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Could BBC1 streaming kill the Internet in the UK?
Thursday 05 June 2008 19:22:44 by Andrew Ferguson

The rows over how broadband providers will cope with the increasing amount of video traffic we are all consuming continues today with the news that the BBC is to make BBC1 available as a live stream at some point in the next few months.

The BBC has tested multicast streaming for the last couple of years which means one stream can be watched by many thousands of people at once but the bandwidth consumed across peering links is roughly the same as just one person viewing the content rather than 1000s of individual streams. Whether this latest roll-out of BBC1 streaming will utilise multicast technology is unknown as the trials revealed problems with ADSL routers not always supporting multicast.

While multicast is touted as a solution to broadcasting live TV over the Internet, with the most popular broadband model which relies on a core ATM network from BT Wholesale, the savings would only be in moving the traffic from the BBC to the broadband providers. The most expensive part of the connection, which is getting the data from the broadband provider to the 5,500 exchanges around the UK, would simply not benefit from multicast technology in today's network structure.

While the BBC is often seen as the body that will cause broadband prices to rise, it should be remembered that the BBC is not the only source of live video. BBC content generally has scope to be massively more popular than for example live music concerts on Facebook or Myspace.

The biggest danger for broadband providers with live TV is that if an event is popular, and more than 3 or 4% of their customers choose to watch it at the same time, then all the capacity into the provider from exchanges will be swamped. The existing catch-up TV services that stream content will generally be spread out over a larger time frame reducing the chance of all the capacity being used for a single task.

So what of the future? From the popularity that video over broadband seems to have it is not going to go away, and while price rises could mean providers can cope better, the price increases likely to guarantee us the ability to do whatever we all want when we want it would be prohibitive. The average consumer is not going to pay £80 or more a month for their broadband even if they can watch TV over it. Distributing the video to servers that are in the telephone exchange at at one of main regional nodes could reduce the costs enough to make it feasible, but also begs the question of who should pay for it? TV companies? the consumer? broadband providers?

Providers with traffic management systems in place will be able to manage the traffic levels from any single one application to avoid services like gaming and web browsing stopping completely. Could providers extend this system to downgrade viewing quality or show a holding screen to users advising them there is insufficient capacity and how would users react?


Posted by Pigmaster over 9 years ago
How would TV Licensing work, current rules state that if any video feed on the internet is also being broadcast live simultaneously then a license is required for the device that you are watching it on.
Posted by seb (Favicon staff member) over 9 years ago
I presume a license would still be required to use it. We will probably find that we need some king of long term solution (e.g. a digital certificate), although modern technology is changing and we've seen the issues with DRM etc.. so I'm not quite sure we're going to see that happen soon.
Posted by herdwick over 9 years ago
we could always invent a radical solution like paying for what you use. People would then spot the benefit of broadcast transmission media like, err, TV ! Watch TV on a TV !

Servers in exchanges or elsewhere don't help with the current ATM point to multipoint architecture.
Posted by -Alex- over 9 years ago
Maybe if the infrastructure was updated to support multicast then neither BT nor the ISPs would have to worry about it. Instead we're stuck with a model which doesn't scale due to the nature of central pipes.

Part of me actually hopes that the BBC does this to show the problems the Internet is facing in this country.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 9 years ago
BT Wholesale has a nice technology demo of what can be done with multicast under 21CN, i.e. one server in big data centre, a server at one of 20 POPs and one in each exchange.
Posted by Foggy_UK over 9 years ago
In the pub one lunchtime BBC management type person says "we wan't to start streaming content over the web". His drinking buddy says "but the UK internet isn't fast enought to handle it?"... Management type replies "that's okay... we'll take the p155 out of BT for a week on national TV... that will fix it!!!"

Posted by Dawn_Falcon over 9 years ago
andrew - great!

It might let ISP's claw back as much as 5% of their added costs under 21CN.

BT's issues with its core infrastructure are not the BBC's problem. If it drives BT bust, it drives BT bust. The companys who buy up the infrastructure in its wake will have to do a better job.
Posted by keith_thfc over 9 years ago
Don't see how this is the BBC's problem - after all just look at all the ISP's offering "superfast unlimited" broadband.

IMHO prices will only rise if the LLU players start to struggle.
Posted by OldWolf over 9 years ago
I want an opt out. In return for guaranteeing that I will never watch TV (live or iPlayer), and never file-share (I'll give permission to block it) I want a guaranteed quality-of-service on my other internet activities.
Posted by OldWolf over 9 years ago
I live on the far side of my village from the exchange. Every evening my response times and throughput go completely to pot. Some evenings it becomes unusable. Clearly those who live nearer to the exchange can respond faster to arriving packets, get their next request out before I've received my packet, so they swallow the bandwidth and dominate the contention. Without traffic-shaping at the DSLAM, I'm stuffed.

It was like porridge at 7 am on Monday. Obviously some bastard watching breakfast TV on his PC. Some people should not be allowed near technology.
Posted by herdwick over 9 years ago
I'll put you down for my P2P-free ISP :-)

Does your ISP's name begin with T by any chance ?
Posted by c_j_ over 9 years ago
1) Multicast
Thank you for pointing out that it's irrelevant, and mentioning that technical alternatives (such as exchange based caching) have problems of their own, which needn't be technical.

2) Licenses
One of the other reports I've seen quotes the licence people, basically a licence is required if you are capable of receiving this service (which surely means if you have a broadband connection?). So the tiny percentage of homes with no TV also now need to show they've no broadband, or the TV detector vans will be unwrapped and come out to get you.
Posted by timmay over 9 years ago
Why wait, you can already watch BBC1 and many other channels with Zattoo.
Posted by aos101 over 9 years ago
c_j_, a TV licence is not required to own a TV or equipment capable of receiving a TV broadcast. You only need a licence when you *use* the equipment to receive TV.

See the TV licensing website:
Posted by _fallen_angel_ over 9 years ago
Try telling the nice man in the detector van that though when he comes calling! lol Even people who don't own a TV get harrassed by TV Licensing on the grounds that they *must* have/use a TV because 99% of the rest of the population does.

If any good at all comes out of this whole streaming TV issue, it'll be that maybe someone, somewhere with some power will wake up and realise that our ageing infrastructure just can't cope with today's technology, let alone tomorrow's, and that something needs to be done NOW! Of course who'll end up footing the bill's a whole different argument...
Posted by dopamine2 over 9 years ago
Have I missed something? Why is it always the BBC's internet activities that create such a fuss? ITV have been live streaming their content for some months now, and I've not read anything about "ITV streaming killing the internet"
Posted by Dawn_Falcon over 9 years ago
Herdwick - Heh. I take it this also blocks all VPN and encrypted connections?
Posted by CARPETBURN over 9 years ago
blah blah blahdy blah blah........ BBC along with a shed load of other channels already broadcast live over a net connection......

This is just another rant from some clowns and a dig at bandwidth intensive activity... People like that need to get over thereself and ISPs need to realise BT and what they charge are the issue, the development of the net isnt gonna stop for a few old codgers.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 9 years ago
Id love to see something totally cripple BT see finally every ISP and the government gang up on them and get something done about their over charging and stupid limitations, its a disgrace.
Thank god i dont have to rely on silly BT bandwidth and their dumb charges for it
Posted by Somerset over 9 years ago
CB - You don't like BT do you? Was it something when you were a child?
Posted by bosie over 9 years ago
Providing a service involves providing one that people actually want or need. Instead of all this protest from ISPs their efforts would be better spent looking for ways to improve the network to facilitate it. Recent price cutting to-the-bone has left the industry with very little room for manoeuvre and the BBC is doing a very good job by highlighting this problem and indeed the model imposed by BT Wholesale. You could argue the public wants the cake-and-eat-it but this is also true of ISPs so we need to find a better common ground.
Posted by quintmixt over 9 years ago
I'm interested in hearing from people being hit by the downsides. When there is a big football match on or something similar, all my Internet functionality vanishes. I can't surf, email or anything. I'm on BT BB Option 1 in the Portsmouth area. Any comments or ideas as to what to do?
Posted by warweezil over 9 years ago
I dont see 21CN being especially streaming friendly if other ISP's follow the same pricing route as Enta, where 21CN peak times have been increased by 3 hours a day PLUS Sat and Sun being added - an increase of peak hours averaging an extra 200 hours per month of "peak time", compensating for this with a mere 5gb data allowance over my current 30/300 gb package.

Given the way this is being put together, I see little attraction for a mulitple user household, under this pricing model, Id be too paranoid about exceeding my limit to make too much use of streaming.

Posted by rinpoche over 9 years ago
It's already possible to watch Newsnight live on their website at (you can watch previous editions but when it's airing you can watch it live) no questions asked.

However it's true that a license isrequired to watch live TV.

There's a rather curious situation that has arisen with the TV license. It used to be that if you s
Posted by rinpoche over 9 years ago
It's already possible to watch Newsnight live on their website at (you can watch previous editions but when it's airing you can watch it live) no questions asked.

However it's true that a license isrequired to watch live TV.

There's a rather curious situation that has arisen with the TV license. It used to be that if you s
Posted by rinpoche over 9 years ago
(continued - hitch)

but this situation can't be reported here as it's troo long. Oh well and last time I post here.

Posted by Dawn_Falcon over 9 years ago
warweezil - The added costs to ISP's for 21CN have to come from somewhere!
Posted by CARPETBURN over 9 years ago
quote"warweezil - The added costs to ISP's for 21CN have to come from somewhere!"

AKA the BT approach of we will supply a dire service and idiots will pay and approve of it.

Wheres all the big gobs that ranted at me when i said it would be expensive for the consumer and a pointless service now huh??? What you got to say about your claims this would basically be a BT utopia of a service... Excuse me i need to go roll about in fits of laughter again!
Posted by Fellwalker over 9 years ago
multi casting is what airwaves are for - broadcast of data for anyone to pick up. Internet is for thoughtful chosen research and downloading of specific data. Jail is for people downloading films illegally. The BBC should be looking at broadcasting more different feeds on normal TV. I remember when digital was introduced we were promised live TV, and many different camera feeds of the same event so taht we could choose which one we wanted to use. Sadly the spare channels all seem to be home shopping or repeats of old shows. I am fed up with hogs using bandwidth for the wrong thing.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 9 years ago
quote"I am fed up with hogs using bandwidth for the wrong thing."

Im fed up with people that refuse to accept developments in technology and what those developments can provide but i still have to listen to it.
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