User demand could outpace bandwidth

Consumer and corporate Internet usage could outstrip network capacity both worldwide in two years time, according to 'The Internet Singularity, Delayed' study conducted by Nemertes Research. This study indicates that Internet access infrastructure, especially in North America, will cease to be adequate for supporting demand within the next three to five years.

The financial investment required to bridge the gap between demand and capacity ranges from $42 billion (E28.4bn) to $55 billion in the US, primarily to be spent on broadband access capacity; this is roughly 60-70 per cent above and beyond the $72 billion service providers are already planning to invest. Required investment globally is estimated at $137 billion, again primarily in broadband access.

“This analysis identifies a critical issue facing the Internet – that we must take the necessary steps to build out network capacity or potentially face Internet gridlock that could wreak havoc on Internet services,” said Larry Irving, co-chairman of the Internet Innovation Alliance. “It's important to note that even if we make the investment necessary between now and 2010, we still might not be prepared for the next killer application or new internet-dependent business like Google or YouTube.”

Voice and bandwidth-intensive applications such as streaming and interactive video, peer-to-peer file transfer and music downloads and file sharing are redefining the Internet. Nearly 75 per cent of US Internet users watched an average of 158 minutes of online video in May 2007 and viewed more than 8.3 billion video streams, according to research by comScore. Additionally, wireless devices s and gaming accessories provide consumers with ever-increasing access to the Internet, exponentially accelerating consumption of Internet bandwidth according to the Nemertes study.

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