Skip to main content

What Tom Said: Will Video Eat the Internet?

INASNOW, BANK—Probably no other personal device that’s been introduced into the market over the past decade has affected our daily lives than the smartphone. Ten years ago, the idea of taking pictures (let alone video) with your phone was still a fairly new concept and hardly user-friendly. Today, nearly everyone carries an HD video camera in their pocket, and the impact has affected nearly all aspects of our

The concurrent rise of social media has had a similar impact, and video has played an important role as well. The success of apps like Periscope have given nearly anyone with a smartphone the ability to become their own private broadcaster (Facebook announced last month that it will offer the same ability for any subscriber to broadcast live video to his or her followers.) When you add in the success of Netflix and over-the-top devices such as Apple TV, it’s pretty easy to understand how video-over-IP is the future of mass—as well as personal—communications worldwide.

Recognizing and analyzing this phenomenon has been on the minds of Internet giant Cisco for years, and its most recent annual Visual Networking Index, released earlier this month, is seen by most in our industry as a reliable predictor of the future impact of mobile IP video. Its 2016 report can probably be best summed up in our headline.

“Since 2000, when the first camera phone was introduced, the number of mobile users has quintupled,” according to the report. “By 2020, there will be 5.5 billion mobile users, representing 70 percent of the global population. The adoption of mobile devices, increased mobile coverage and demand for mobile content are driving user growth two times faster than the global popular over the next five years. This surge of mobile users, smart devices, mobile video and 4G networks will increase mobile data traffic eightfold over the next five years.”

Not surprisingly, mobile video is predicted to have the highest growth rate of any mobile application. The demand for higher resolution video, more bandwidth and processing speed will spur the growth of more advanced compression standards as well as 4G networks, which will carry more than 70 percent of all mobile traffic by 2020. By then, global mobile data traffic will reach 30.6 exabytes per month, (up from 3.7 exabytes in 2015), with video consuming 75 percent of that data traffic. Obviously, this will have a huge impact on policy and innovation, and the report notes the rising importance of alternative IP transport resources such as M2M (machine-to-machine) connections and WiFi Hotspots.

Where does broadcast fit in all of this? Well one of the “alternatives” left out of the report was ATSC 3.0. We don’t have to remind you of the advantages of broadcasting one-to-many as opposed to the one-to-one nature of IP video. And how the upcoming spectrum auctions will impact the future of TV broadcasting remains to be seen. (TV Technology has never outright opposed the auctions as such, but rather has advocated that the FCC treat broadcasters fairly in the process.) In the meantime, we’ve placed our bets on the future of our industry with ATSC 3.0. Although the next-gen standard is still in development, what happens as it is rolled out over the next several years will determine our future survival.

(Image from this rather odd YouTube video with neary 5.2 million views..)