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The Truth or Otherwise About Bandwidth Projections

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shutterstock_175505288The Australian Financial Review recently hosted a panel discussion focusing on broadband projections. The discussion panel included Rob Kenny of Communications Chambers, Dr. Rod Tucker of the Institute for a Broadband-Enabled Society and Gary McLaren, formerly chief technology officer with NBN Co.

The panel discussion explored the question of the broadband capacity the average Australian household will need in the foreseeable future.

As is the case with panel discussion of this type, proponents of different views are brought together to argue their case.

Rob Kenny maintained his view that that at least half of Australian households will only need 15 Mbps as far ahead as 2023. His central argument is that video is the application that places the greatest demand on bandwidth and improvements in video compression would result in users requiring less bandwidth.

Facing opposing views, Mr. Kenny emphasised that the average Australian household only contains two people and, even if both persons were surfing the web and watching HD TV, they would only need a bandwidth capacity of 10 Mbps.

The opposing view, presented by Dr. Tucker, pointed out that new development in TV technology would require increased bandwidth. He pointed out that both 4K and 8K TV are on the horizon and that these technologies would place considerable demand on bandwidth capacity.

Responding to these claims, Kenny said that the consumer electronics industry has doubts about 4K TV being widely accepted. He claimed that people with regular eyesight would see no measurable difference between HDTV and 4K TV and that 8K TV has more pixels (resolution) than the eye can resolve.

Proceeding from here, the panel discussed the impact on NBN’s profitability in a scenario where Rob Kenny’s projections turn out to be true. McLaren pointed out that NBN faces competition from mobile and public Wi-Fi network providers who could seriously challenge the NBN’s profitability if Kenny’s projections turn out to be true. With bandwidth capacity contained to 15 Mbps, a number of 4G Long-Term Evolution networks (LTEs) would offer comparable capacity.

A contrary view

A technology projection missing from this panel discussion is the evolution of microprocessor technology. Developments in this area are of a magnitude that could feasibly make video compression and bandwidth capacity irrelevant.

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