Online video faces bandwidth crunch, says Akamai

Content distribution over the web will face a bandwidth crunch challenge over the next few years unless technology providers can deliver solutions, according to content delivery network provider Akamai.

Speaking at a conference on multi-network solutions organised by content security provider Verimatrix at the NAB show in Las Vegas yesterday, Will Law, principal architect at the media division of Akamai, said that if 10% of a global online subscriber base of 80 million tried to watch streaming video simultaneously at an average speed of 3Mbps, the global bandwidth usage would be three times Akamai’s current peak usage for all web traffic.

Law said that connected devices will likely triple in number from five billion to 15 billion by 2015. He said that today, 500 million users watched an average of 10 minutes of online video content daily. If by 2020, 2.1 billion users watched an average of two hours daily, the internet would have to deliver 1,296 Terabits per second.

Law said there are a number of technologies that can help ameliorate, if not solve, the problem. Video compression codecs are getting more efficient. The next generation HEVC compression format is likely to be 50% more efficient than H264, although there are no devices in the market at the moment. Computing capability is still rising, with quad core becoming the norm this year, he said. Storage density is growing even faster, so if content and service providers preload the top 100 movies on home routers at any one time, that could help ameliorate the problem. Law said multicast could also help, but pointed out that relatively little content is multicast at the moment.

Law said there was also likely to be more creative pricing by ISPs in the future to shape users’ bandwidth consumption behaviour. He said that caching networks were also now working their way deeper into the cellular infrastructure, with operators building their own CDNs. Server density is also increasing, allowing edge servers to generate content at the edge, avoiding trips back to the origin. He said that peer-assisted delivery of content could also help, with the development of mesh network topologies minimising the need for transit back to the origin. Laws said that the aggressive offloading of WWAN traffic to WiFi and the use of adaptive bit-rate streaming could also make a difference.

Tags: Akamai