Bandwidth Growth: Nearly What One Would Expect from Moore's Law

If you believe consumer demand for bandwidth is going to slow down, you might not worry so much about creating more Internet access supply.

But it would take a brave forecaster indeed to argue that bandwidth growth will not continue at substantial rates, for the foreseeable future.

If current trends continue, people will need, and use, connections of a gigabit per second by 2020.

That might seem wild. It is not, and simply reflects a continuation of existing trends.

This really should shock you: consumer Internet access bandwidth has grown about as fast as Moore’s Law would suggest, according to Jakob Nielsen, Professor Rod Tucker and Phil Edholm, former Nortel's CTO.

Consider a 2004 prediction (remember that in 2000 most U.S. Internet users were on dial-up connections). 

“Edholm's Law says that in about five years (that would have been 2009) 3G (third-generation) wireless will routinely deliver 1 Mbps, Wi-Fi will bring nomadic access to 10 Mbps, and office desktops will connect at a standard of 1 gigabit per second.”

History has shown that prediction to be about right for mobile, possibly too conservative for Wi-Fi, while too optimistic about desktop connections.

Consider improvements in backhaul network bandwidth since about 1950, and especially since the advent of optical fiber. Backhaul bandwidth grows at a 30 percent annual rate, compared to the 50 percent a year rate of Moore’s Law processes.
    Historic Growth of Internet Access Bandwidth, Microwave Journal
Between 1984 and 2013, fixed network speeds have grown nearly as fast as Moore’s Law would suggest, as crazy as that sounds, knowing the physical nature of access networks, which are construction projects, not software apps.

Still, the data is stubborn and clear: Internet access bandwidth has grown about 50 percent annually since 1984.

Nielsen's Law is similar to Moore's Law. You might predict that computing capabilities would increase faster than access bandwidth, simply because access networks are construction intensive. 

Moore's Law suggests that computers double in capabilities every 18 months, corresponding to about 60 percent annual growth. Nielsen’s Law predicts bandwidth will grow at about 50 percent a year.

It isn't clear how ISPs in rural and remote areas will keep up. It certainly will not be easy. Still, history suggests that speeds, affordability and coverage will continue to progress in tough-to-reach areas, even if not fully at the pace of the urban areas where supplying bandwidth is easiest.

source: IEEE

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