Today’s topic focuses on mobile and internet bandwidth, as yet another precursor to the extended discussion intended on “global mobilization”. Our special guest for today was pulled away at the last moment to advise on other matters, but he will be with us on Wednesday.
This article on arstechnica.com, slightly dated, explores both the challenges and solutions associated with expanding overall bandwidth capacity.
The objective of the Internet.org initiative is, essentially, to make the Internet available to everyone in the world. Presently, an estimated 2.7 billion of the world’s 7.2 billion have regular access, with access increasing at about 9% per year. On the basis of the Rule of 72, this means we can expect Internet accessibility to reach about 5.4 billion in 8 years, and be truly ubiquitous within 12–16 years (relative to population growth). So, 2030?
It’s not just about making the internet accessible to everyone though. If data usage rates remain the same, this also means that it is necessary to triple bandwidth and infrastructure. Herein, what can be considered most of the “low-hanging fruit” is mostly already claimed. Wifi and high speed cable systems are already deployed across the territories that are easy to reach. Now, the challenge involves the logistical components of reaching and maintaining increasingly remote locations. Mobile networks do that best.
Complicating matters is that data consumption rates per person tend to increase over time, with video being one of the main drivers. As a sign of the times, Netflix – enabling users to watch movies online in North America is making the news this past month with US-based internet carriers trying to somehow moderate its costumer’s bandwidth consumption. Netflix users consume 1 to 3 Gigabytes of data per hour. Consider that a single page of text is roughly 5 kilobytes, that is the equivalent of up to 600,000 pages of text per hour (just for perspective).
Fortunately, there are at least four (probably more) parts to the equation. Building capacity is important and necessary for all of the hard to reach places on Internet.org’s agenda. Moderating usage — price per gigabyte, is another way of managing supply and demand (except Internet.org’s goal is to make internet access itself “essentially free”). Moderating speed is another component, typically built into the subscriber’s plan.
Increasing data efficiency is the fourth part of the equation and is taking off in big ways with Opera Mini leading the pack – reducing bandwidth consumption on most text and graphical data by up to 90%. In old school analysis, it’s like converting a .bmp file to a .jpg file – same picture (for most purposes), radically smaller file size.
Feel unlimited with Opera Max, a free data-savings app for your phone that extends your data plan. See which apps hog your data and watch more mobile video.
Opera Max is a free way to save a ton of data on your phone.
Opera Max squeezes video, photos and images on almost every app on your phone. If you’re on a limited data plan and want more time on Instagram or Vine, without going over your monthly limit, Opera Max can compress the data coming to your phone by up to 50%. Your 1 GB data plan now lasts up to 50% longer.
Opera Max also works for other unencrypted data and for some apps, in addition to video.
To tie this together – the goal of enabling global internet access is mostly a function of time – 9% annual growth is nothing to sneeze at. Getting this done by 2030 is realistic, highly probable – almost certain (barring things like a coronal mass ejection). Looking 16 years into the future is not too unlike looking at 16 years into the past – 1998. Back then, we were concerned with reducing the size of images from 100kb to 20kb.
And the relevance for the developer? If you knew 16 years ago what you know today, what would you have done? What would you have designed? So, the questions to be asking are… “What are you going to develop between now and 2030?” You know where the market is going and you have a pretty good idea of how will it get there, along with most of the major players involved.
Stay tuned for more on Wednesday!