Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Report Examines the Present and Future of the Internet "Exacloud"

For the latest on Internet traffic trends look no further than "Into the Exacloud," a report just released by Entropy Economics' Bret Swanson. The report summarizes from and succinctly analyzes a number of recent studies and estimates on Internet traffic growth. It also looks at the latest advancements in network capabilities as well as applications and content demands. Not surprising, "online video is the driver of network traffic." In addition, the report includes forecasts for Internet traffic growth and related innovation along with some basic policy prescriptions to best accommodate what he calls the growing Internet-era "exaflood." Below is a liberal quotation of the report's executive summary:
  • Very large investments in info-tech infrastructure – including wireless – will need to continue for years to come.
  • Wireless capacity, coverage, and flexibility is the chief bottleneck that must be addressed – and is today’s chief public policy concern.
  • Driven largely by Web video, network traffic continues to grow rapidly and may have accelerated in the last year or so.
  • Networks are increasing in capacity, reach, and complexity, and content companies have become Internet infrastructure companies.
  • Broadband connectivity enabled the rise of the cloud, and now the cloud requires ever more broadband – both wired and wireless.
  • Enormous troves of data, both structured and unstructured, are piling up all over the world.
  • The digital ecosystem, comprised of networks, devices, software, services, and the cloud is changing fast. Innovations are improving and disrupting most sectors of life and the economy, including entertainment, education, health, finance, retail, and government, not to mention our social fabric.
  • The next generation of exacloud services will deliver unprecedented real-time content and software experiences and impose severe new demands on network capacity and speed.
On the public policy front, the report points to the importance of spectrum and deems wireless capacity to be a "crucial scarcity":
Part of this scarcity can be relieved through investment in new 4G networks and femtocells. A substantial portion of the scarcity, however, is due to a lack of available clean radio spectrum – the type of spectrum that can support 4G networks and the volumes and diversity of future traffic… Unleashing this spectrum through auctions and allowing greater flexibility to use, buy, and sell existing private spectrum is a paramount concern – if vive and thrive in the exaflood era.
This emphasis on spectrum for wireless services provides a timely reminder of the significance of NTIA's much-anticipated and hopefully soon-to-be-released report on the 1755-1850MHz. That spectrum band is a potentially rich resource for serving consumers' growing demands for next-generation wireless services.