The tablet generation is pushing networks to the edge

December 18, 2012 // By Jean-Pierre Joosting
With Christmas expected to bring another leap in ownership of tablets, smartphones and other devices, new research from Bell Labs, the research arm of Alcatel-Lucent suggests that increasing consumption of video content on such devices will push the wired broadband networks that carry this traffic to their absolute limits over the next decade.

Bell Labs projections suggest that, by 2020, consumers in the United States alone will access seven hours of video each day – as opposed to 4.8 hours today,and will increasingly consume this additional video on tablets, both at home and on the go. Significantly, the research also points to a dramatic shift in viewing habits, as consumers switch from broadcast content to video-on-demand services, which will grow to 70% of daily consumption compared with 33% today. The projections also suggest a twelve times increase in internet video content as cloud services, news sites and social networking applications become more video based, and continuously accessible anywhere, anytime on tablets.

Importantly, the study also highlighted how these trends will stretch the capabilities the residential broadband networks many service providers use today: as the delivery of video content rapidly moves from traditional broadcast TV to the ‘unicast’ delivery of personalized content to individuals, disproportionate pressure will be placed on the ‘‘IP edge’ of these networks. The IP – or Internet Protocol - edge is the part of the network where most of the intelligence is needed to deliver sophisticated video and high-speed Internet services is located. Broadcast is a much more efficient way of delivering video services, so the move to unicast creates enormous bandwidth demands on networks.

Marcus Weldon, Chief Technology Officer, Alcatel-Lucent, said: “Delivery of video from the cloud and from content delivery networks to tablets, TVs and smartphones - with guaranteed quality -, presents an exciting new revenue opportunity for communications service providers, but only if they are prepared to take advantage of it. Left unmanaged, the rapid growth in video traffic can turn into a deluge and spell disaster. It is important to look at where service providers’ investments can have the most impact, and this research makes clear that the IP edge of both wireline and wireless networks – which are increasingly becoming one and the same -