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Geoff Daily

App-Rising.com covers the development and adoption of broadband applications, the deployment of and need for broadband networks, and the demands placed on policy to adapt to the revolutionary opportunities made possible by the Internet.

App-Rising.com is written by Geoff Daily, a DC-based technology journalist, broadband activist, marketing consultant, and Internet entrepreneur.

App-Rising.com is supported in part by AT&T;, however all views and opinions expressed herein are solely my own.

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April 4, 2007 1:32 PM

A 5Mbps Nation

I had the opportunity to visit TANDBERG’s Reston, VA offices last week for the first session of Point Nine User Forum’s North American Event focused on telepresence.

While there, TANDBERG gave us a tour through their full range of videoconferencing products, from a room full of videocalling units to a really neat handheld wireless camera to a desktop application and finally on to Experia, their telepresence offering.

Experia was the star of the show and a very impressive piece of technology, but I actually found myself more enamored with the lower end technology, in particular the quality of video they were able to deliver at 512Kbps -- 448 lines of resolution at 30 frames per second -- which in real-life terms means a very clear image that doesn’t break down into blocks when anything moves.

The reason this stuck out to me was that earlier that day I’d read about the FTTH Council’s recent call for a 100Mbps Nation, where everyone has 100Mbps+ connectivity at home, by 2015.

Now, I’m a huge advocate of FTTH and the need for ultrabroadband connectivity across the US. I simply don’t see how having more bandwidth can be a bad thing.

At the same time, it never ceases to amaze me how those charged with developing tools for compressing video and other data can continually find new ways to push more and more data through the same pipe.

With these thoughts in mind, it suddenly dawned on me: what if, as an intermediary step on the road to 100Mbps+, we set a goal of having a 5Mbps Nation?

“But, don’t many people already have 5Mbps Internet access?” many of you are likely wondering.

Well yes if you look at it solely from the perspective of the number broadband providers advertise relative to the speeds they purportedly offer.

What I’m referring to, though, is a 5Mbps Nation where every user actually has 5Mbps of both symmetrical (or as close as possible) and guaranteed (as guaranteed as can be) access, unlike the asymmetrical and best-efforts access most broadband delivers today.

Videoconferencing exemplifies the importance of symmetrical and guaranteed access. Symmetrical because you have to be able to send a picture as good as you want to receive. Guaranteed because skips, starts, and lost frames ruin the efficacy and experience of a videocall.

That’s why many systems that employ dedicated videoconferencing hardware choose to use an dedicated ISDN line for connectivity, which can offer both symmetrical and guaranteed access.

What excites me as much if not more than a 100Mbps future is a symmetrical, guaranteed 5Mbps present, where paying for a 5Mbps connection gets me 5Mbps of connectivity.

So much energy has been put into doing more with less over the Internet that even reaching the much more modest goal of a 5Mbps nation could have a profound impact on our use of more bandwidth intensive applications like videoconferencing.

As we set course for the day of ubiquitous 100Mbps, we should seek out ways in which we can encourage broadband’s evolution incrementally, in turn equipping consumers with the type of connectivity they need to have a more robust Internet experience, which will then lead to greater use of and demand for bandwidth.

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