Near Space Vehicles to Help Solve Video’s Bandwidth Burden

Project LoonIn just a few years time in 2019, a million minutes of video content will cross the Internet every minute. According to Cisco, it would take an individual over 5 million years to watch the amount of video that will cross global IP networks each month in the same year.

There was a time when some would express concerns about our broadband and mobile networks’ would be able to keep pace with the explosive growth of online video, especially with more and more TV being consumed online. But are those concerns valid in 2016? “Shortly, the answer is no, there is no issue with bandwidth and most likely there will never be,” says Przemek Bozek, a ‎Strategy & Technology Consultant at IHS.

“Transmission is a complex matrix with several platforms (satellite, mobile, fibre, digital terrestrial), several spectrum bands and thousands of infrastructure owners that will make sure that we can watch our desired videos whenever and wherever we want. And on top of video transmission we have a CDN architecture that is responsible for caching and limiting the distances between broadcasters/Pay TV/online and customers. However, bottlenecks will keep occurring. To understand and locate them, we have divided our transmission research into three distances: backhaul (between countries and regions), core (inside a given country) and access (last mile). There is still very low utilization of backhaul networks while core and access are being improved constantly. In most of the cases, core networks create these bottlenecks as majority of consumers (at least in developed countries) have access to a high bandwidth.”

Satellite Constellations and Near Space Vehicles to Close the Gap

“It seems that the focus of the industry is currently to offer broadband (and consequently video capable networks) to emerging markets where people either have no reliable connections or their bandwidths are too slow to offer them any commercial services. Initiatives taken by Facebook, Google, OneWeb, SpaceX and several others are in line with that statement. Before 2020, we expect to see large low earth orbiting (LEO) satellite constellations and Near Space Vehicles (such as Project Loon and drones) bridging the deficiency in broadband supply. At the same time, terrestrial mobile service providers and ISPs are increasing their reach and the number of towers/PoPs. IHS expects that by 2030, the total amount of data (including video, but not limited to it) will increase at least over 50 times over 2015. We have developed several scenarios that may affect this number and one of the key factors could be multicasting which currently is too often limited to private networks only.”

However, the future is not a zero sum game when it come to video delivery and not everything will be IP-delivered, according to Nigel Walley, Managing Director at Decipher, a London-based digital media consultancy, who believes that broadcast will continue to play an important role. “Whenever this is discussed, there is always a tendency to look for one type of platform to win completely over the other type. So people always assume that IP has to eventually win over broadcast if the capacity is there.  The difficult truth is that the future TV distribution landscape is going to be an amazing mishmash of distribution technologies.  If you want 10M people  to watch a 4K live feed of the Olympics then putting it up in the air may always be the best thing to do, but its likely that even in that case, there will be some 4K IP streaming going on at the same time for people on the move or without STBs.  The future distribution landscape for TV will involve a bit of everything,” he said.

“There is also the assumption that this stuff always has to get sent out from a single place in the middle to consumers viewing devices out at the edges.  In reality we are seeing the growth of local caches of content.  CDNs do this as part of their network design, but these can also be cable’s local head ends; or the telco’s green boxes on the side of the road – or even big new PVRs sitting in your home.  In this weird world, its possible/likely that loads of content will be broadcast over the air to road-side server caches for local IP distribution,” he added.

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