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Will Bandwidth Support a Video Golden Age?

Dec 20, 2006 2:26 PM


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Predictions of a dawning golden age for business video are generally based on the simultaneous blossoming of more powerful tools for video compression and transmission and the bandwidth necessary to spread video throughout offices and business parks worldwide.

Although both trends have plenty of enthusiasts, there’s also the occasional cautionary note. “Ironically, video transport may well be the application that sucks all the bandwidth out of the pipe. The short-lived bandwidth glut from the tech boom meltdown could soon become the bandwidth famine that caps technology deployment,” comments John Shepler, owner and publisher of T1 Rex's Business Telecom Explainer, a blog produced by T1Rex, a provider of Internet connectivity resources, including fiber-optic lines.

“High-end video just isn't practical over T1 copper lines,” Shepler tells AV Over Fiber, “so the move will be to DS3 services and native IP networks based completely on fiber. I see competitive fiber-optic carriers, especially with all-IP networks, growing like crazy.”

A big part of this bandwidth demand will be generated by corporate users rolling out “telepresence” capabilities to replace older video- and audioconferencing systems. Cisco Systems staged a well-publicized launch in October for its own TelePresence Meeting Solution. According to the company, “[It] combines the industry’s first ultra-high definition 1080p video and high-quality, wideband spatial audio, imperceptible low latency, with comprehensive environmental design. Meeting participants feel as if they are in the same room together.”

Rich Mavrogeanes, CEO of VBrick Systems, cheerfully retorts that his company “invented the term telepresence back in 1997.” However, he adds, “We’re happy for them [Cisco] to use the name. More people have heard of Cisco than have heard of VBrick.”

Either way, Mavrogeanes says, “Being able to deploy two-way broadcast-quality video really changes things. Today it requires less than 1Mb to send broadcast-quality video. I think we are at an inflection point right now; there now is sufficiently good compression technology at this magic, confluent moment when there is sufficient bandwidth to utilize that new compression technology, and that’s why you’re seeing digital video really, really take off now.”

But will there be sufficient bandwidth? Cisco’s Mike Volpi, senior vice president and general manager in the company’s Routing and Service Provider Technology Group, says, “Video is a very intensive medium when you transform it digitally. It requires a lot of bandwidth.”

In Shepler’s view, “Digital video production, transport, streaming, and downloads will sop up available bandwidth far faster than the move to VoIP telephony or VPNs for small and medium-size businesses. Video is a bandwidth hog the way graphics programs are memory hogs and simulations are processing hogs.

“It's not hard to understand why the telcos and cable operators are running fiber to the curb or home as fast as they can trench it.”

Shepler predicts corporations will piggyback on the rollout of fiber-to-the-premises, and to Mavrogeanes, the resulting corporate marketplace is the real potential gold mine for professional AV.

But only if the fundamentals are in place, including bandwidth. Volpi says, “We have to construct an end-to-end system to refine and improve the video experience that consumers have today, because they have very high expectations for video.”



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