According to AT&T their ADSL network bandwidth consumption is doubling every 18 months.
This type of statistic makes life interesting for UK ISPs who currently have to order bandwidth in large increments. This means that effectively they have to order a pipe for only a few users once capacity is reached on their existing infrastructure. What’s more they have to do this three months in advance of when they think the capacity will be required which makes it very difficult to respond quickly when usage trends increment with step functions as new drivers such as BBC iplayer enter the scene.
A consumer ISP will squeeze this capacity to the limit because of the incremental costs involved. Business oriented ISPs have to take the hit because the services they offer have to be of a better quality.
The advent of BT’s 21CN network later this year will make life a little easier though not necessarily any cheaper for the ISP community. ISPs will connect to the 21CN via an Ethernet based HostLink – typically either 1Gb or 10Gb. The up front connection charges for Ethernet products are much lower than for the legacy ATM circuits currently used to link DSL tails to an ISPs network.
The ISP will then pay for bandwidth used on this link rather than having to pay for the cost of the whole pipe. They will be able to order incremental bandwidth capacity with only two weeks notice.
21CN will bring additional benefits in that high speed Ethernet circuits should (eventually) be available almost on a country wide basis with far more cost effective pricing than is currently available.
Incidentally the top five per cent AT&Ts DSL customers consume 46 per cent of its traffic, and the top 1 per cent accounts for 21 per cent all bandwidth. It is easy to see that the industry is going to have to move to an usage based charging model as being the only fair way of doing business.