Why do we need all that bandwidth?
If all you want to do is surf web pages, download a few songs, send and receive some photographs, or watch streaming video at current picture quality levels, then the bandwidth provided by today’s cable modems and DSL services is probably good enough for you. But the world is moving toward vastly higher bandwidth applications.
Companies like Netflix, Amazon and Wal Mart are offering feature-length movies for download. More people are looking to upload their own home movies into emails or web pages. Consumer electronics companies are coming out with devices that connect televisions to the Internet. High-definition video is fast becoming the state-of-the-art, and one high definition movie takes up as much bandwidth as 35,000 web pages.
In the meantime, a growing number of companies are offering “software as service” – meaning you subscribe to applications on the net rather than install them on your own computer. These “cloud computing” applications are now available for word processing, emailing, automated remote file backup, and a host of business and personal services. All of these applications – and many others we haven’t even dreamed of yet – are going to require much greater bandwidth than what is generally available today, even from “broadband” providers.
All this adds up to consumer bandwidth demands that are growing at an enormously high rate, and are projected to grow for years to come. According to Cisco's Visual Networking Index, global IP traffic will quadruple from 2009 to 2014. Overall, IP traffic will grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 34 percent.
Clearly, the explosion in online video is driving today's increases in bandwidth demand. It would take over two years to watch the amount of video that will cross global IP networks every second in 2014. It would take 72 million years to watch the amount of video that will cross global IP networks during calendar year 2014.
According to Cisco, video-on-demand (VoD) traffic will double every two and a half years through 2014. Consumer IPTV and CATV traffic will grow at a 33 percent CAGR between 2009 and 2014. Global Internet video traffic will surpass global peer-to-peer (P2P) traffic by the end of 2010. For the first time since 2000, P2P traffic will not be the largest Internet traffic type. Advanced Internet video (3D and HD) will increase 23-fold between 2009 and 2014. By 2014, 3D and HD Internet video will comprise 46 percent of consumer Internet video traffic. Real-time video is also growing in importance. By 2014, Internet TV will be over 8 percent of consumer Internet traffic, and ambient video will be an additional 5 percent of consumer Internet traffic. Live TV has gained substantial ground in the past few years. Globally, P2P TV is now over 280 petabytes per month.
Consumer Video Traffic is Driving Bandwidth Requirements...
On top of all this, there are a wide range of online applications now in development that are likely to add to bandwidth demands in the near future. As one example, there are currently 200 telemedicine networks in the U.S. connecting 2,000 institutions, while surveys show that three-fourths of U.S. consumers anticipate using telehealth services when they are made available online in their homes. Revenue from such services are projected to grow to $6 billion annually by 2012.
Other services, such as distance learning and remote energy management through fiber-enabled "smart grid systems, are also expected to expand considerably over the next several years, adding to bandwidth demands.
Think about it. Just six years ago, the video site YouTube did not even exist. A large percentage of Americans still used dial-up service. Given how far we have come in just that short period of time with regard to bandwidth demand, is there any doubt that consumers are going to need the almost unlimited bandwidth capabilities of all-fiber networks to keep pace and be able to access state-of-the-art applications?