internet surveillance & privacy

#englandfootball #WorldCup #HDvideo demand poses big questions for ISPs #DEAct #finalthirdfirst

Timico’s video traffic grew by around 30% when England were playing their pre tournament “friendly” football match in South Africa yesterday.

ISPs have been speculating as to what might happen during the tournament itself and especially on June 23rd which is England’s first midweek daytime match. At the recent LINX meeting in London it was suggested that the BBC is forecasting a huge increase in demand for iPlayer, a system which had itself been unable to cope on the Friday following the 2010 election polling day.

All ISPs will have to cope with the demand in their own ways during the World Cup and I’m sure that many will not cope, although it will be difficult to tell whether it is the ISP’s own network, BBC iPlayer or the local telephone exchange that is suffering from congestion.

All this did prompt me to think about where the demand for video streaming is taking us. At Timico video represents roughly 25 – 30% of daytime bandwidth demand. You don’t have to be visiting YouTube to be downloading video. These days it happens automatically if you are on the BBC news website or other online newpapers such as the Daily Telegraph.

The average video stream seen by Timico is around 0.8 to 1Mbps. HD video from the BBC takes approximately 18Mbps or 20x the current average. Only people with FTTC type broadband speeds will be able to stream at these rates but if all our users were doing so then potentially we would have a scenario where we will need up to 7 x the currently required total bandwidth to support our broadband customers.

BT is saying that by 2012 it will have 40% of the population served by FTTC enabled exchanges so within two years there is an extreme scenario where 40% of that 7x bandwidth multiplier could actually be used, or 3x that of today. All because of HD video. These figures are very rough, back of a fag packet but they are probably not a million miles off the mark.

Recent historical trends suggest that internet bandwidth usage has been growing by 50% a year and this datapoint does reflect actual growth seen at Timico. Some of this will be due to video usage but what is being suggested here is that the advent of HD video will blow this historical trend out of the water. The worst case scenario will likely not materialise but it will be something in that direction. Usage is going to accelerate.

This poses some interesting problems. A big percentage of the cost of delivering broadband to a customer is the cost of the bandwidth (the other main bits are line rental and support). If bandwidth usage trebles over the next two years then the wholesale cost to ISPs would have to drop by 66% in order for prices to stay still. I can’t see this happening with the near monopoly that is still BT although competition from Virgin will undoubtedly help (LLU operators are going to be stuck with BT for FTTC).

How much do we think consumers would be wiling to pay for this extra bandwidth? Based on track record not much I’d say. Will content providers such as the BBC be willing to stump up? You don’t need me to answer that one for you. At the end of the day the old saying still going to hold true: “you get what you pay for”. Question is what are you willing to pay?

PS I’ll be camping on Saturday night when the first England match is on. If I remember I might tune in on my wind up wireless set. Perhaps not.

PPS you will have noted my experiments with hashtags in the title of this post. They are all relevant, even if the relevance to #finalthirdfirst is actually because rural dwellers will continue to be the impoverished country cousins in all this.

Trefor Davies

By Trefor Davies

Liver of life, father of four, CTO of, writer, poet,

2 replies on “#englandfootball #WorldCup #HDvideo demand poses big questions for ISPs #DEAct #finalthirdfirst”

Interesting that a business ISP such as Timico has spotted this trend, I wonder what the effects are going to be on ISPs with residential customers? I hope none of the matches are in business hours or we could be in for some trouble…
…what if the work files are stuck in the copper traffic jam?

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