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BBC iPlayer crosses legal hurdle to roll-out
Thursday 08 June 2006 14:58:00 by Andrew Ferguson

The BBC is pushing ahead with its Peer to Peer based iPlayer service, and has apparently renegotiated the terms under which is can broadcast content from independent film/TV and animation companies. This new deal means that the content will be available straight after its on air showing and for seven days thereafter. Some more detail can be found on The Register.

The original trial closed earlier in 2006. This trial saw people downloading around one hours TV content per week, which equates to around 2GB per month. What is not always clear with the Peer to Peer nature of the distribution method, is how much data is uploaded over the end-users connection, i.e. as you are downloading content others are also taking a copy of it from your machine. The ratio of download to upload can vary depending on how long people leave the actual software running on their computer. For consumers on a service that charges for traffic in both the upload and download directions this may prove expensive, or for those providers using tiered traffic management, the extra upload traffic may result in you moving onto a harsher management scheme.

Currently in the UK around 70 to 80% of broadband users actually use less than 2GB per month, so if services like the BBC iPlayer become popular, they may significantly alter traffic patterns for service providers. If providers view the iPlayer traffic as a non time critical application along with most other peer to peer applications there is also the chance that iPlayer will not see widespread take-up, as people will be dissatisfied with the time taken to download content.

So a good question is, how closely has the BBC liaised with the service providers to see how they are planning to handle the service, and also by the BBC reducing its own bandwidth costs by using peer to peer is it simply moving the costs off to other companies. The pricing model for bandwidth and connections between the public and service providers does not always follow the same model used in other countries, so just because the model works elsewhere may not make it the most cost effective model for the UK.

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