Network impact of Skype TV

Very interesting ArsTechnica post:

Bandwidth usage, however, could prove to be a problem for the project. According to the project’s documentation seen by Ars Technica, watching an hour’s worth of TV consumes an average of 320MB downloaded and 105MB uploaded traffic, due to the service’s P2P architecture. US Government statistics suggest that Americans on average watch about 2.6 hours of TV a day, which in Venice Project terms would equate to 832MB downloaded and 273MB uploaded traffic. In a single month, that would tally to 25GB down, 8GB of uploaded traffic alone.

For users with broadband caps, the Venice Project could easily consume a month’s worth of bandwidth in short order. Even users without caps could be affected if they “trip” unpublished limits on so-called “unlimited” services and get a call from Mr. Friendly ISP. Still, high bandwidth usage is nothing new; we all know someone (maybe even ourselves) pulling down this kind of data every month. What’s different about the Venice Project is that it could explode into The Next Big Thing™, turning more of us into “heavy users.”

The question is: how will ISPs react? The Venice Project founders know a little something about this, because Skype has been through a bit of it. Skype is so threatening to some established players that it sometimes gets blocked at the network level. China Telecom attempted to ban the use of Skype in 2005, and some California universities sought to block the usage of Skype on their local networks for fear of security and bandwidth problems. These blocks didn’t last, in part because the criticism from users was intense. Will the arguments work when it’s TV at stake and not calling mom and dad?

In all reality, the bandwidth that Venice uses is not outrageous—it is on par with downloaded movies encoded in DivX format, which are about 600MB per 2 hour movie, and not too far from the likes of what Apple offers through the iTunes Store. However, as more and more types of video download services (such as iTunes videos or Xbox Live videos) become more popular, especially those using a P2P architecture, it is easy to see how the broadband infrastructure will feel the strain.

In this way, there’s a real chance that the Venice Project will be at the center of net-neutrality debates in the United States in the coming months. In our very limited experience with Venice, we can say that we’re quite impressed. If it really takes off, it’s going to make a number of impressions on the telecommunications companies. How will they react? There will certainly be envy, because everyone wants to build the next YouTube, and the Ed Whitacres of the world don’t want to see anyone gettin’ rich off of “their pipes” (which you pay for). There may also be a little anger involved, for if Venice usage soars, it will definitely consume a notable amount of bandwidth, leaving ISPs in the position of needing to tune their networks. To throttle or not to throttle—that may be the question that fuels another round in the net neutrality debates.