Bandwidth Crunches, Demand Forecasting, and Paid Content

Many reports that are publicized on Vertatique and elsewhere are free, but some are from paid content providers. It becomes difficult to evaluate these when all one has are the publicity assets, which by their nature tend to raise more questions than they answer. A recent prediction on trans-Atlantic bandwidth capacity, picked up by the popular media and amplified in the tweet-o-sphere, provides a case in point.

TeleGeography recently released a submarine cable report forecasting that "trans-Atlantic capacity will be exhausted by 2014". This was picked up by the New York Times (The Coming Trans-Atlantic Bandwidth Crunch), which did not multiple-source the topic, but which caused the prediction to be more widely circulated than might otherwise be the case. I don't fault companies like TeleGeography for promoting their paid content (I had a business information company in the 1990s), but the reports did raise a number of questions in my mind.

1.  TeleGeography had previously identified at least 28 new submarine cable projects that will come online before the 2014 crunch date. Will this directly (trans-Atlantic buildout) or indirectly (rerouting) ease the bandwidth crunch? Or will timely completion fall victim to that other crunch - credit?

2.  Will new High Density Wave Division Multiplexing (HDWDM) technologies significantly increase the carrying capacity of new buildout?

3.  Will potentially higher transmissions costs make offsetting data management strategies (like edge servers) more attractive, thus balancing demand?

4.  How does the recent global economic slowdown and its consequent focus on increased operating efficiencies factor into demand projections? Or, as some carriers have shared with me, there appears to be no slackening so far in the growth of Internet usage.

5.  Will Green ICT efforts reduce bandwidth demand (e.g., data efficiencies) or increase it (e.g., SaaS, sleep mode on networking devices)?

Demand forecasting is a tricky business and I applaud anyone who makes a credible go at it. I'm not saying the report does not address these issue, it is just hard to tell. Paid content is like poker: we have to pay to look. I've invited TeleGeogrphy to comment.

Submarine Cable: Crunch or Boom?

A couple months after this, IEEE Spectrum reported: "Undersea cable construction is booming, with 15 cables laid last year, as many as in the peak year of 2001. Even more cables will be laid this year..." Spectrum's main citation? TeleGeography!

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