I’ve been having a think about internet connectivity and what’s likely to happen over the next few years. It’s a massive topic that occupies plenty of dedicated analysts, thinkers and researchers so I’m not going to try and beat them at their own game but I’ve got three predictions that I think will have come true by 2015.
A basic level of connectivity will come to be seen as a standard service in all developed nations. A bit like roads and electricity, we’ll expect some level of universal connectivity to be in place pretty much everywhere. We may pay for it directly through a service provider contract or I think more likely indirectly through local or national taxes. This low level connection will allow the provision of basic internet services for all and will also provide the platform for the fabled ‘internet of things’. Intelligent street lighting, your fridge and washing machine, traffic lights, they’ll all tap into this network for low impact, low data services. Much of this will come from better coordination of existing coverage rather than new infrastructure. You’ll be rewarded for opening up your home WiFi for example.
The next tier up will be the sort of standard business and leisure internet usage that most urbanites enjoy today. The difference being that usage levels will have reached those of today’s top end users. A basic connected TV service today needs about 3meg to run. When we’re all using full IPTV with on demand streaming this will need to be significantly higher. Providers will need to encourage and reward people for managing their traffic load. Think variable pricing for content if it’s downloaded at night for example.
There will also be an increasing number of premium connection services available. These services will be priced to make them available to enterprise or wealthy top end consumers. There’s no way this will happen by laying new cable, much of this will need to happen through smarter resource management and dual provision – using a fixed line in combination with a scaled up wireless service like WiMax for example. If the providers get it right, they should also be offering this level of connection to consumers as a premium ‘taster’ or treat. Special charges for instant downloads or protected lines to ensure no drop out or quality reduction during big sporting events for example.
So broadly speaking I see three levels that aren’t massively different from what we have now – crappy rural dial up, normal broadband and premium, everything is just shifted up a notch.
A key difference will be much more intelligent management of the connection resource at the higher end that enables everything to keep pace with our increasing expectations.
More important than that however will be the guaranteed bed at the lowest level that allows people and businesses to plan with an assumption of connection. It is after all when the technology becomes mundane that the most interesting things happen.