Mark Cuban, tech entrepreneur, owner of the Dallas Mavericks and something of a maverick in all his manifestations runs a thought piece in his personal blog on how much bandwidth folks will really need in the future. An interesting issue to contemplate on a Sunday morning.
It’s a lot; more than 100 megs. He creates a family, “the Whales,” to illustrate why he thinks that high value families will push the telecom companies to deliver a 100 meg or more pipe to its most valuable customers.
So lets look at our customer, The Whales, and their 3 kids and see what services they use.
First, each of the 3 kids has an LCD HDTV that operates both as a HDTV and a PC monitor. Their PC is of course connected to the net and is their stereo. It is not their TV PVR because of the hassles of cable card or lack of satellite PC connectivity for programming. Instead they have a provider installed HD PVR that shares a multi terabyte drive with their PC.
The kids are collectors…
When it comes to TV content, they use the same front end to programatically control the provided PVR. With the front end, they don’t use season passes any more. They save networks. Everything on MTV. It gets saved to the PVR. Everything from HDNet and HDNet Movies, CBS, NBC, HBO, Showtime, ABC, TNT, ESPNs, they all just automatically get saved…So their PVRs have basically become network spiders pulling in content 24x7x365.
You can see where this is going. Add in mom and pop doing a few work projects and a little IPTV and pretty soon it adds up to real bandwidth. (I’ve ranted on this line of reasoning before in the context of Lafayette and the fiber referendum, if some of this seems a little familiar.)
Now be aware that Cuban’s not a disinterested observer; he’s made a bundle off the sale of broadcast.com (an early “IP video caster”) and is a big investor in HDNet, a high def satellite network. So he’s putting his mouth where his money already is, so to speak. Of course, his bets have been pretty good so far.
At any rate, it’s an amusing read and worth thinking about for the rare locale, like Lafayette, which will have access to a local high speed network at 100 megs. The real reason we can’t have cheap access to the world wide web at 100 megs is the cost of transport to the backbone and transport over it. But we can, and will, have that much transport locally. How much of the capacity that Cuban attributes to his upscale family can be recreated locally and cheaply if we decide to do so?
I suspect a lot of it. Much of Cuban’s dream is premised on terabyte storage in the home. And that’s not too far out considering the cost of storage. But with a fat local pipe we don’t all have to own the terabyte. It’d be a whole lot cheaper to share it online with our friends and family, or cheaply through small local businesses, or as a small tack-on fee to our telecom utility bill. If 400 people in Lafayette want to watch Desperate Housewives the next day they can record it up to net and watch it later. And there need be only one copy on the net. My guess is that most of what Cuban locates in wealthy households could be located on the local backbone for a pittance.