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  • Writer's pictureGunnar Garfors

Broadcasters Fighting Themselves

Why is the world shouting for more bandwidth? Because the world is running out of it due to heavily increased usage and an explosion in the number of connected terminals (currently 5 billion devices, with 50 billion forecasted in only eight years).

You cannot solve a linear increase in supply by a geometric increase in demand.

But who is fighting for bandwidth? Broadcasters want it for broadcasting services whereas ISPs and MNOs want it for (mobile) internet.

And why the increase in demand? A lot of the increased bandwidth usage comes from new advanced users. This cannot and should not be stopped. ‘Everyone’ should have access to the internet, no doubt. But let us look the biggest increase in types of bandwidth consumption: Video and television services. Some of this is on demand, but the peaks always come from streamed live events, whether it is a press conference from Cupertino, Jamaicans running in London or coverage of heinous terrorist acts in New York.

The internet in Norway was almost taken down during the Skiing World Cup in 2011 and allegedly nearly so again during the most popular events at the Olympics in London (especially the handball final which saw the Norwegian ladies claim the gold).

The common denominator? These events are usually broadcast live on popular television channels (and on radio stations) that almost everyone can access at home. Why then even offer the same content streamed via the internet at the same time? By doing so, broadcasters are making sure that scarce bandwidth resources are being pushed to the limit over and over again. This only fuels the claims from ISPs and MNOs that they are running out of bandwidth and that they therefore need access to frequencies currently being used by broadcasters.

Broadcasters are themselves their worst enemy in the battle for bandwidth. They can easily adjust that by not making available live content that is already being offered via broadcasting, or by doing so delayed or not as a TV channel. The arguments is also valid for radio, although lower bandwidth is needed. Then again, if everyone in the UK or Norway decides to listen to the radio via the internet, it will go down or be much slower.

Swedish television (SVT) do for instance not offer their television channels online, only some live content and not content that is ‘live on tape’ (prerecorded and then broadcast). They are, in other words, not using their TV channels as brands online.

Live television content that is available via a TV channel should only in certain contexts be made available, not as a general rule. Exceptions include people outside the coverage area (i.e. abroad, given that the rights are cleared) or people on the run (i.e. only via mobiles), but then possibly delayed by a few minutes.

And this only deals with the capacity issue of the internet. Let us not forget other issues like gatekeepers, hacking, power consumption or costs, covered here: Why the Internet Won’t Solve Everything.

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