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Analysing demand for faster and faster broadband
Wednesday 06 November 2013 11:22:55 by Andrew Ferguson

When you live at the cutting edge and are maybe already consuming 10 or more hours per week of your TV viewing via the Internet is can be easy to assume everyone must have a 100 Mbps connection to be able to keep up. Liv Garfield caused some controversy with comments that 24 Mbps was all a family needed back in 2012. Now we have a paper published by the Broadband Stakeholder Group that looks at the domestic demand for bandwidth and attempts to look forward to 2023 and how this demand will change.

"In publishing this report we are not presenting a magic number for desired bandwidth speeds one decade out. Rather, we are demonstrating that to facilitate an informed policy debate around whether broadband infrastructure in the UK will enable consumers to do what they want over time, then we need to develop a better evidence base. Like any good maths student, we have not simply given a number, but shown our working. We want to use this to develop a formative and evidence based discussion on future bandwidth needs and what this means for wider broadband policy."

Pamela Learmonth, CEO of the Broadband Stakeholder Group (BSG)

So keeping the above in mind, the projection is that the median household will require bandwidth of 19 Mbps by 2023 and the top 1% will have a demand of 35 to 39 Mbps. This seems low but all depends on how tolerant the public is to waiting for things like downloads, and while the trend is for ever higher resolution TV streaming, with sales of 4K televisions expected to be low for some years, we may even see video bandwidth demand growth slowing down once HD becomes the norm. The full paper is worth a read if you disagree as this contains their assumptions and also various other models, but consider that 2 people sat at home both watching their own IPTV stream and web browsing should comfortably fit into 15 Mbps and you can see that the real variable is around size of the household and how tolerant people are for the download of large files.

Smart metering used to feature in calls for better broadband infrastructure, but getting energy and telecommunication firms to work together has not worked in the UK, but if the example that Italian smart metering needs just 2.4 kilo bits per second (Kbps) then this hardly needs a superfast let alone a fibre to the premises. Telemedicine while expected to be a highly lucrative market also gets the small bandwidth treatment, as ECGs can be delivered using less bandwidth than a standard phone call and there is the reminder than online gaming at least during actual game play usually uses less than 60 Kbps, adding voice increases this and the report does look at cloud based gaming, which can be accounted for as just another video stream.

There are those that will say this report is rubbish, and while it would appear to say that full fibre networks are not needed for sometime since the bandwidth requirements are well within the scope of FTTC, fixed wireless and LTE Advanced it will only take a massive drop in price of 4K televisions or for digital gaming content to be a lot cheaper to buy than the physical media and we may see the bandwidth needs of shifting higher and higher.

Perhaps the 95% at this speed, 98% by this date debate needs to move on and without abandoning these shorter term dates the regulatory framework and political interference from Westminster and Brussels and look at things like getting FTTH to 75% of UK premises by 2028 and how it could be pushed beyond this in the subsequent years.


Posted by broadband66 over 3 years ago
"but consider that 2 people sat at home both watching their own IPTV stream and web browsing"

Seems like the art of conversation might be dieing.
Posted by themanstan over 3 years ago
indeed, people facebooking when sat on the same sofa is not unknown!
Posted by herdwick over 3 years ago
similar to their previous work, improved codecs to the rescue.

If broadband is just becoming the distribution method to feed the idiot's lantern it becomes more difficult to justify economically.

You can do smart metering with SMS text messaging, and my GP can't receive or send emails to patients let alone do anything bandwidth intensive.
Posted by Somerset over 3 years ago
re your GP - Won't not can't.
Posted by Ripley over 3 years ago
Scrap the HS2 project and just focus on getting fibre to the premises for everybody. £42 billion will go a long way. Then weigh in all the local loop copper to continue the funding.

Why waste all that money cutting 10 minutes off a train journey to London, when the whole county could be better connected and we could be the best in the world.
Posted by pcoventry76 over 3 years ago
I read lastnight that the 4k video Netflix is trialling will need a minimum of 100mbps to run right.

Posted by Dixinormous over 3 years ago
No idea where that's coming from. Netflix's 4k video trials are around the 15Mb/s mark.
Posted by pcoventry76 over 3 years ago
Odd I thought that was SuperHD? Which is not the same as it's already in use.

it came from here.

"We think streaming of 4K TV services will require minimum broadband speeds of about 100Mbps to work properly, but only businesses, production houses and a limited number of homes currently have that kind of speed."

I assume TV services and Netflix 4K would be the same?
Posted by Dixinormous over 3 years ago
Here's some test videos, Pete. Need USA VPN:
Posted by 21again over 3 years ago
It's funny how many rural areas thirty + years ago could hardly get a 625 line TV service once the 425 line was shut down i.e. no help from the BBC/Government of the day they had to go it alone with very little cash from local councils that were willing to help, now those same/similar areas are having to find a way to get an internet connection of 2 Meg which is pretty poor all things considered.
It's the politicians/government of the day/decade/century that have deleted the Great out of GB.
(rant over)
Posted by pcoventry76 over 3 years ago
Thanks Dixi - but when I tried it I got

Your search for 4K did not have any matches.

I will try again. I was VPN'ing to New York so i'll try another one.
Posted by HesdinUK over 3 years ago
I assume that when the only application for electricity was light bulbs a one or two person household used far less electricity than they do today. As the number of devices that require connection grows so will the need for synchronous bandwidth.
Posted by pcoventry76 over 3 years ago
No no joy I can tell I am on the USA VPN as the USA has series 2 of top gear but UK only has like 12 onwards.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 3 years ago
4k when Sony announced talked about 100 Mbps needed, then H265 arrived and bit rate dropped dramatically.
Posted by herdwick over 3 years ago
@Ripley where's the business case to put to investors for FTTP ? HS2 may not break even but a substantial amount of the capital cost will be loans etc that are repaid to the lenders.

HS2 does not involve £42bn of treasury money being thrown at a rail line. It's a Quango taking on a massive debt to be repaid from track access charges etc.
Posted by Dixinormous over 3 years ago
@herdwick HS2 is not forecast to be profitable directly in any way, shape or form. If it were the private sector would be building it. The theory is that it'll benefit the UK economy hence return in tax revenues enough to offset its cost. Clearly nonsense of course, that analysis is fatally flawed and upgrade of existing assets alongside removing local train services from mainlines through localised construction is really the way to go.

Pretty much all the cost is likely to be loans, we aren't even close to running a surplus even without HS2.
Posted by herdwick over 3 years ago
The revenue line for HS2 is about half the costs, the difference is made up from the generic benefits as you say.

Where is the equivalent case for FTTP ?
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 3 years ago
Perhaps the equation is more

What additional benefit is there from 95% of UK having option of 30 Mbps connection in 2017, versus them being able to order a 300 Mbps or faster connection?

Most FTTP benefit analysis works from a no bb or just ADSL speeds.

Would love FTTP - but once spending public money you have to think long and hard.
Posted by rogerebbrown over 3 years ago
How about the benefits of reducing physical travel through improved electronic connectivity? We need more productive work to fund our lifestyle, with more homeworking (where possible) and less commuting. There would still be many needs for improved physical travel of course but much wasted time and cost of commuting could be saved. We need economic growth while avoiding gridlock in cities.
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