18 May 2011
Bandwidth Caps and Over-the-Top Video
Todd Spanger of Multichannel News noted in a blog post today that a Morgan Stanley analyst estimated that a typical household watching HDTV exclusively delivered over-the-top would use 600 GB of data per month and a heavy viewer might use a bit over 2 times that amount 1.4 TB (that's terabytes). Comcast's cap is 250GB per month; AT&T's is the same for U-Verse, less for DSL customers.
The part of the posting that got me was this: "The bottom line is that none of the broadband access networks were engineered to absorb this much per-subscriber usage. You can’t efficiently move 18 lanes of traffic down a four-lane highway."
GB per month is not really the capacity problem; the issue is peak time demand.
However, everything in my limited knowledge of cable plant design points to the fact that the engineers were always thinking about how consumer usage would grow over time and what infrastructure could be scaled up to meet that demand. The concept of a fixed capacity infrastructure as a long term solution doesn't seem like anything any good engineer would have believed would be adequate given the explosive growth of Internet traffic BEFORE HDTV took off and over-the-top existed in any meaningful way.
It seems inevitable that consumers will have very fast pipes in their homes in the not-too-distant future and, if history holds, the unlimited, fixed price plan will be the way that consumers want to buy it. If the cable operator doesn't provide it, a telco will, or a wireless company will or broadband over powerline (BPL) or someone or something else will.