11 January 2006

Traffic balance on broadband links

A recent thread on the Cybertel mailing list has been discussing upload bandwidth. In the asymmetrical broadband systems favored by many carriers in the US, the upstream bandwidth is lower than the download bandwidth (both ADSL and cable have this property). As we begin treating users as providers, the way peer to peer applications and some social networking applications tend to do, the traffic profile becomes much more symmetrical. As this article points out, this is already apparent in wireless networks. In this item, the author (Frank Coluccio) notes:

"We puzzled over how far HSDPA and other enhanced networks would play out. What MOTO has found from their carrier customers is that user demand has shifted so that now, if available, usage goes to about 50%-50% uplink/downlink. Users are doing more image, video, file sharing and online activity such as gaming where usage is more asymmetrical. And given that new lower power and cost high resolution mixed signal imaging chips and processor SOCs are on the way, higher bandwidth imaging and video from the user to the network is likely to be the trend. In fact, there is some thinking that the uplink to downlink bandwidth needed will shift to 60%-40% when these higher resolution devices become available. Start putting this puzzle together and you can see why Qualcomm has become so aggressive about acquiring and developing the OFDMA field of technologies."

Given that, would you expect carrier investments to be directed toward converting existing networks to symmetric bandwidth? Do carriers want users to be service providers as well? What impact do you imagine this might have on pricing?

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