Study predicts serious bandwidth shortages

The demand for internet bandwidth is set to double in two years and grow still further, according to a study carried out by the Institute of Advanced Telecommunications at Swansea University.

The independent 'Global Bandwidth' study said that huge changes in network content and social behaviours, will mean bandwidth demand exceeds 160 Tbits/s by 2010 an annual demand that exceeds the equivalent of the combined broadband network usage of the previous decade (1998-2008).

Professor David Payne, the study's author, has calculated that increasing demands are not likely to lessen as the use of streaming online video and data services expands.

He said: "Around the turn of the millennium, we used to talk about a bandwidth glut'. There was a lot of idle capacity. Networks now are being used in a way that few people foresaw, for example early take-up of personalised video, rather than broadcast television, dominating internet video services."

But Payne found that, based on a range of service scenario models, demands for bandwidth will continue to put increasing pressure on existing network infrastructures and warned of the need for significant infrastructure investment.

"By 2018, assuming that this capacity is made available by the operators, usage could grow to 40 to 100 times the levels seen in networks today," he said. "However it is difficult to see how operators can economically grow existing network architectures to meet this demand and further consideration of the types of networks and the technology deployed is required if they are to ensure profitability."

In particular, Payne called for "significant investment to ensure that businesses can share large files and send high quality images (for health, design and videoconferencing purposes) and home users are able to access and enjoy high definition internet television (IPTV), online gaming and other services requiring large data transfers at high speed such as video-clip and image sharing."

An interim report on the study, commissioned by electronic components manufacturer for communications and defence markets, CIP Technologies is available online.

Miya Knights

A 25-year veteran enterprise technology expert, Miya Knights applies her deep understanding of technology gained through her journalism career to both her role as a consultant and as director at Retail Technology Magazine, which she helped shape over the past 17 years. Miya was educated at Oxford University, earning a master’s degree in English.

Her role as a journalist has seen her write for many of the leading technology publishers in the UK such as ITPro, TechWeekEurope, CIO UK, Computer Weekly, and also a number of national newspapers including The Times, Independent, and Financial Times.