BBC Breaks the Internet

Here’s a sign of the impending Exaflood, from the UK where the BBC’s iPlayer is breaking the Internet’s congestion controls:

The success of the BBC’s iPlayer is putting the internet under severe strain and threatening to bring the network to a halt, internet service providers claimed yesterday.

They want the corporation to share the cost of upgrading the network — estimated at £831 million — to cope with the increased workload. Viewers are now watching more than one million BBC programmes online each week.

The BBC said yesterday that its iPlayer service, an archive of programmes shown over the previous seven days, was accounting for between 3 and 5 per cent of all internet traffic in Britain, with the first episode of The Apprentice watched more than 100,000 times via a computer.

iPlayer is P2P, which is why the traffic it generates doesn’t bother BBC. And of course it has an impact on all the regional and core links in the UK, which are not provisioned with tonnes of idle capacity just in case a New Big Thing comes along that nobody anticipated. The impact of BBC’s P2P is comparable to half of America’s major networks offering P2P at the same time for all recent programming, for free. It’s considerable. But more is on the way, as it’s not unreasonable to imagine the day coming when IPTV is the primary delivery vehicle for video. How much capacity will that take?

Let’s do some rough math on the bandwidth needed to redirect 60 hours of TV viewing a week to the Internet: for SDTV, 2.5 Mb/s * 60 hours is 67.5 GB/week or 270 Gigabytes per month. For HDTV, we can multiply that by 4, to roughly a Terabyte per month. Consumers today probably use what, a Gigabyte per month?

To put it another way, let’s say America’s broadband customers all watched TV over their Internet connections at the same time, with a split of 50-50 between SD and HD. The typical cable modem installation would be able to support 5 users instead of the 150 that’s common today, so a 30 time node split. With DOCSIS 3.0, it could go to 20, so approximately an 8 time node split would be needed.

Verizon FiOS would be OK with 20 Mb/s per house at the first hop and second hops, but would need fatter pipes upstream and at the Tier 1 interface. They own the Tier 1 network, so they could expand that interface economically, while cable would have to pay Level 3 and their other suppliers.

How much capacity increase will we need in the core? It depends on caching. Without caching, we’re probably looking at a 1000 times increase, and with caching probably no more than 100 times, and probably much less. As disks continue to decline in price relative to wholesale BB connections, this is where the market action will be.

So we’re looking at a major sales opportunity for CMTS and cache companies, and P2P for the TV networks because they clearly don’t want to pay for their end of the pipes.

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