At first sight the news that the BBC is to extend its terrestrial channel coverage of the 2006 World Cup and the Wimbledon Championships to UK broadband users is not that exciting - pretty much everyone with broadband in the UK will have access to BBC1 and BBC2. What may appeal more to people is that the interactive coverage will also be available online, and various highlights packages for those that miss the live coverage. Details of the two events and BBC coverage are on the BBC Sports website - 2006 World Cup and Wimbledon Championships.
Video over a broadband connection is not new, but getting connection speeds sufficient that the content is actually watchable for more than a movie trailer has perhaps been the key to widespread acceptance as a content medium. The danger now in the UK is that if too many people start watching video using their broadband connections, and more specifically ADSL connections provisioned over the BT IPstream platform that peak time usage will rocket, and providers will be left with difficult choices. Spend more money on BT Centrals to cope with the change in usage patterns, or implement harsher traffic management systems to free up capacity for the video streaming, or just allow the peak time congestion to be more visible to the end-user, or horror upon horror increase the price of the service. The BBC is currently trialling multi-cast technology which in theory can cut down on the amount of bandwidth used by popular video streams, but the way the BT IPstream network is set-up and priced multi-cast will offer little or no savings to UK service providers.
This is the area where the LLU providers have an advantage, since the backhaul from the exchanges is more under their control, rather than priced to ensure competitors are not priced out of the market. These pricing agreements/regulations may all alter once a figure of 1,500,000 unbundled lines in the UK is reached, since BT undertook to not fiddle too much with IPStream pricing until that time. Given that this trigger point looks set to be breached around the end of 2006, hopefully we will soon hear of what BT Wholesale has planned for 2007, both price and product wise.
The observant reader may also have noticed that almost all the forthcoming video over DSL services are proposing a TV set-top box which will utilise Freeview broadcasts, thus reducing the amount of content delivered over the DSL connection. To some extent this makes sense though no matter what the economics of the broadband network, services like Freeview and Sky are much more efficient at delivering TV shows that millions will watch. Video over broadband to succeed needs to ensure it offers people something they cannot get over broadcast services. For example coverage of matches at Wimbledon that would not normally be shown on TV.
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