The future is on-demand... but it's going to cost you
Communications and telecom regulators Ofcom have been busy worrying their calculators and the various dark books of spells that accompany such positions, in a bid to predict the future. Specifically, the future of how we can haz juicy online, on-demand entertainment squeezed down the internet pipes and into our homes. And guess what? It's going you cost you.
In the report Converged Communications in Tomorrow's World, Ofcom suggests two scenarios are equally possible with regard to how we consume online entertainment:
In the first, users download most content to a home server and then distribute it around the home. Content is side-loaded onto mobile devices via wireless in-home connectivity. Most video consumption is in the home on large screens. In the second scenario the mobile device becomes the entertainment server. Content is loaded directly onto the mobile via a range of networks and video consumption takes place when mobile or in a range of locations.
According to the report, the broadband network could pretty much cope with the first scenario, since the data is downloaded before it is viewed, meaning it can be transferred at a far slower rate and allow for variations in delivery speed. Unsurprisingly, accessing and consuming rich media in real time through mobile data poses a problem, and service providers wouldn't cope as demand increases and would likely need access to more communications spectrum for providing data services.
So what about services such as on-demand entertainment in the home through the likes of iPlayer and the forthcoming Hulu? According to Ofcom, the existing networks would require upgrading as traffic demands increased. This would mean an increase in the amount we pay for our broadband packages, which Ofcom suggests would be between £1 and £3 per month. Ofcom think that sort of price would be acceptable to most customers if it would guarantee on-demand service, and we tend to agree. The question is, would the service providers really charge so little when given the opportunity to sell a "new" superslick service?