AUSTIN, Texas -- If you go to bed dreaming of a day when everybody can cut their cords and live together in cable-free harmony, here’s a rude awakening: It could be seven years before the Internet is capable of handling a world that’s all-streaming, all the time, according to Josh Rangsikitpho, chief technology officer at true[x]. “There are real challenges,” he said.
Rangsikitpho made this case at the South by Southwest exposition Saturday afternoon in a quick presentation originally scheduled to be presented by Joe Marchese, CEO of true[x] and a trustee of the Paley Center for Media. Using back-of-the-napkin-type computations, Rangsikitpho made the case that large cable providers such as the Comcast Corp. and large telecommunications companies such as AT&T Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc. could potentially double the bandwith they’re currently provide to streaming firms such as Netflix Inc. -- but no more.
That is nowhere near enough to keep up with the hypothetical demands that would be made by everybody moving to streaming video at the ultra high-definition and 4K resolutions currently being pushed by television-set manufacturers. Rangsikitpho cited recent research by the Nielsen Co., which found the average American watches a little more than 141 hours of TV every month. To back his argument, he used the charges and numbers bandied about during last year’s disputes between Netflix and Comcast, which ultimately ended when the two companies entered into a peering arrangement.
The amount of video already traveling through the pipes of the Internet is staggering, and it is on a growth trajectory that verges on the incomprehensible. According to research by Cisco Systems Inc., almost a million minutes of video content will cross the world’s Internet networks every second by 2018. That same research concludes it would take a single person more than 5 million years to watch the amount of video that will travel across global Internet Protocol networks each month in 2018.
Streaming video already represents 60 percent of all download activity, Rangsikitpho said, citing research done recently by Sandvine. Back in November, the same firm released a report that concluded Netflix alone accounts for nearly 35 percent of all traffic during peak Internet activity hours every day. As more big-media players, including CBS, HBO, NBC and others, enhance and expand their TV programming, it will accelerate something he said is unavoidable: “On-demand TV is the inevitable trend of media consumption."
Building out a solution that will work for everybody will require cooperation from Internet service providers and governments, as well as a clear-eyed interpretation of net neutrality, whose near- and long-term effects are difficult to forecast at this point.
“Will net neutrality ensure that I will be able to spend next weekend finishing up season three of ‘House of Cards’?” Rangsikitpho asked. Well, it “remains unclear what effect [net neutrality] will have on the growth of infrastructure.” In other words, seven years might be an optimistic estimate.