An article on computerworld cites the difficulties faced by Internet service providers and bandwidth providers in supporting quality video transmissions. In effect, we are not yet ready for broadcast-quality video sent through the pipes.
New Internet TV services such as YouTube and Joost may bring the global network to its knees, Internet companies said today, adding that they are already investing heavily just to keep data flowing.
Google Inc., which acquired online video-sharing site YouTube last year, said the Internet was not designed for TV. It even issued a warning to companies that think they can start distributing mainstream TV shows and movies on a global scale at broadcast quality over the public Internet.
The article quotes Vincent Dureau, Google’s head of TV technology, who said the Web’s infrastructure–including that of Google–doesn’t scale, and is not likely to offer the quality of service that consumers can expect.
Of course, we have to take that in context. That statement was made at the Cable Europe Congress, and Google is probably trying to make concessions so the cable companies–who are also broadband providers–won’t feel their business models threatened.
But there is really a problem with regard to transmitting high-quality videos over the ‘net. It’s not like broadcasting, in which the amount of power and allocation on the radio spectrum would be the same whether you’re transmitting to just one or thousands of viewers (assuming the same coverage area). That’s the point of broadcasting, after all. With the ‘net, each time a person views or downloads a video, that act of downloading or streaming takes up precious bandwidth. Even if bandwidth comes cheap and abundant these days, multiply that millions of times over and you have the potential for bringing down the entire system.
Google is suggesting focusing on narrowcasting instead, in which the delivery of shows would have to be tailor-fit to each consumer’s preferences.
Still, that probably won’t help if everyone is already watching TV online. Right now, estimates peg that majority of Internet traffic is already multimedia transmitted peer-to-peer.
Research firm Gartner Inc. estimates that 60% of the Internet traffic that is uploaded from computers is peer-to-peer traffic, mostly from consumers swapping films and TV shows through select user groups and BitTorrent Inc.
Imagine if that comes close to 100%. The computerworld article also cited that the amount of data that a one-hour video takes is equivalent to an entire year’s worth of emails. If email is the killer app of the Internet, multimedia could well be the app that kills the Internet.
In my opinion, Internet TV will only be viable if consumer subscriptions get fast enough and when there’s an easy way to subscribe to, or download, selections. With my broadband connection, I have to wait about four hours just to download broadcast-quality 40-minute television shows via BitTorrent. If I weren’t such a fan of those shows (and if the local networks aren’t at least two seasons behind) I would probably watch them on cable or free TV instead.