It is no secret that surfing the net has taken on a very different dimension since the early days when many of us started. There was a time when dialup over a 2400 baud modem was “adequate” and one could view just about anything they wanted if they had a modicum of patience. The compromise was a very stark web where color was used but graphics were kept to an absolute minimum. According to this site web pages have become static in size at somewhere around 60K being the optimal size. I found several other sites that also provided pretty much the same measurement but I need you to understand all of these sites were dated and used a 20 second benchmark time for load over a 56K dialup connection. Google has an amazing total size of 12K which is why many people use it as their homepage.
It’s no secret that a written message (email, forum posting, etc) does not carry the same weight in understanding of nuance as someone actually speaking “face to face” with you. This is a well known problem that has lead to the use of those annoying emoticons we see all over the place. As we all also know the inclusion of a picture (or pictures) will assist in getting the message accurately across but even though engineers have understood this process for centuries we still have a fair amount of miscommunication. With the decrease in time communication now takes (realistically approaching instantaneous) coupled with knowing that the wrongly interpreted message has at one time or another caused a war to break out, it doesn’t take a genius to realize we need to improve communications in every way we can.
Where are we headed?
Well, courtesy of Slashdot, I was directed to this article that talks about where web pages are more than likely headed. Let’s face it, broadband has redefined what we can do with the web and as we cross the point where the majority of users here in the US now have broadband this limit that has been imposed by dialup is now going to be abandoned.
Enter a new medium rich with high definition graphics as well as multimedia applications. We will see the texture of the web change dramatically, one where dialup will now be relegated to the dust bin of technical museums much like the trusty 300 baud modems of yesteryear.
How soon will this happen?
I am not sure anyone can correctly address the date when the entire web will be converted to high definition browsing but I can say that once it gets started history has shown that a better quality application (music, television, whatever) usually becomes adopted very quickly once the price point drops to where it is easily affordable. If we apply this supposition to the adoption by audiophiles to the best quality audio equipment available or the rapid adoption of High Definition TV we can rapidly see that once someone has been exposed to or acquired a taste for excellent quality audio/video experiences they will rarely opt to return to “AM radio” quality. I wonder if the adoption of “Cell Phone Quality” voice communications will one day be replaced with full fidelity voice communications. I know that we are willing to accept the miserable quality of cell phone conversations in order to have the capability to receive calls just about everywhere but I am sure nobody is overly pleased with it. I believe the same holds true with WebCams. We will tolerate 3-5 frames per second at a very low resolution but this would easily be replaced if 30 FPS at high definition levels were to become available.
So, what does this mean?
We will now start to see web locations that will be able to take advantage of the maximum definition of this latest generation of monitors. Imagine how beautiful an 8 Megapixel background image on a web site would look. At the same time there are applications for this technology in many developing nations where the illiteracy rates are through the roof. Conversely, the problem we all can see coming is that these nations are the last to be able to afford this technology even though I see them as possibly being the ones that will change that.
As we all know the scale of economics is the underlying basis for the cost of most equipment. If GigE radios were produced at a rate of 10 million per month the cost per unit would probably fall into the range of WiFi. If this technology were to be specifically designed for the outdoor deployment of communications and the necessary bandwidth were to be allocated this transformation could easily happen in the next decade. The benefit to all would be staggering.
This also supports the IPTV model as well as many other platforms that we can see coming but we are not quite sure how we will deliver them. Add to that the unknown business model that makes this service a reality and there is a lot of work to be done before we will see anything like a worldwide adoption of this communications platform. At some point, we will see radio, television, voice, data, video conferencing as well as just about everything else that can be converted to a digital bitstream be carried over this new infrastructure. At the same time this will free up wide swaths of spectrum from the cell phone providers, the licensed microwave users, radio, television and a myriad of other spectrum users that will now be able to share this common pipe we are discussing.
What will be the driving force behind this transformation?
My guess is desperation, desperation by a country that has little or no choice in the matter. As a matter of fact I could see this as also being instituted in a disaster zone like what was created in the wake of the tsunami or after Katrina. In both cases the length of time and overall expense necessary to put everything back to where it was cannot and should not be justified. This is a “greenfield” opportunity to strive for something better, experiment with new ways of doing things and move forward. Of course, we all know that instituting a change like this on a massive scale is going to cause some consternation among those who stand to lose – especially if they stand to lose big. If we look at which companies are in a position to lose their control over their markets we find a uniform pattern that closely matches up with the same group that are already losing control of their markets. IP Radio is huge and it is just getting started. IPTV, the promise is there however the infrastructure isn’t ready for it quite yet. Telecommunication and advanced data services? Please, they should shut off the lights and just go home.
This isn’t about disruptive technologies any more, it is now an all out open warfare based on the best business model. The day of tying stuff to petrified sticks stuck in the ground is now rapidly coming to a close. This is closely followed by the 1930s mentality that each operator needs to have their own slice of spectrum to provide its service even if this means that huge areas have zero utilization of this band.
There was a time when the WISP field seemed like David and Goliath. Those days have ended and a new era has begun. This is the time when the horseless carriage will have to do what it can to prevent the automobile from dominating the field. There are case studies where one industry has overcome another, street cars were almost completely replaced in California at one point but eventually even that tactic dies off. California is now rebuilding the mass transit system to alleviate the congestion on their roads as well as providing choice for their residents. Ironically, even as this progression continues the communications industry is now working to reduce the need for transportation as we usher in a time of telecommuting.
Look out, this is going to come in fast. As usual, the aware among us will get it and the rest will be taken by surprise. It will be those who adapt that will prosper and the rest will curse their luck.
Remember, luck is 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration. I would like to add that (channeling Yogi Berra) the other half is researching understanding good, solid information.