September 16, 2014 Jessica Sims
Technologies That Stress Broadband

Technologies That Stress Broadband

Broadband seems like it is on a roll in the United States, but the truth is that we are behind the technological curve when it comes to serving our citizens with high speed data access.

While that fact has not necessarily shown itself in too pronounced a way, there are a trio of technologies that are about to push the envelope in entirely new ways: On-Demand/Streaming applications, 4K HD, and the cloud.  These services will push the limits of traditional DSL from companies like Verizon, digital cable broadband like that offered by Optimum, and even the fiber optic heavyweight Fios.

On-Demand & Streaming Apps

The world is quickly becoming a place that is made ever-smaller with digital technologies, and streaming/on-demand apps is a great expression of this idea manifesting itself in reality. Already we are seeing software from heavy hitters in their respective industries offer web-based software that is not a ‘lite’ or trimmed down version of their main offering.  The division seems to be clearly defined amongst two types of technology: on-demand and streaming apps.  Keep in mind that most applications may even manage to combine these two to a degree.

On-Demand essentially means that a program is capable of launching either from a download or site, and its core components are downloaded swiftly while other less-critical assets (such as less common features) are loaded in the background once the basic app is up and running.  This system lets users download a full-featured app that is designed to be ready to use when you are, and with on-demand features that load intelligently.  Consider a basic program such as an online word processor where the basic page and font/style bar are loaded by default but printing functionality, page formatting, integration with spreadsheets, etc. all load after the app is ready to use.

A key feature of On-Demand apps is that they enable work or play to commence as soon as possible, so the technology prioritizes requests for features to load as soon as they are ready.  In this example, let’s say that the person simply wants to paste in a copied address from Google and print, well clicking on print might require a very short delay while the code the completes that request is downloaded.  That download is naturally capable of queue jumping other features that have not yet been used and would otherwise queue up in a way that the developer/server thought made sense.  While there are similar online word processors and other office apps taking this route, some major industry heavy hitters like Adobe are exploring this to bring full-featured streaming to a world of tablets and other computing devices.

Streaming apps are less bandwidth intensive than On-Demand apps, especially major programs like World of Warcraft from Blizzard that can take a few GB of data before it is ready to use.  Streaming apps run on a remote server and a constant feed of control feedback goes one direction while live high-speed high-definition video and audio is returned to the user.  The result is both bandwidth and latency intensive, and due to get worse as the world of gaming and remote applications goes beyond the HD standards that they have been seemingly stuck at for a generation now.  This brings us to the next technology…

4K HD & Beyond

Whether you call it 4K or 4K HD, the next big thing in video requires four times the bandwidth.  Data carriers may already be hedging their bets by providing broadband alongside of video on the same cables, but when data bandwidth increases by 400% on the video side you can bet that there will be upgrades to hardware, downgrades to broadband performance packages, or both.  The bottom line is that 4K or 4K HD will blow your mind visually with realistic images, but it will consume so much bandwidth that things will have to change one way or another as a result.  How bad will the change be?  Take your current ability to DVR or watch multiple channels in HD, figure in each channel at about 2.5 MBps of bandwidth, multiply that by three and subtract that from your current plan.  That is arguably the direct impact of 4K HD on current hardware and networking infrastructure.

The Cloud

The cloud is changing everything, but people are using it now for amazing things: media sharing, media streaming, and even complete backups of computers.  As devices grow faster and storage options increase, so will the dependency on the cloud.  Unfortunately, the cloud just has so much to offer that there really is no arguing against it.  Some of the most amazing backup services rely heavily on the cloud and do so to great effect, and the same can be said of the cloud services offered up by both Apple and Amazon.  The future belongs to the cloud, but that puts a lot more data bandwidth in the pipes than it does currently.

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