The name of the hit song from legend Bob Dylan, “The Times They are a Changin,” seems to be right on target when looking at what impact the explosion of personal devices will have on network architectures going forward.
In fact, this very issue is the subject of new research from Alcatel-Lucent’s research arm Bell Labs (News - Alert). It suggests the increasing consumption of video content on such devices will push the wired broadband networks that carry this traffic to their absolute limits over the next decade.
The transformation on how we consume video will be profound
A few of the highlights of the research, which compared data about video usage and growth from 2012 to 2020 in ‘triple-play’ (video, data and voice) communications service providers, identified the following trends:
The total time spent watching video will grow from 4.8 hours to seven hours per user, per day. Much of this contribution will come from the latest generation of consumers who are more likely to multi-task – such as watching television while conducting a video call on their tablet - resulting in seven hours worth of video consumed in as little as five hours.
- The proportion of time spent watching managed video-on-demand services and web-based video (also known as over-the-top - ‘OTT’ - providers) will grow from 33 to 77 percent. This will come at the expense of traditional broadcast TV services, whose relative share of time will drop from 66 to 10 percent.
- Internet-based video consumption each year will grow twelvefold, from 90 Exabytes to 1.1 Zettabyes.
- Consumption of managed video-on-demand from services providers versus OTTs is expected grow at 28 percent annual rate, from 44 Exabytes to 244 Exabytes.
- 10.5 percent of managed video consumption and 8.5 percent of OTT video consumption will occur at the peak hour, 8:00 p.m.
Suffice it to say, seeing this type of quantification of the coming tsunami of video from anywhere is an eye-opener.
From what I think is a bit of an understatement, the study says these trends will stretch the capabilities the today’s residential broadband networks. In short, network architectures are going to have to accommodate the new normal of “unicast,” whereas the study explains, “disproportionate pressure will be placed on the ‘IP edge’ of these networks.”
The IP edge is where most of the intelligence is needed to deliver sophisticated video and high-speed Internet services is located. Hence, the IP edge is where enormous bandwidth demands by design or not are going to have to take place if quality customer experiences are to be assured.
Marcus Weldon, chief technology officer, Alcatel-Lucent (News - Alert), said, “Delivery of video from the cloud and from content delivery networks to tablets, TVs and smartphones - with guaranteed quality -, presents an exciting new revenue opportunity for communications service providers, but only if they are prepared to take advantage of it. Left unmanaged, the rapid growth in video traffic can turn into a deluge and spell disaster. It is important to look at where service providers’ investments can have the most impact, and this research makes clear that the IP edge of both wireline and wireless networks – which are increasingly becoming one and the same - offers the greatest opportunity to improve network performance.”
“At the same time,” he said, “it also presents the greatest source of risk if not managed appropriately.”
While all of the findings are provocative, the Bell Labs view regarding on-demand video services, such as high-definition premium movie services and video sharing sites, is a real grabber. This is true whether looking at the nature of demand or the amount of traffic involved.
The study says on-demand will become increasingly popular. Its impact we be experience by operators as an increased share of viewing hours, causing peak-hour traffic at the ‘edge’ of new IP-based networks to grow 2.5 times faster than the amount of traffic on the broadband connections reaching households.
As Wheldon noted, if the shift identified here is correct, and I would add even if it is only directionally correct, lack of proper appreciation and strategic investment in beefing up the IP edge could have major consequences for service providers.
It should also be pointed out that what we are witnessing is a result of what I have described several times as “The Age of Acceleration.” This maturation of the Internet Age means that “E”verything is moving faster. Included in this characterization is the acceleration of changes in how end users consume networking resources and the experience expectations they bring along.
In the old days, capabilities that go into the network had long lifecycles and changes tended to happen at a predictable and slow pace. That was then and this is now. The race to the edge is on, and to those who get their first, best and fast will go the spoils.
If you’re interested in finding out more about the Bell Labs report, there’s more detailin Alcatel-Lucent’s TechZine article, or visit Energize the Edge.
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Edited by Braden Becker