Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Let's just say that traffic growth will remain 100%

Rudolf pointed me to this great Ars Technica article. I included it in the right hand column (under 'Favorite Articles') and here is a link to a Google Doc for easier downloading (Ars Technica allows the .pdf file to be downloaded to paying subs only, but hey: Content is not king anymore).

First, here are the main points:
  • There is no 'exaflood' (Bret Swanson), since traffic growth is at a manageable (for backbones, that is) 100% sort of level, and actually falling. Put quite differently: it is here already, since worldwide traffic totals 3-5 exabytes/month. In itself, this undermines arguments aimed against net neutrality. Capacity can rather easily and cheaply be upgraded.
  • The last mile is the real bottleneck. In this respect the US is falling behind (even if there are different points of view) because of a lack of competition (no line sharing). South Korea has almost as much traffic as the US, or 6-7 x more per capita.
  • Media companies (such as the Hulu venture) face exploding bandwidth costs. They will flee to P2P delivery systems.
  • Andrew Odlyzko suggests ISPs should stimulate usage rather than limit it. In David Isenberg's words: "In other words, the problem is completely mis-framed. Comcast and Verizon -- and even Net Neutrality Advocates -- are talking how to manage scarcity. We should be talking about how to achieve abundance."
Second, let's make another effort at pinpointing sources of traffic growth and reasons to build FTTH networks. I don't know if growth will keep falling, stay around the 100% level or actually accelerate (to the 300-500% level Cisco's John Chambers predicts), but there is a lot yet to come:
  • Video. Include 3-D, HD, holography. Not 'just' YouTube, but also VoD, streams, Hulu and BBC's iPlayer, place-shifting (SlingBox, PC-to-TV boxes such as Daily Media, etc.).
  • User-generated content.
  • Gaming and virtual reality. Massive multi-player online gaming, which depends on very low latency. Second Life moving to a level of realism we know from Pixar.
  • Cloud computing, teleworking, telepresence, e-health, e-learning, monitoring.
  • P2P (even though the effect will be mitigated somewhat by P4P). Includes legal filesharing. Traffic on munifiber explodes when on-net filesharing among subscribers is enabled.
  • In other words, there is truth in 'Field of Dreams' after all: 'Build it, and he will come'. Don't forget about new applications!
  • There are some cross connections. Many of the above require symmetric connections, i.e. FTTH. Also, 3-D, HD and holography will be coming to gaming, telepresence, monitoring etc.
  • Not to mention regular growth contributors and enablers such as increasing penetration (Internet, broadband, PC, credit card), emerging markets coming on board, etc.
  • And from a different perspective: don't forget all the social, economic and environmental benefits of true broadband (i.e. FTTH) networks.

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