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Letters to the Editor

Magazine article Online

Letters to the Editor

Article excerpt

Broadband Appeal

I read with great interest Mark Sheehan's article on broadband ("Faster, Faster! Broadband Access to the Internet," ONLINE, July/August 1999). It is my understanding that a full motion, feature length movie would require 10,000,000 bits per second. Will this capacity be commonplace? If yes, when will this happen and which delivery mode will have the largest installed base--cable TV, DSL, or satellite?

John McIntosh

Switched (as opposed to shared) 10 and 100Mb connections are becoming common now on local area networks. Within five years I would guess Gigabit LAN connections will become the norm, probably based on optical fiber to the desktop rather than copper. That's more than enough bandwidth per user for any communication medium we know of now.

TSOUL Project Coordinator

For wide area networks (like the Internet) 10Mb private virtual circuits are now possible over ATM, and it looks as though DSL will be the most likely technology to carry ATM across the last mile to the desktop. US West pundits predict that by 2003 15% of the homes in the U.S. will have DSL service.

Circuit quality is a huge concern with DSL, though. Even the relatively low-speed offerings of 1999 (768Kb, each direction, seems to be the norm) will only work for about 1/4 of the telephone customers in a given area. US West is now embarrassed by the low number of potential customers they can actually serve.

So unless there is a major infrastructure upgrade in wiring of the last mile, or a major technology breakthrough that makes DSL run at 10Mb over long stretches of old copper, it's unlikely that DSL can ever carry movies to EVERY one who wants them.

Unless a product is fairly ubiquitous it can't dominate a market, so I predict that for 5-10 years we'll have a mix of high-speed network technologies available to us. Cable, satellite, and DSL all seem like contenders to me for the foreseeable future. I think for the next five years most real-time, wide area network movie delivery will remain (as it has been for many years) via cable and satellite.

By the way, the length of the movie is immaterial. If a long movie requires 10Mbps, so will a one-minute commercial or a five-second sound bite. It's the quality, not the quantity of the video, that requires extra bandwidth.

I guess the bottom line here is that DSL works now as a medium for delivery of movies under ideal circumstances. But I doubt that for the next five years there will be sufficient infrastructure in place to make it a viable medium for more than a small percentage (10%?, 25%?) of DSL customers--only those located very close to the phone company central office (300' to 3000' for 10-30Mbps VDSL, US West says).

I can envision urban apartment complexes setting up local area networks using Category 5 copper-based switched Ethernet or fiber-based ATM to distribute to tenants on-demand, real-time digital movie service provided to them over ATM trunks by a video server located in the same city. …

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