Video touted as key bandwidth driver

The biggest single factor controlling demand for your bandwidth is video, trend researcher Patrick Dixon told gathered representatives of telecommunications companies last month. Dixon, a self-described futurist and the founder of U.K.-based consulting company Global Change Ltd., addressed the final day of the Carriers World Congress at the Barcelona Conference Centre in Spain.

A two-hour film or video link takes as much bandwidth as 12 million e-mail messages and attachments, or 5 million Web pages and images. It’s clear that this is where future growth lies for carriers, Dixon said.

Demand for bandwidth will continue to surge because “everyone will want the quality of video that they see in the cinema,” he said.

“At the moment, everyone is chasing a gold standard for bandwidth, which is TV broadcast,” said Dixon.

But that standard is at least 30 years old.

“Who wants the old-style TV? I don’t. Those stupid little glass boxes, with cathode-ray tubes.” Once the technology for higher quality video is perfected, even more bandwidth will be needed, he said.

Telecom carriers face another big challenge from the coming explosion in wireless technology.

“Your customers cannot imagine the power of the mobile phone within 18 months,” Dixon said.

In the next few years “people will be able to run the whole switchboard of five of the largest hotels in Barcelona, and do a live video conference to New York on a big screen … all on one mobile phone.” Carriers will have to find ways to convince people to use that much bandwidth – educating them about how to conduct effective video conferences, for example, a technique which most users still shy away from, Dixon said.

The key to marketing new technologies lies in understanding them within the context of human lives and deep human needs. “There’s more to life than selling, there’s more to life even than selling bandwidth,” he said.

People are becoming increasingly spiritual as a reaction to the rapid speed of change. The successful companies of the future will be those that offer people ways to use technology to improve their lives, to reduce the amount of work-related travel or time at the office, for example. Sell video conference services to overworked international executives and you’ll be on high moral ground – because you’re helping people to “get a life,” Dixon said.