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Video bandwidth--something's gotta give

The exploding demand to view videos anywhere, anytime, is stretching network technologies to the limit, warns Nortel CTO John Roese.

    Thanks to the Internet, high-speed mobile broadband technology and new devices like Microsoft's Zune and Apple's video iPod, people are no longer tied to their televisions.

    And then there's YouTube, a media phenomenon that created an entirely new entertainment category, allowing everyone to use their own video equipment to share portions of their lives and deliver video to anyone with an Internet connection. In the near future, video will become even more pervasive, moving beyond amusing TV clips and rudimentary home movies. In the U.S., Verizon Wireless is setting things in motion with its announced plans to offer YouTube videos to its subscribers.

    We're talking about the new "killer app." But the exploding demand to view videos anywhere, anytime, will place a huge strain on today's . These networks were designed to manage low-bandwidth services like voice and data. Mobile video is possible on today's 3G networks, but only to a limited number of subscribers or for transmitting a basic broadcast service. If only 6 percent of wireless subscribers were to simultaneously view unique, streaming video during peak hours of use, our current mobile networks would be unable to support the load.

    Mobile video is possible on today's 3G networks, but only to a limited number of subscribers or for transmitting a basic broadcast service.

    That's why mobile service providers need to deploy advanced technologies capable of delivering mobile video at an affordable cost. The key technologies needed are 4G, carrier Ethernet, next-generation optical and an emerging standard called IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS).

    4G technologies such as WiMax, LTE and CDMA Rev C (recently renamed to Ultra Mobile Broadband) are necessary to "fatten" the pipes needed for high-bandwidth services such as video, mobile TV and gaming.

    To be clear, 3G is a perfectly fine voice network and great for some data services, but 4G is better able to support the growing demand for anytime, anywhere bandwidth-greedy applications. WiMax can support twice the number of subscribers per cell site at three times the speed of today's 3G networks.

    Of course, these bandwidth-greedy applications will impact the underlying network infrastructure.

    Next-generation Ethernet and optical technologies are needed to transform these networks. That way carriers will have the behind-the-scenes infrastructure (or "backhaul" to us telecom geeks) needed to support the huge surges in traffic from video applications and deliver lightening fast service.

    We're talking hundreds of megabits per second to users. Carrier Ethernet technologies will enable service providers to use Ethernet--once a technology used only for PC connectivity in the LAN--to deliver bandwidth-hungry services like video on a global scale across metro and regional networks. Innovations in photonic networking and infrastructure technology will enable optical networks to extend reach, flexibility and agility to dynamically adapt to accommodate these bandwidth-intensive services.

    Furthermore, new service delivery platforms such as IMS will allow services to freely flow over multiple networks and let applications be dynamically added without redesign. IMS will drive seamless handoffs enabling wired and wireless networks to work together to transmit video across any platform. Consumers will have the freedom to access the information at their convenience.

    This combination of networking technologies can prevent the last-mile "bottlenecks" that slow transmissions and degrade the real-time, instantaneous experience mobile video requires.

    There's no doubt that mobile broadband combined with video content will create a wide array of exciting new consumer features and entertainment options. It will also open the door for many new business models and services that translate into hard cash for mobile-service providers and their business customers. Deploying advanced technologies that are now ready will enable us to avoid the shortfall in bandwidth and change the way people communicate and live their daily lives.