Sunday, January 30, 2011


Broadband Bandwidth Requirements

When considering how to address broadband notspots, or planning future broadband provision, it is useful to put a number on the estimated bandwidth requirements. A number of generic assessments have been published in the past, some of which are discussed by Jon Hunt on his blog.

In general the predictions are based on exponential growth and most were made a few years ago. Just like Climate Change modelling doesn't explain recent snowfalls in the UK, the prediction in 2006 that by 2008 a bandwidth intensive household may need 18Mbps downstream and 3Mbps upstream either didn't come to pass or those households had to move to Virgin Cable areas or get some specialist connectivity.

A more recent report suggests compound growth of 40% pa from 2010 to 2016 - that's a factor of 7.5 by my reckoning, so the average Talk Talk or BT Wholesale IPStream user will see their provisioned capacity rise from 60 kbits/s to 450 kbits/s. That doesn't sound much of a challenge, although matching it with an increase in the end user link speed from 5 to 37.5 Mbits/s would be. OFCOM in their recent consultation on Market 1 broadband pricing used a lower growth assumption of 23 %pa compound or a factor of 3.5 over 6 years.

Is 37.5M the right figure upon which to base a discussion of near future needs ?

Analysys Mason don't think so. Their comprehensive report to the BSG looked at the forecast demand in order to assess the costs and viability of using wireless and satellite solutions to cover notspots and provide next generation access.

The peak demand in 2016 according to Analysys Mason (AM) will be 19.3 Mbits/s for 2.3 members of a household each watching an HD video stream at 8.3 Mbits/s.

AM also see average peak bandwidth demand at 700 kbits/s per household rising to 1450 kbits/s in the high video use scenario. In fact most of their foreseen demand is for video, suggesting that NGA is becoming "Next Generation TV" rather than "Next Generation Internet Access".

This does beg the question as to the suitability of the internet as a video delivery mechanism and I cannot help but think a wider debate about how best to provide video and TV is required, rather than focussing on "the internet".

Digital TV, Satellite, HFC Cable TV surely need to be part of an NGA strategy if the "internet" part of the demand is only seen by experts as 20 GB per month in 2016 and that can be met with bandwidth of about 85 kbits/s average peak per home at 8pm.

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