After a few years where Wi-Fi looked to be a dead duck, the last few weeks has seen a number of announcements that are likely to boost the number of people using the various Wi-Fi networks around the UK.
The BBC is the latest, announcing that news, programme websites and downloads will be available via a new Adobe Flash version of the iPlayer for free at locations that have a Wi-Fi hotspot run the by The Cloud.
Normally to access any content at a hotspot you have to pay an access fee, the BBC content will be available without any login or subscription fee. The Flash version looks set to be restricted to laptops currently, those using things like the Sony PSP and Nokia 95 are going to have to wait a while, but it appears the ambition is to extend access to those devices.
Apparently 250,000 people are already regularly using the iPlayer each week, which is around 1.6% of the people with a broadband connection in the UK.
With spectrum capacity severely limited on Freeview at least until 2012 we believe quite strongly that IP (internet protocol) is a great route to getting HD out to wider audience. ... We do not believe there will be an impact on the infrastructure of the UK internet. It is more than capable of dealing with this level of demand.Ashley Highfield, BBC director of Future Media and Technology
If the BBC rolls out HD downloads the change in the amount downloaded is likely to be large, and high resolution content may actually encourage more people to join. Apparently the corporation has started talking to providers about any potential impact of HD content. As for the statement about UK infrastructure coping, I am sure those people at broadband providers where nighttime congestion is already slowing down some applications will suggest otherwise.
At the end of the day using an IP infrastructure to distribute essentially broadcast information is very inefficient, multi-cast technology does exist to deliver the same data to millions in a more effecient manner. The suggestion of downloading content overnight is perhaps OK for TV set-top boxes, but millions of people are not going to leave their computer switched on overnight running up their electricity bill. A PC consuming 100W running for 5 hours 150 nights of the year would add around £3 to £10 depending on your electricity tariff to run.