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IP Video Drives Bandwidth
Buildouts IP Video transmission might be
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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