Cerf: Streaming network crunch could be eliminated

With sufficient bandwidth, video streaming would be rendered unnecessary, Vint Cerf says

By , IDG News Service |  Networking

While Internet carriers may fret about Netflix, Hulu and other streaming media services saturating their bandwidth, Internet forefather Vint Cerf has a simple answer for this potential problem: Increase bandwidth exponentially.

With sufficient bandwidth, streaming video services of prerecorded content wouldn't be necessary, explained Cerf, who is now a technology evangelist at Google. With sufficient throughput, the entire file of a movie or television show could be downloaded in a fraction of the time that it would take to stream the content.

Cerf, speaking at Juniper Network's Nextwork conference, held Wednesday in New York, spoke about the company's decision to outfit Kansas City with fiber-optic connections that the company claims will be 100 times faster than broadband services commercially available.

The purpose of the project was "to demonstrate what happens when you have gigabit speeds available," Cerf said. "Some pretty dramatic applications are possible."

Interviewed by veteran computer reporter Steven Levy, Cerf explained what could be done with all this bandwidth. One obvious application is greater access to high-definition video, he explained.

"When you are watching video today, streaming is a very common practice. At gigabit speeds, a video file [can be transferred] faster than you can watch it," he said. "So rather than [receiving] the bits out in a synchronous way, instead you could download the hour's worth of video in 15 seconds and watch it at your leisure."

"It actually puts less stress on the network to have the higher speed of operation," he said.

Beyond this use, Cerf mentioned no other possible uses of gigabit-rate home broadband, but stressed that people will "find new ways of using capacity that you never thought of."

Google's demonstration may be one that Internet carriers will watch closely. In October, broadband network services provider Sandvine reported that in the United States, streaming Netflix content accounted for more than 20 percent of all downstream traffic during the evening hours. As a result, Internet service providers have grown nervous about the possibility of streaming services such as Netflix consuming all their available bandwidth.

Cerf, who helped design the Internet's base TCP/IP protocols, also addressed a number of other issues, such as Google's stance on network neutrality and his work on the Interplanetary Internet.

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