19.4 Mbps. Video editing and transport in SMPTE formats needs 270 to 1,485 Mbps per show. Digital Cinema can use 135 Mbps. Internet streaming video can still get by with bandwidths under half a Mbps, but not for long. The push will come for downloaded videos to look as good as DVDs or over the air broadcasts in both standard and HD formats. Especially when the monitors are 61 inch plasma displays in the living room.

Consider that broadcast HDTV needs DS3 level service at 45 Mbps for transmission, standard TV needs close to 4 Mbps or triple-bonded T1 lines, video production needs OC12 to OC48 or Gigabit Ethernet service for transport. It's not hard to understand why the telcos and cable operators are running fiber to the curb or home as fast as they can trench it. Cross-country fiber networks will come under pressure to increase bandwidth for Internet and private lines, as both the production and distribution of digital video ramps up. The recent demonstration of a long haul 100 Gbps bonded fiber optic transmission is likely to be out of the lab and into production sooner than anyone expects. Can the demand for Terabit carriers be far behind?

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