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UPD Study Claims You Will Need 165Mbps of Broadband Speed by 2020

Thursday, June 26th, 2014 (10:02 am) - Score 5,115

A new study conducted by NL Kabal and Cable Europe, which is a trade association for cable operators like Virgin Media, has boldly predicted that in around 6 years’ time the average consumer demand for broadband ISP download speeds will reach a staggering 165Mbps and uploads of 20Mbps. Miles above today’s current average.

According to the report, the average “sufficient provisioned speeds” were estimated as 15.3Mbps (downstream) and around 1.6Mbps (upstream) in 2013 and the demand for bandwidth is expected to “grow exponentially” by 2020. The CAGR (compound annual growth rate) is stated as 40.3% for downstream and 43.9% for upstream traffic demand.

As a result it predicts that the estimated demand for daily upstream traffic in 2020 will average at just over 3,000MB (MegaBytes) per day, with total downstream demand for 2020 estimated as almost 8,000MB per day. The study also took account of the highest demand users (representing around 2% of all users and generates approximately half of all the upload activity) and predicted that this group will, in 2020, be “operating at 1Gbps download and 315Mbps demand for internet speeds” (bit poorly worded perhaps).

broadband speed demand in europe by 2020

By comparison Ofcom recently reported that the average real-world download speed in the UK had risen to 17.8Mbps (up by +17.41% from 14.7Mbps in August 2013). Meanwhile the UK government wants 95% of the population to have access to speeds of 25Mbps+ by 2017 and the EU’s Digital Agenda target sets this as 30Mbps+ by 2020 (with 50% subscribed to a 100Mbps+ service).

In practical terms the best headline (advertised) speeds currently available in the UK on BT’s national network are, excluding their very tiny FTTP deployments (330Mbps), ‘up to’ 80Mbps via hybrid-fibre FTTC technology and Virgin Media’s cable (EuroDOCSIS/DOCSIS3) platform can reach 152Mbps. A handful of fibre optic (FTTH/P) ISPs can also deliver up to 1000Mbps, with KC doing 100Mbps+ in Hull using similar tech.

Said Caroline van Weede, MD of Cable Europe, said:

The trend in consumer behaviour which lies behind these figures speaks for itself. Customers consume much more content than they produce. European cable companies are more than ready to satisfy these growing consumer appetites for internet speeds. The new DOCSIS 3.1 specification will deliver possibilities of 10Gbps downstream and 2Gbps upstream – a much wider capacity than even this research indicates. We’re future-proofed for the fastest connections and the most sophisticated applications.”

But will we really need all that speed? As with last year’s report from the Broadband Stakeholders Group (here), much of this depends upon how long you’re willing to wait for files to download and that’s always very subjective, varying from one person to another.

The BSG’s own report controversially suggested that a “median household” might only require bandwidth of 19Mbps (Megabits per second) by 2023, although many people misinterpreted this because the BSG were highlighting a methodology for testing predictions and this could equally be read in different ways for different situations and people.

Pamela Learmonth, CEO of the BSG, told ISPreview.co.uk:

We are delighted to see that our report on bandwidth demand has prompted others to recognise the importance of this debate and to look into it further. Like our work, the Cable Europe report is a considerable piece of research and we are in the process of fully digesting it.

However, we believe that the difference in headline demand speeds could be due to differences in approach on the relationship between traffic growth and bandwidth growth. We have already put that question to the authors of the report and look forward to having a constructive dialogue on quantifying this very important area of research.”

On the other hand an earlier House of Lords Select Committee Inquiry claimed that “consumer demand for bandwidth is growing by around 60% a year“and predicted that broadband download speeds of 1Gbps (Gigabits per second) “may be needed” by 2020 (here). Suffice to say that everybody has an opinion, but right now many would be fine with just 10Mbps, although most of those might equally feel a demand for 100Mbps+; often regardless of whether or not it would have huge practical impact on what they do online today.

Ultimately different people will demand different things and the key is always with ensuring that the infrastructure you have in place can cope with those peak expectations. Clearly Virgin Media’s existing cable network is already most of the way there and their planned DOCSIS3.1 upgrade will deliver another boost. Meanwhile BT’s FTTC, with its highly variable speeds, is fine for today (unless you live at the end of its reach where speeds drop to 2Mbps+ levels) but by 2020 we’ll be expecting more and it remains to be seen whether their plans for G.Fast and FTTdp / FTTrN deliver upon the expectations.

UPDATE 12:14pm

Added a comment from the BSG above.

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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39 Responses
  1. Avatar DTMark

    I wouldn’t say 165Meg was “staggering”. It’s a bit higher than I’d have thought (circa 100Meg) but I agree with the thrust of the argument and that demand will rise in an exponential and not linear manner. The required upstream rate is often ignored, too.

    Anyone see all the Sony ads for 4K TVs during the World cup..

    • Avatar FibreFred

      Yeah its not an “out of this world” figure to be honest

    • Avatar James Harrison

      165Mbps sounds about right. I’d certainly assume 100M as a minimum for 2020, not these double-digit numbers some groups keep throwing around.

  2. Torn between whether or not I want this to be the case.

    On the one hand I would very much enjoy BT investors of the time complaining at the board over the need to deploy more CapEx so soon after what they were told was a ‘massive’ investment. (Hint it was the investors and board of that time being more interested in overpaying on sports rights than spending for the future.).

    On the other hand we all know BT will be taking the begging bowl out and be back at the taxpayer to upgrade some areas.

    • Avatar FibreFred

      But what would BT actually need to do to meet these speeds? Leaving aside g.fast if they wanted to offer these speeds it can be done using Fibre on Demand, I know the costs are huge and that would need addressing, but that is a financial issue not a technical one.

      Technically there’s no issue to offering these speeds, even now?

    • Avatar DTMark

      The primary thing that will need to happen is the government accepting that privatising the “last mile” was a monumental blunder, and either reversing that, or building it all again.

      You cannot have both the benefits of privatisation (e.g. markets and competition) and this type of regulation (precisely because there is no market or competition) at the same time.

      The starting point is to recognise this. By 2020, indeed even now, the same debate will be had about energy.

    • Fibre on demand isn’t a viable product and you know it. It was, perhaps, a viable product for high-end consumers then Openreach jacked the price up to maximise their usage of the Superconnected Cities vouchers.

      Ensuring retail prices of £20/month for 80Mb and £200/month for 300Mb isn’t going to work for anyone, it’s absurd. There are no options in between, retail operators have little intention of offering these products en masse.

      What Openreach would have to do to reach these speeds with the volumes required to make a reasonable product for their customers to offer is actually spend some serious money of their own. They spend the bare minimum, that bare minimum would rise and they’d end up not having many options but to spend more.

    • Avatar No Clue

      Government and BT broadband dubbed “Super fast” will be dubbed “Super slow” in less than 10 years. Who would had thought that? Erm hold on we all knew that already except the BT butt slurpers.

  3. Avatar DanielM

    to be fair the “house of lords” is full of old farts who dont know much about today’s tech.

    • Avatar adslmax

      All MP’s are using mobile these days. Why they telling BT to end copper wire, no ones want landlines these day cos everyones using mobile now. Time to ask BT to start using Fibre To The House.

  4. Avatar Andy

    Yeah good luck with that in the majority of the UK.

  5. Avatar Bob

    The worrying thing is there is no plan to get us past FTTC The real problem is BT’s control of the local loop. Removed from BT and we would see fibre deployed further into the network. It is not really viable for operators to overlay the existing BT network. Break the local loop monopoly and I think we would see real progress

    • Avatar DTMark

      All that matters is that there is competition. That other players can put down fibre to take us forward; BT have already told us that there’s no way that they can efficiently deploy beyond cabinets and that VDSL is a dead-end.

      This is evident from the pricing of “on demand” which en-masse would cost us at least twice what it would cost to do the entire country from scratch.

      Either they are right and the last mile network is just too old to be of any use going forward, or the pricing is exploiting a monopoly. Either way this takes us nowhere. See paragraph 1.

      In this respect BDUK is only a short-term stop-gap. But then we knew this anyway.

    • Avatar TheFacts

      Break it in what way, and why would that see fibre being installed everywhere?

    • Avatar DTMark

      I’ve already answered that one multiple times on here.

      Begin from this perspective…

      Why do you think that mobile operators install roadside transmitters in the ‘middle of nowhere’ in Australia?

      What is their incentive?

    • Avatar FibreFred

      Why is there no plan to go beyond fttc , have you missed articles mentioning g.fast ?

    • Avatar DTMark

      What is the specific rollout plan and pricing for that?

    • Avatar No Clue

      The same as any other BT plan, lie about the figures, beg and borrow money, under perform, repeat.

    • Avatar FibreFred

      DTMark. G.fast is in trial just like vdsl was before it was rolled out , bobs comment made it sound like there were no future plans obviously that isn’t the case

    • Avatar No Clue

      You mean like the vectoring trials for that wonderful new addition to FTTC that erm still doesn’t exist as a product.

  6. Avatar TheFacts

    Why not show Figure 2. of the report which shows what we will be using the bandwidth for in 2020?

    • Avatar GNewton

      Honestly, why do you care?

      Everyone else knows that VDSL can only be a stop-gap solution, and it certainly is not future proof.

  7. Avatar FTTH

    BT can easily deliver this.
    The FTTC build is enabling Active cabinets with fibre backhaul.

    All they need to do is pull out the VDSL cards and drop in GPON cards.

    Routing fibre to the home is not difficult at all, it is deliberately made to look difficult.

    When the time is right they will drop the copper.

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