The rate of fixed broadband traffic growth is slowing, according to new research from Strategy Analytics. The research firm’s bandwidth demand forecast calls for most households to need no more than 300 Mbps over the next ten years.
“Close examination reveals that the applications usually cited as drivers of bandwidth growth are not as bandwidth intensive as some believe,” the author wrote in an executive summary of the report, titled “Is the end in sight for Nielsen’s Law? Despite dramatic increases during the pandemic, fixed broadband traffic growth may be slowing.”
While downstream bandwidth demand will continue to increase, according to the researchers, the rate of increase will slow from 34% annual growth in 2018 to 6% in 2030.
The Strategy Analytics bandwidth demand forecast is based on several assumptions, including:
- Streaming video adapts to match available capacity
- Video encoding innovations tend to offset the impact of higher display resolution
- 4K (UHD) streaming needs only modestly higher speeds than HD
- 8K (UHD-2) video streaming will likely be a niche market
- Consumer adoption of augmented reality and virtual reality will be slow
- Console game play requires low latency rather than high speeds, and the effect of higher speeds on reducing latency is no longer significant
- Streaming game play looks to the network like HD or UHD video
- Most smart home devices consume negligible bandwidth and cloud-connected smart home video devices do not require very high bandwidth
“For most households, 100-300 Mbps broadband service is adequate,” the report states. “We see little evidence to suggest that this will change any time in the next 10 years.”
That statement undoubtedly will be anathema to some readers.
Ever since people began connecting to the internet 25 years or so ago, there have been those who have argued against bullish bandwidth forecasts, yet new bandwidth-intensive applications have continued to arise, broadband boosters will argue.
The author himself notes that since 1983, Nielsen’s Law has accurately predicted that the data rate of the highest available broadband service tier for cable consumers grows at a rate of 50% per year.
“According to conventional wisdom, [this] will continue with no end in sight,” the author writes in the bandwidth demand forecast report. “But conventional wisdom appears to be wrong.”
I would be interested to hear what readers think about all this.