Sunday, 7 March 2010
It's a simple enough question. In the last year I've heard answers ranging from 2Mbps right up to 1Gbps. Many people, when not burdened by the economics, seem to be in the 100Mbps camp these days. Perhaps that's because it seems like 100Mbps will be enough for the foreseeable future, but will it?
What does history show us? In 1990 there was nothing much more than simple text flying around the internet that required little bandwidth. Back then, how many of us predicted the arrival of social media sites like FaceBook and Flickr, or the BBC iPlayer or NetFlix? Was the advent of broadband a necessity because of sites like YouTube, or was YouTube a response to the newly available bandwidth?
In 2001 I bought a 2GB hard drive for my computer. At the time it seemed like I'd never be able to fill it. Now I'm installing 2TB drives.
If there's one thing experience of computing and networks tells us, it's that you can never have enough capacity. What seems a lot now may be rendered inadequate sooner than we anticipate. You don't have to predict what's coming, just know that it will.
And something is.
NHK in Japan and British Sky Broadcasting in the UK are proposing an ultra-high definition video format that will deliver a resolution of 4000 lines compared to 1080 for HDTV. Currently it requires about 45Mbps to broadcast in 2D. If the broadcast industry is right this time and 3D is here to stay, that's be even more bits. Multiply that by the number of people in the house watching different programming at the same time. Then there's also the possibility of ultra-HD games running on-demand from the cloud. Suddenly 100Mbps doesn't sound like very much at all.
Broadcast standards take years to arrive in the marketplace. But they will arrive. The fibre we lay now will still be there when they do. Is it time to start talking about gigabit FTTH?