Google owns the most servers of any one company out there. Literally, it is rumored to be in the millions. Youtube streams out more than 2 billion video views per day. If an average video view is 30 megabytes, that means Youtube uses at least 60’000 Terrabytes of bandwidth per day. As I am not sure where to find the current estimate of global bandwidth capacity to all home Internet lines, let us compare that with the current reported trans-atlantic bandwidth capacity at around 10 to 20 Terrabit/s, that means a maximum bandwidth between Europe and the USA of 108’000 Terrabytes per day. 2009 price per trans-atlantic 10Gbit/s was $14’000 per month. If Google had to transfer half of Youtube’s daily bandwidth over the atlantic, that would cost $11 Million per day in bandwidth costs. Obviously, that scenario would be totally impossible.
The only way Youtube can provide up to 1080p and even 4K video to everyone, for free, on demand, is by cleverly distributing all the most popular videos on many, hundreds, maybe thousands of sort of caching servers that deliver the Youtube videos to every ADSL, Cable, Fiber to the home users around the world. What Youtube does, is that it tries to deliver the video from a Youtube cache as close to the user as possible. Most likely, that for the past years already, Google has been negociating with all the worlds major ISPs to build those Youtube caching servers right onto the local fiber optic backbones and server centrals of every major ISP.
This means, Google already has had to pay ISPs and major backbone providers for preferential access to its contents. This is the only way Google can provide a service that is fast enough for everyone to experience full bandwidth and fast buffering on all these high quality videos and have it all work smoothly in prime time, and when everyone wants to watch the same popular videos.
I’d like bloggers who critisize Google for it’s stance on Net Neutrality to consider that Youtube may account for about half of current global web bandwidth consumption excluding peer-to-peer like BitTorrent. And that Youtube’s share of global bandwidth consumption can only increase fast as Google TV comes out. What I think is the core issue we have to consider, is that it would be the worst if ISPs somehow because they might be more interested in staying with the status quo, that they may prevent an expansion of web video distribution by limiting the way high quality videos can be distributed freely on-demand to everyone.
While I think it is important to make sure startups don’t have any barriers to present their new ideas and new technical solutions to the web, I also think it is kind of logical that a startup won’t be able to afford distributing HD quality video as smoothly as Youtube does it, a startup cannot afford to buy thousands or even millions of servers and install them on every ISP and backbone around the world. AS once the cache server is embedded directly onto the ISPs backbone, that bandwidth, no matter how much it is, costs very little for the ISP to provide, at least compared to a scenario where the ISP would have to fetch all that data from the other side of an ocean.
I want to see a scalable solution that basically allows Youtube to expand even much further and provide even higher quality. It would be great if 720p 2mbit/s HD, 1080p 4mbit/s HD and even 24mbit/s 4K was streamed at full speed to every user. And imagining a scenario where a larger and larger share of everyone’s 5 hour daily TV watching did stream on-demand from the web. This means that the current 60 Petabytes/day that Youtube consumes today could turn into 6000 Petabytes/day within months.
As for Net Neutrality on wireless networks. I have often tried to ask Telecom companies how much bandwidth there really is in those base stations. The answer I kind of got, was that the bandwidth is not much, maybe only in the tens of megabit/s per base station. So obviously, it may not really matter what generation is used, be it 3G, 3.5G, 3.5G+, 4G/LTC, WiMax, as soon as more than 2 or 3 people start to want to have several megabit/second in an area of a neighborhood or so, the technology just won’t be able to handle it all. So for sure, I think Wireless networks need to be regulated. Especially as there isn’t really enough bandwidth for everyone to stream video on 3G nor LTE networks. Most importantly, I want to see regulation enforce that bandwidth for VOIP usage may not be blocked or down-graded compared to the exact same quality of the bandwidth used for “normal” voice calls.
The only solution to the bandwidth limitations of wireless networks, is to install smaller base stations closer to every user, so called micro-cells, also called Fem2cells. I believe the best spectrum that we should all install those base stations for would be the 700mhz white spaces spectrum, that is why I would like to hear someone say that it would be possible to build a FON.com like network using unlicensed and free to use White Spaces 700mhz. Everyone would install a $20 White Spaces micro-cell routers onto their home wireline ADSL/Cable/Fiber connections, sharing the bandwidth into their neighborhoods, using one same browser based access authentication system worldwide, that will provide enough wireless bandwidth for everyone to do whatever they want.