Blog Post

ISPs Are Boosting Upstream Speeds, But Where Are the Services?

Stacey's skinny upstream pipeInternet service providers are beginning to focus on upstream speeds as subscribers change their online behavior from consuming web content to producing it. I’ve written how upstream demand is on the rise thanks to online storage services, video uploads and file sharing, but for people to truly pay attention to their upstream speeds, someone needs to build products that get everyday consumers to experience true pipe envy.

When it came to accessing the web, email and basic browsers paved the way for people to sign up for dial-up. Broadband adoption followed the introduction of better online content and services. Less than two years after Apple (s aapl) launched its iTunes service in April 2003, broadband adoption surpassed dial-up. Several ISPs have told me that movies and music downloads from iTunes have significantly increased the data traveling over the networks. Video streaming is now driving consumers to sign up for even faster broadband services. Video is also boosting upstream data, which is why Cisco (s csco) is so pumped about its purchase of the Flip camera maker Pure Digital. (More demand for bandwidth on the upload and download side means Cisco can sell more gear.)

In an article I wrote over at GigaOM Pro (subscription required), I explain how various networks can handle upstream traffic, and list services that may get consumers to both demand (and pay for) fatter upstream pipes. Uploading video is just the beginning. Broadband burglar alarms, home telepresence, and medical monitoring are all ideas, but readers, what else is out there?  These aren’t the dot-com bubble years. Operators won’t invest in upstream capacity unless users want to pay for it. What will make you upgrade?

14 Responses to “ISPs Are Boosting Upstream Speeds, But Where Are the Services?”

  1. Backup backup backup

    Everyone seems to be buying cameras (video and still) that produce large files. You want to keep them only locally? If your house is burning down, many people grab photo albums. Wouldn’t it be nice to watch your house burn knowing that your memories are safe? Well, maybe not….

  2. There will only be a handful of consumers interested in uploading video content or have a need for medical monitoring. The majority of consumer bandwidth consumption will be downstream in the form of video content streamed to their TV. The big upstream apps I see consumers adopting will be telepresence (and I mean high-quality two-way video conferencing), online backup storage, and cloud computing (apps people don’t have to install, but require large data transmission, e.g. photo editing).

    But it will be these entertainment, social and data services that drive the consumer interest and therefore the need for broadband symmetry.

  3. Consumers are not willing to pay more for anything. What will make consumers upgrade is some party offering it. If there is enough competition in the market, then the new innovations will come.

    Your question is often heard in telco boardrooms when somebody pitches a new idea. How much will people pay for it. In the boardrooms of consumer electronics companies these questions are hardly ever heard. The question there isn’t what will a 100Mhz, 200Mhz or 400Mhz HD-TV will generate for a premium, but when will our competitors launch it at the same pricepoint we have an inferior product.

    In reality the same has been true for telecommunications in competitive markets. France is the best example. The reason Free offers in Paris 100mbit/s down and 50mbit/s up triple play broadband, with unlimited calling to 90 nations and 300 TV-channels with HD-TV is because they can at the 30 euro price point. And the competitors follow, because there is not much of an alternative.

  4. jbartell

    One of the big drivers for upstream will come from professionals working from home. They have a need to deliver the content they are producing, and their time is quite valuable. And, they can afford to pay for additional bandwidth. I know I would be willing to pay for additional bandwidth beyond the 500kbps or so I get from my cable modem.

  5. Anonymous

    Here are some additional apps/services that might need high upload bandwidth:

    Corporate Connectivity
    Video Chat
    On-line backup
    Personal/family web servers
    Personal Cloud servers
    Remote Monitoring
    Sling Player