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.