Symmetrical bandwidth is nice. After all who doesn’t want upload speeds that mirror their blazing fast download times? However, despite the growth in cloud services and user-generated data, it still makes more sense for network providers to build their networks around asymmetrical bandwidth.
“While symmetrical bandwidth offers a number of benefits, mandating symmetrical bandwidth for consumers will hamper future investments, delay the digital agenda, and unnecessarily disregard the strengths of existing broadband infrastructure,” according to an Alcatel-Lucent (News - Alert) TechZine article by Ana Pesovic and Randy Sharpe, “Is Symmetrical Bandwidth a Myth or a Must?
The authors’ contention is that this is true because we:
- Consume more than we produce
- Read more emails than we write
- Watch more videos than we create
- Download more data than we upload even if that data is stored in the cloud.
They also point out that contrary to popular perception, bandwidth actually is becoming more asymmetrical over time, with even more data downloaded compared with what’s uploaded.
While 48 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube (News - Alert) every minute, nearly 700,000 hours are downloaded every minute. E-health and home monitoring are growth areas, but the mostly static images of home monitoring and the occasional e-health video feed are largely handled with efficient video compression. Video conferencing is an area where symmetrical bandwidth makes sense, but even there it becomes asymmetrical when the conferencing is many-to-one instead of a one-to-one video feed.
“The importance of upload speeds is emphasized by increases in user-generated content, interactivity, social media, video conferencing and the Internet of things (which involves communication between billion of sensors),” noted the article. “However, these same applications and others will impact downstream speeds as well.”
Download bandwidth will grow from three to five times upload speeds in the near future, according to independent studies by Bell Labs, Cisco (News - Alert) VNI, CableLabs and Sandvine (News - Alert).
“The broadband communications revolution shows how innovations in services and technology can rapidly reshape how society communicates, works, learns and entertains,” noted the article. “Yet, the biggest investments are still ahead.”
To keep pace with the growing bandwidth needs, network providers must both invest in proven, efficient technology such as Alcatel-Lucent’s 400G Photonic Service Engine, and also make sure they strike the right balance between capacity and cost.
“Symmetrical bandwidth is a great way for operators to differentiate a service offering, generate new revenue streams and spur innovation,” the paper noted. “However, mandating symmetrical bandwidth for the consumer market segment will hamper future investments due to higher costs.”
In addition, it will ultimately delay the digital agenda, lead to new cycles of network design and standardization, and unnecessarily disregard existing industry efforts to build broadband infrastructure.
Thus, while symmetrical bandwidth sounds nice, it may not make the most sense.
Edited by Peter Bernstein