There is a never-ending debate about whether the bandwidth crunch is real or just made up by folks as an excuse to raise broadband service prices or sell more equipment. While I can’t speak to service fees, I can address the equipment side of the issue. First ISPs aren’t only providing bandwidth for Internet access, but for video delivery as well. Both are transported over the same pipe, which means they fight for the same available bandwidth. Think HDTV and VOD aren’t having an impact on bandwidth resources? Think again. Anecdotally, I’ve heard tell of one operator who saw on-demand session requests increase by 1000% over the course of 2006. One thousand percent growth in one year.
Second, it’s impossible not to consider the impact of video streamed on the Internet when calculating whether or not there’s a bandwidth crunch. NewTeeVee had a round-up just yesterday of all the places TV networks are making their shows available online this fall. Streaming video may not be making a huge impact yet because consumer adoption has a ways to go, but it’s definitely on pace to create disruption in the relatively near future. Sure network operators have ways to expand bandwidth (lots of them), but they inevitably involve some type of equipment.
Maybe it’s all in how you define “crunch”. Bandwidth demand is definitely manageable, but increased availability doesn’t happen by magic.