It is NOT the end of the world, as we know it

Web Worker Daily links to the article titled “AT&T: Internet to hit full capacity by 2010“. Here is a summary:

Speaking at a Westminster eForum on Web 2.0 this week in London, Jim Cicconi, vice president of legislative affairs for AT&T, warned that the current systems that constitute the Internet will not be able to cope with the increasing amounts of video and user-generated content being uploaded.

Well, thank you for pointing out the obvious, Mr. Jim.  The current systems that constitute the Internet will not be able to cope indeed.  That’s why they will be upgraded, updated, redesigned, and multiplied to cope with the increasing amounts of video and user-generated content.  That’s how it was before and that’s how it will be in the future.

There is this nice concept that I’ve learned about back in the college days.  I don’t remember how it’s called, but it is very related to three terms: “supply”, “demand”, and “equilibrium”.  I’m sure that current economics aren’t as simple, and that there are many better concepts to explain things, but I liked the simplicity of it.  I am also a big believer in the ultimate power – natural balance.  Things can be pulled a little bit left and right, and that’s possible, but in the long term, everything will balance out.

Looking through that prism on the problem of ever increasing Internet traffic, that seems to be like a lot of demand.  If big companies, such as AT&T won’t be able to supply enough, it doesn’t mean that the Earth will stop revolving and wait for them to catch up.  This has been proved before and will be proved again, if needed.  If it will come to the worst, ISPs can be decentralized by self-managing network units (individual or small networks) that interconnect with each other.  That’s actually what happens in areas which are not covered by major Internet Service Providers.  People install their own wireless networks, connect to each other, and between those who can connect them further.  If there will be too much demand for solutions like this, they can be rather easily automated with hardware units and simple software packages.

As to the claims of how fast the traffic will rise, I don’t quite agree.  It will continue to rise at dramatic rates, but not as dramatic as:

“In three years’ time, 20 typical households will generate more traffic than the entire Internet today.”

That’s just insane.

Cicconi added that more demand for high-definition video will put an increasing strain on the Internet infrastructure. “Eight hours of video is loaded onto YouTube every minute. Everything will become HD very soon, and HD is 7 to 10 times more bandwidth-hungry than typical video today. Video will be 80 percent of all traffic by 2010, up from 30 percent today,” he said.

HD is a promising technology, and it has its niche, but saying that everything is will go HD very soon, well… It reminds me of all those claims about radio disappearing when TV came along, and TV disappearing when Internet appeared.  HD will be pretty popular, but there are many areas where it is not applicable.  For example, it will take a long time before mobile phones will learn how to create HD content.

And not to forget the money issue, people are prepared to pay today than they used to before. And they are paying more.  Think about it.  Ten years ago not a lot of people had a dial-up account.  Which was a really crappy way to connect to the Internet.  And it was priced at about $20 USD a month.  Today I pay about $60 USD a month to my ISP, which brings me Internet, television, and telephony through a single cable.  And guess what – I am prepared to pay more.  And guess what – I am by far not alone.  I know more people today who pay $60 USD for their Internet connectivity than I knew before paying for their dial-up connection.

The Internet is changing.  If before it was mostly good for checking email and reading an occasional web site, today it is a powerful tool that solve a whole range of communication and entertainment problems.  Make it better and we’ll pay more.

Oh, and you’ll get paid from the other side too – web services, and the rest of the crowd who make a lot of money on the Internet.  10 years ago a service such as Flickr would be possible.  Or it would have been rather useless.  Today I now more people paying for a Pro account to Flickr than I knew before paying for their dial-up connection.  How’s that?  I’m sure Flickr is ready to pay more for better connectivity.

So, Mr. Jim, stop whining.  It’s not the end of the world.  It doesn’t even look like it. Quite the opposite.  It’s the golden time for the people who work in technology.  Let’s get back to work and make the world a better place.

4 thoughts on “It is NOT the end of the world, as we know it”


  1. I couldn’t agree with you more Leonid. You are absolutely right. I just feel that I reach the same conclusion in a different flavored cone. Multimedia is indeed become a growing bandwidth demanding application type , and people’s demand for it just gives it a non-stop afterburner.

    Today , given how technology i slowly migrating to a higher standards infrastructure to hold the media bandwidth eating apps of tomorrow , you tend to realize that this is never going to happen on a conventional technology such as aDSL. In the tiny 24 megs that DSL2+ can give you or the mere 30+ that can be gained from DOCSIS based connectivity , you still can’t give people HD+INTERNET (10+ Mbps) and a phone line. Its just not feasible. surely with DSL it isnt since 24 megs is only seen if you have a little tent next to your ISP’s DSLAM :)

    Now that companies around the globe are becoming aware of the restraints described above , they are experimenting. ADSL3 they call it , GPON FTTX and so forth. Its all going to happen no matter what. The statements above with regards to Mr. Jim might be a little over the edge but never the less true “in a sense”. Remember when you had a 14K modem and thought that 4 gigs was just too much to download? Well I do. 4 gigs now is peanuts. Thats exactly how we will perceive today’s flow of data around the world tomorrow.

    But true , It is NOT the end of the world :)


  2. Mario,

    thanks for commenting. For a minute there I though I was ranting. :)

    As for the future technologies, I suspect that a more radical solution will be needed. It’s very expensive and slow to re-cable the whole world every time there is an increase in bandwidth requirements. Either we have to go completely wireless, or use something that every house has, will have, and provides enough capacity for growth. Such a water pipe or something. :)


  3. Leonid Hi Again,

    I think I have a little to say on wireless. Recently I had a discussion with a friend regarding the future of wireless. He states that the main issue for wireless technologies not boosting to the sky right away is purely a matter of security and how everything that was once in the cable is now freely available over air even in the case of encryption , you still get someone’s data never the less.

    I state that this is only half the story. We both know that money makes the world go around. Unfortunately this is the sad truth. I believe that another huge factor in it all is how wired technologies have investments that grow rather large in number and time while the world adapts to those . Wired networks are something we built past technologies and have migrated to simply more advanced wired technologies. I think it has a lot to do with money that wireless is not the “next biggest thing” . Imagine how jumping from one technology to the next would affect us. Think of the possible mistakes that could happen. Look at WEP , ridicule . Three minutes to crack using IVs you spent two minutes gathering!! Though there are ways to employ strong bolt security , it just hurts knowing that we introduce a new way for malicious users coming in ; this being the medium they brake that large infrastructures are running on.

    Thats enough from me now , I have to catch me some shut eye. :)

    Nite.


  4. Mario,

    one thing to keep in mind is that most Internet users utilize only a small subset of the Internet applications -- web, email, and instant messaging. More and more web services are switching to or supporting HTTPS access. More and more email is moving towards the web services. And most IM protocols and clients already use or strong support encryption. With that, I think, the security of the network itself becomes less important, since most of the traffic is (or rather will be) encrypted. Encryption, of course, is not a panacea, but it’s an important part that can help increase adoption of wireless.

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