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Oct 24 2018

Laziness, the hidden driver of gigabit broadband

Hands up who admits to occasionally being lazy?

Hands up who was too lazy to raise their hand?

Laziness is a primordial human trait. But it stems from a vital need – conservation of energy as a means of survival. Humans have figured out not to exert ourselves when we don’t need to so we can focus our energy where it’s most important.

Laziness is everywhere, even in technology. Consider broadband. Every major leap in broadband speeds has seen a corresponding leap in innovation. Now, being innovative is perhaps the opposite of lazy. But what is certain is that whenever we achieve a step change in bandwidth, we always find a way to fill it. Why spend time (and money) optimizing an app so it consumes very little bandwidth if there’s no need?

I was pondering laziness as I was buying a drink from a vending machine the other day. These machines will inevitably succumb to Industry 4.0 and become smart. A few dozen sensors will be checking the temperature, checking the stock, checking if the door is open, and so on, and all will need to be maintained and managed.

Now, how lazy – and how so much more powerful – would it be to replace those sensors with one 8K video feed? Think about it. A single video can capture all that essential data plus let you see who’s buying what drinks, when, how often and how many. With video content analysis in the cloud, a drinks manufacturer can learn everything they need and so much more.

That solution is far simpler than managing a dozen sensors. Only the vending machine goes from generating a few bits of data every now and then to needing a 20 Mb/s connection.

But that’s laziness in action. Every time we raise the bar, in bandwidth, in processing power, humans fill it up.

I’ve spoken in the past about another human trait, impatience, being the killer app for gigabit broadband. Network operators need to factor impatience into their capacity planning because we’ve become so used to broadband that we expect our connections, our downloads, our streaming to work right away. And if they don’t, well we might just go elsewhere. Impatience is an overhead that every broadband network needs to consider.

But laziness could be even more important. Impatience adds a temporary spike to bandwidth requirements. Laziness is always there and constantly on the rise. Look at VoIP compression algorithms. In DSL days, we needed a lot of it. Today, conservation of energy (a.k.a. laziness) says why compress VoIP when there’s ample bandwidth? The same goes for software – look at how much bigger MS Office is today than even 2 years ago, because bandwidth to download it is not an issue.

Laziness in action. 

Not that I’m complaining. Every major leap in broadband speeds has seen a corresponding leap in innovation. Are innovative applications driving innovative broadband technologies, or vice versa?

That’s a chicken-and-egg question that I’m too lazy to answer.

Come see us at our booth at BBWF 2018 to learn more.

Share your thoughts on this topic by joining the Twitter discussion with @nokia and @nokianetworks using #gigabit #ultrabroadband #fixednetworks #bbwf 

About Stefaan Vanhastel

Stefaan Vanhastel heads the global marketing for Nokia Fixed Networks, responsible for fixed access products and technology.  With a PhD in Electrical Engineering andover 20 years of experience in the IT/telecommunications industry, he keeps it simple: “I’m a technology marketeer by day, a wildlife/nature photographer at heart, and cat caregiver at home”. Connect with Stefaan on LinkedIn.

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