Internet TV plans could blur bandwidth picture

The founders of Skype have a bold new plan, but bandwidth limitations could hinder it

Users whose ISP has a strict monthly limit on bandwidth usage may be forced to turn away from the new peer-to-peer TV streaming offering planned by the founders of VoIP provider Skype.

The beta video-stream service, known as The Venice Project, is a bandwidth blockbuster, consuming an average 320MB of downloaded and 105MB of uploaded traffic for an hour’s worth of TV viewing. The service aims to distribute TV and other video content over the web instead of conventional terrestrial, satellite or cable channels.

The 105MB per hour upload rate is almost equivalent to 256Kbit/s, double the upload speed currently offered by many DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) services in Europe.

In documentation provided to beta testers, The Venice Project team warns that the service “will exhaust a 1GB cap in ten hours” and explains how users can exit the application to ensure it doesn’t continue running once they’ve stopped watching.

A typical video-stream of television quality consumes about 70GB per hour, a spokeswoman for The Venice Project says. To lower users’ bandwidth requirements, The Venice Project is testing a new compressing technique but nevertheless points out that users will need to ensure that they have an agreed upper limit on their monthly internet usage, according to the spokeswoman.

Many ISPs offer broadband connections with no time limitations but provide usage guidelines that seek to control users who regularly exceed agreed monthly data transmission volumes.

Because the service runs on a P-to-P (peer-to-peer) network, users both host and send TV programmes to other users in the automated system, adding to their usage.

The Venice Project is almost certain to worry some network operators in the US that are already concerned about their broadband pipes becoming plugged with a range of new video download services. A proliferation of these services could add fuel to the nation’s already overheated debate on network neutrality.

The project is the brainchild of Niklas Zennström and Janus Friis, the founders of the Kazaa P-to-P music exchange and the Skype VoIP service.

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