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Streaming IP video strains carriers' service network architecture

Although AT&T completed "unprecedented" work on its backbone network in 2008, CTO John Donovan conceded the company is still catching its breath as it struggles to sync the capabilities of its service network architecture with consumer demand for applications that require sustained high data speeds, such as streaming IP video on smartphones and IPTV.

Although AT&T completed "unprecedented" work on its backbone network in 2008, CTO John Donovan conceded the company...

is still catching its breath as it struggles to sync the capabilities of its service network architecture with consumer demand for applications that require sustained high data speeds, such as streaming IP video on smartphones and IPTV.

"The capacity we carried in 2008, five years out, will be a rounding error. It will round to zero. If you look, our 2-gig backbone lasted seven years. Our 10-gig lasted five or four. Our 40 will last three. You get to 100 -- what's that, 18 months? If we have to go to 400-gig, I think routers will melt," Donovan said at a SuperCOMM 2009 forum in Chicago earlier this month.

 We're going to end up in a dire situation a few years out if we don't -- collectively as an industry -- step up and throw Moore's Law out the window.
John Donovan
CTOAT&T

"We're going to end up in a dire situation a few years out if we don't -- collectively as an industry -- step up and throw Moore's Law out the window," he added. "That [approach] really helps in the backbone, but it doesn't help when you have the kind of capacity we're going to have at the edge and certainly in the [radio access network] on the mobility side."

To support Web-enabled television, or IPTV, through its FiOS service, Verizon Communications has increased "the capacity, flexibility and resiliency of our backbone, whether it be in the metropolitan or long haul [part of the network]," said Mark Wegleitner, Verizon's senior vice president of technology.

"In the metropolitan area, we've come out with optical transport, which combines TDM and WDM capabilities," he said. "Now we're adding packet [capabilities] to that and an Ethernet platform, and we're moving that same philosophy into our long-haul backhaul and ultra-long haul…. We find all of this necessary to keep up with this growing burst of bandwidth."

Brian Wood, vice president of marketing for Continuous Computing, a San Diego-based component manufacturer for network equipment providers, said wireless operators are hit hardest with this imbalance. Wireless bandwidth demand doubles about every nine months, Wood said.

"Revenue is basically capped by these flat-rate data plans -- these all-you-can-eat plans -- whereas the demand for bandwidth is skyrocketing," he said. "That's a business problem for the operators, so driving down the cost of the bit is by far the biggest market driver for [them]."

Qwest Communications projects that the average consumer will use 45% more bandwidth every year, Qwest CTO Pieter Poll said. On-demand video over Internet Protocol (IP) is expected to account for a large part of that growth.

"Both the end user and the content owners, when the day is done, really will accept nothing less than a pristine experience," Poll said. "The industry really has to make sure that we work on tracking cost-per-bit down at the same rate [of demand], otherwise you have an equation that's just not going to compute."

Back to: Next generation architecture carries hefty price tag, but ARPU ebbs

Let us know what you think about the story; email: Jessica Scarpati, News Writer

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