Bandwidth Caps & 4K TV: A Glimpse into Telco’s Future

Posted: April 28th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Industry Insights | Tags: , , | Comments Off on Bandwidth Caps & 4K TV: A Glimpse into Telco’s Future

Last month, Sky and TalkTalk announced that they would be teaming up to build fibre-optic infrastructure across a number of cities in the UK.  This is an important landmark, as more operators look ahead into architectures based entirely on IP.

As Sky and TalkTalk experiment with an architecture that can pipe broadband direct into homes and businesses, this new infrastructure will provide customers with one of the most exciting things on the horizon: 4K TV.

4K TV is about four times as high-definition as regular HD TV, but the crystal-clear picture comes with a diamond-like price. Most consumers aren’t going to adopt 4K TV until that price drops and, until then, there’s another problem – 4K movies consume anywhere from 45 to 60 gigs of bandwidth when downloaded. Still, that hasn’t stifled the enthusiasm for this kind of media. When Comptel was at Mobile World Congress, 4KTV technology figured centrally into a lot of devices on display at the show, as you can see to the left.

This data demand will have big implications for communications service providers (CSPs). Deutsche Telekom said that customers today use about 15GB to 20GB each month. The operator, among many others, is looking at capping bandwidth usage. In this case, a lower-end plan would be capped at 75 GB.

So if 4K media becomes widely used, CSPs may have to radically change bandwidth models to accommodate the sheer diversity of Internet use – some people will be using astronomically more data than others. And by taking a closer look at the situation with 4K TV, we can get a glimpse of this future.

DSL, Cable and Consumers

The current battle in the European Union is between cable and DSL connections. DSL currently makes up 74 percent of broadband connections. While 93 percent of households in the U.S. can choose between cable or DSL, only 42 percent of households in Europe can choose a cable connection.

That leaves a long way to go when you consider the bandwidth requirements of something like 4K TV. Infrastructure will have to be upgraded significantly to allow for higher speeds, or Europe will have to pursue fibre-optic connections, which may or may not be economically viable. Especially in the current climate.

That may be why Netflix’s CEO, Reed Hastings, is convinced that 4K TV will be “the first format that is Internet only.” He believes that broadcast, cable and satellite won’t be able to support the technology. Netflix has already stocked up on some ultra HD videos and even plans to shoot the second season of its self-produced, award-winning series, House of Cards, in 4K.

But which consumers will be able to afford the bandwidth these videos use, given the slow and steady implementation of new caps? Netflix is already planning ahead for this, offering most videos in four different formats and helping users skirt these data limits.

If 4K can’t be broadcast through the digital air without a specific platform on the CSP’s end, subscribers will have to instead find ultra-fast connections just to experience it. The odds are good, too, that they’ll be streaming video from different devices. And, in doing so, they’ll need more bandwidth than ever before.

More Control, More Options

As we’ve seen with the U.S.’s ruling on net neutrality, CSPs are trying to figure out the best way to price the fluctuating costs and rapidly growing requirements of bandwidth usage. With enormous and diverse audiences – and new, bandwidth-heavy innovations like 4K TV – it’s becoming apparent that CSPs need to find a different way to manage traffic. In many cases, this may be where software-defined networking (SDN) and network field virtualization (NFV) come into play, because these technologies will help create a more intelligent and seamless process when it comes to managing changing data needs.

A lot of these changes will also have to do with making the network and service fulfillment process able to deliver an excellent customer experience. It may require applying contextual intelligence to optimise connections for high-value customers. As CSPs create new plans to accommodate more people than ever before, finding a way to get the right service package to them – as fast and efficiently as possible – will become paramount.


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