How Hollywood Is Creating a Bandwidth Gap

How Hollywood Is Creating a Bandwidth Gap

The home of the future is headed for a speed bump.

Demand for digital content in the home—and in particular high-quality, high-definition—is on the rise, says Danny Kaye executive vice president of global research and technology strategy at 20th Century Fox. In 2014, an estimated 80 million people in the U.S. used streaming services to watch approximately 3.4 billion movies on their personal devices. In the same year, 457 million movies on discs got bought in the U.S., he said during a presentation at ARM TechCon recently[1].

Sales of Ultra HD TVs and phones are also on the rise. UHD TV shipments will rise from 77,000 in 2013 to 45.6 million in 2018 while 4K Ultra HD smartphone shipments will go to 153.4 million[2].

The content exists, the hardware is there and people are gravitating toward the experience.

So what’s missing?

Speed and capacity, he adds.

The average speed came to 4.6 megabits per second in 2014 and rose to 5 mbps this year. By 2019, it will hit 11.3 mpbs[3]. By contrast, global consumer Internet traffic is going from 33,593 petabytes per month in 2014 to 41,333 petabytes per month in 2015. By 2019, it will hit a whopping 111,592 petabytes per month. To put it simply, traffic is growing at a faster rate and the sheer volume of consumer data will more than triple in a few years[3].

If you’ve ever gotten the “please come back later” notice from Netflix or Hulu, you’ve experienced the bandwidth gap firsthand. This isn’t to blame service providers or network equipment vendors. It’s just a reality. Increasing network speeds require scientific breakthroughs and often lengthy construction projects. Networks, like freeways, never improve as fast as we want.

The gap could even grow wider with virtual reality. Virtual reality developers are talking about systems that deliver 90 frames per second with less than 20 milliseconds of latency.

There are really only two viable ways out of the dilemma. One is to stick with streaming. Unfortunately, streaming can provide a diminished experience, particularly at peak periods. Compression can help but compression quality can be “seriously degraded.”

The other solution is prepositioning, or letting users downloading likely-to-be-viewed content in local/regional storage caches. The edge, in other words, will become a larger and more important part of the cloud. (The rapid growth of the edge and the role Korean pop music had in the phenonmenon is one of the more interesting unappreciated stories in enterprise these days.) With prepositioning, users don’t watch online: they replay downloads that trickled in during earlier slow periods.

“You get flawless playback and you can buy or watch on any device,” he said. “It’s a hybrid approach. You’re capitalizing on off-peak times.”

Fox is part of an effort called VIDITY, a specification for downloading premium video to set-top boxes, TVs and other devices securely for playback or sharing. (SanDisk, Western Digital, Fox and Warner Bros. are the founding members of the effort which now counts more than 50 participants like LG, Samsung, Dolby and Cisco.)

Could you eliminate the need for local storage with, let’s say, a 100 gpbs link? Sure, “but we’re not going to be there anytime soon,” he said.

  • The data comes from Kaye’s presentation and his sources are: Fox Media Tech Tracker[1], CEA/Futuersource[2], Cisco VNI 2015, Sandvine 1H 2015, NPD 1q13, Fox Home Entertainment[3]

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