I'm still thinking of the ramifications of what Cisco were saying a few days ago. Marthin de Beer, Cisco's head of emerging technologies said that he expected 90 percent of network traffic to be video (and that about 50 percent of mobile network traffic to be video) by 2013.
This all sounds very well, it paints a great picture of us happily taking videos of each other and instantly sending them over the mobile network. That last minute winner for Man Utd? Bash, on its way. The metre-deep snow at the end of your road? Click... it's gone. The Christmas message? All delivered.
But what's this? There are concerns that the launch of the iPad is going to cripple 3G networks - something that will be familiar to UK users of O2, whose CEO was forced to admit that it couldn't deal with data demands placed on it - although the iPhone, which got the blame at first, was the innocent party and it was all the fault of those old-fashioned netbooks.
Something doesn't quite match up here: we have networks that struggle to cope with the modest relatively modest amount of traffic on it, amidst warnings that it's going to get worse. And yet: we're all going to be send bandwidth-chomping video over an infrastructure that sometimes struggle to cope with the traffic we're already sending. And that's before we take Cisco's launch of home videoconferencing into account.
Of course, ISPs, enterprises and home users will all upgrade their networks. As far as home users are concerned, there'll be more initiatives like BT Infinity, the company's super-fast broadband and ISPs will be happy to rake in the extra money for the faster services. The question is how fast do they need to be - I watched de Beer's presentation via live video on Cisco's website via my 10Mbps home connection and it wasn't a great experience - a small-screened format that dropped twice in just over an hour: not exactly a smooth visual experience.
Enterprises are a different matter. Even though bandwidth is a lot cheaper these days, are businesses going to update their networks to support the ability of their workers flashing videos of Andy Murray winning a match to each other? Even if the will is there, there could well be the issue of service providers not having the capacity to provide extra bandwidth without digging up the road. And as for mobile networks - I think we all know that they're a long way from being robust enough to send large amounts of video traffic.
No doubt, Cisco's prediction is partly based on what they'd like to happen. To make our networks robust to handle a massive, really massive increase in video traffic will need a huge investment in network gear from ...er, Cisco. And no doubt there will be.
But there's another factor too. Some time in 2011/2012, the last IPv4 address is going to be allocated and network engineers are going to be tied up in either converting v4 addresses to v6 ones (and back again) or working on rolling out v6 and getting to grips with a brand-new address system. It could be that some organisations take the opportunity to have fork-lift upgrade and beef up their network and move to IPv6 at the same time but I wouldn't like to bet on it.
In 2013, there will undoubtedly be more video on networks - that's incontestable - but I don't think that it will be the dominant feature that Cisco is predicting. Businesses are still looking at ways to use video effectively and I'm not sure that that will change and the mobile networks will be a whole lot better - but I still think too flaky for mass video transmission. And Andy Murray might even have won a tournament by then.
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