Technology: Home Networking - Video Armageddon

By Simon Buddle, SMC. My very first laptop arrived with me in 1994 containing a whopping 100MB hard drive running Windows 3.1, a clip-on side mouse and VGA screen. Its only use was to load software into a multiroom audio system at about 4 bits per fortnight. A few years later, I got a 56k dial-up modem and a CompuServe email address. I'd arrived on the Internet Superhighway! Well, when I say superhighway I really mean the bike lane littered with technical pot holes and other such glitches that said 'Do not pass Go, do not collect 200 dollars.' I am going grey, and it's true to say that I'm beginning to feel somewhat like Doc Brown from 'Back to the Future', when he was confronted with the prospect of having to find and harness 1.21 gigawatts of power to return Marty McFly back to the correct time zone. [caption id="attachment_4552" align="aligncenter" width="599"] Doc Brown harnessing 1.2GW of power.[/caption] 4K-resolution screens are here, and that means another conversation about bandwidth. Why? Because we are seeing more and more TV services delivered over the Internet. We have seen figures quoted by Netflix for its 4K streaming service which needs a speed of 15.6Mbps. Some simple maths will give you a minimum speed required for a broadband connection based upon the number of connected TVs in the house. Even the smallest data switches in our network - you know, that one behind the TV - must be smart, providing QoS and traffic prioritisation with a high-speed switching back plane. Every penny spent on good-quality networking equipment is money well spent. [caption id="attachment_4554" align="aligncenter" width="600"] As 4K streaming services grow, so will the demands on the home network.[/caption] Video on the Move Recently-released figures from Cisco tell us that at the end of 2013, mobile video traffic accounted for 53%, and it estimates that over two-thirds of the world's mobile data traffic will be video by 2018. In addition to this, globally, 45% of total mobile data traffic was offloaded onto the fixed network through Wi-Fi in 2013. [caption id="attachment_4555" align="aligncenter" width="347"] Cisco Forecasts 15.9 exabytes per month of mobile data traffic by 2018.[/caption] The numbers are beginning to look quite extraordinary. In its report 'Cisco Visual Networking Index: Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast Update, 2013–2018' the unit of measurement Cisco uses is the exabyte (EB). 1 EB = 1000000000000000000 bytes = 1000 petabytes = 1 million terabytes = 1 billion gigabytes - and that's a whole lot more than 1.21 gigawatts, I can assure you! The home is awash with smart phones, and people are becoming accustomed to viewing video on them. In fact just last week at The Emirates stadium, the chap standing next to me was watching the same match live on his phone via SkyGo. Less than twelve months ago, you could barely get a text out of there, never mind watch a video! 4G is most definitely here, and with it comes the expectation that TV can be streamed to multiple devices - I refer all you honourable ladies and gentleman to the mobile data traffic offloaded sentence above. [caption id="attachment_4556" align="aligncenter" width="600"] You can now watch live streamed broadcasts at home or on the go.[/caption] At the Mobile World Congress show that was just held in Barcelona, Media Excel announced that its H.265 High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC) Live Video Encoder would be part of Qualcomm Technologies' LTE Broadcast demonstration. In the demo, HD video would be encoded live by the Media Excel H.265 solution and broadcast in real time to smart phones. Among others, companies such as Hero are talking about transcoding UHD/4K content. The boffins are working hard to reduce the bandwidth needs for the ever-increasing screen resolutions that are coming to market, but there is one eternal truth: as quality and therefore resolution go up, so bandwidth requirements go up. [caption id="attachment_4553" align="aligncenter" width="598"] Is the trend in display resolution tending towards the exponential?[/caption] Live TV broadcast of 4K onto large-format displays will undoubtedly be the next revolution in TV technology. Interestingly, Sky first trialled it in a basic format at, yes you've guessed it, The Emirates Stadium in the Champions League game between Arsenal and Olympiakos back in October 2012. Expect to see it soon, possibly at the World Cup. For many years, at the end of a project, when hopelessly attempting to complete everything to a near-impossible deadline, we had the maxim that if you could get the lights on so that the client could get to their phone to ring their mates and invite them around to watch the footie, you'd probably get away with the rest of it not working properly for the weekend. I still believe this principle to be true, but now that TV element requires significant thought, design and implementation, because it is not only the RF/IF system, but also a high-quality, high-bandwidth data network. Conclusion The home network's video switching needs are growing at an almost unbelievable rate. The networks we install today will, we hope, stand our clients in good stead for the next 5 to 10 years. The nuclear family today contains multiple TVs, smartphones, tablets, games consoles, and CCTV cameras to name but a few. We'd all be well advised to profile what that family might look like in a technology sense, so that we can be sure that our networks are up to the job. I suspect that in few years time, I may open this home networking article with the quaint story of how we used to run 1GB networks over copper.. Simon Buddle is the Technical Director of SMC – systems integration consultants and installers. Simon is also a regular contributor to HiddenWires, and the first winner of the CEDIA Region 1 Special Recognition Award. Comments on this article are welcome. See below.

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