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NXTcomm08: Breaking the Internet
By Kevin Fitchard

Jun 18, 2008 4:13 PM

IDC-Tellabs survey finds NXTcomm attendees believe consumer demands and carriers are on a collision course

The Internet is going to break—at least that’s what half of the people polled by Tellabs and IDC on the NXTcomm08 show floor believe. Of 372 NXTcomm08 attendees polled, the survey found that 51% of participants felt that the increasing capacity demands of high-bandwidth applications like video, file-sharing will “break” the Internet in as soon as two years.

What “break” means exactly is open to interpretation, said Lee Doyle, group vice president and general manager of IDC’s network infrastructure and security products division. Broken could apply to the business model, or it could be taken more literally: a feeling that capacity and user experience will degrade as the costs of maintain the infrastructure of the Internet rise, Doyle said. Regardless of the interpretation, though, there is a definite and strong concern in the industry that the way broadband is offered today cannot keep pace with the growing demand of subscribers, Doyle concluded.

Even more intriguing, Doyle said, is how those surveyed proposed to deal with the impending crisis. Of the 80% of respondents who identified a way to head-off Internet congestion, there views seemed diametrically opposed between maintaining a neutral stance toward the network and establishing policies that limited the way customers used their broadband connections. 32% said service providers should address traffic spikes by prioritizing traffic—namely using the increasingly controversial deep packet inspection (DPI) technologies to set policies for specific types of content. 24% of respondents said that carriers should clear their traffic lanes by metering bandwidth—basically allowing customers to do and download whatever they like over their broadband pipes, but charge them if they exceed a certain bandwidth or overall Gigabyte threshold.

“There are clearly going to be different ways that providers address the issue of bandwidth,” Doyle said. “You’ve already seen different providers take different tacks. Unless you have a regulator saying ‘Thou shalt do this you’ll see operators continue to take separate approaches.”

Video is by far perceived as the biggest bandwidth hog on operators' networks. 43% of respondents estimated that video now encompassed 30% of all Internet traffic, a figure that’s not too far from the truth, Doyle said. IDC’s own studies have found that video consumes a little less than 30% of overall capacity on the Internet. Participants also projected that video would consume 75% of Internet traffic in five years.

The survey also polled attendees on power consumption, mobile broadband and mobile video issues. It found:

--69% said that energy consumption is of more importance than the costs of circuits.
--80% expect that over the next two years, demand for mobile broadband will be far greater in Europe than in North America
--50% said video was the biggest bandwidth hog on the mobile network and 81% said that video would be the single biggest traffic item on the mobile network in five years.

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