Super-sizing your bandwidth

By Daniel Briere, Network World |  Networking

Hungry for more fries? Simple, just "super-size" it for some extra percentage of the original order. It's easy, cost-effective, and your needs will probably be met (let's not worry about the long-term consequences right now).

When your customers are hungry for more bandwidth, their options for meeting their demands are limited. Sure, they could bump up their access pipe, but this is often cost-prohibitive (a much higher percentage than the fast-food example) not to mention nowhere near as instantly gratifying. They could also manage their bandwidth through technologies such as quality of service and traffic prioritization. But what about dynamically expanding and contracting the size of that pipe for specified intervals?

Companies like Mantra, Ellacoya and Redback Networks are beginning to look at models like this, betting that customers will want this option. They're right if the option is packaged well and priced right.

We've already seen one DSL provider, Winfire (which markets FreeDSL), roll out a program to address this issue. With Winfire's Bandwidth on Demand, customers can purchase blocks of time that bump their DSL connection speed to the highest available (limited to 1.5M bit/sec). Simply clicking a button on Winfire's toolbar or visiting the company's Web site for a service upgrade is all the customer has to do.

While Winfire is definitely aimed at consumers, super-sizing bandwidth is also applicable for business users. Even business users tend to spend a majority of their time on relatively low bandwidth applications such as e-mail, downloading portal content, instant messaging, etc. While performance of these applications at lower bandwidth levels is generally acceptable, users tend to judge the overall service by the performance of medium- to high-level bandwidth applications such as Webcasts and streaming media.

So it's in your best interest to provide a service feature supporting bursting to enhance your customer satisfaction (and hopefully retention). Another way to look at this super-sizing, or on-demand bandwidth, is like "bungee bandwidth." For instance, if a user's 512K bit/sec DSL service is bumped to 1024K bit/sec for a short period of time to upgrade software, attend a Webcast seminar, download research, or use a network-based application.

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