Trends in Communications and Media Technology, Applications and Use


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Trends in Communications and Media Technology, Applications and Use

© Commonwealth of Australia 2009

This work is copyright. Apart from any use as permitted under the Copyright Act 1968, no part may be reproduced by any process without prior written permission from the Commonwealth. Requests and inquiries concerning reproduction and rights should be addressed to the Manager, Communications and Publishing, Australian Communications and Media Authority, PO Box 13112 Law Courts, Melbourne Vic 8010.

Published by the Australian Communications and Media Authority

Canberra Office

Purple Building, Benjamin Offices

Chan Street, Belconnen

PO Box 78,

Belconnen ACT 2616

Tel: 02 6219 5555

Fax: 02 6219 5353

Melbourne Office

Level 44, Melbourne Central Tower

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PO Box 13112 Law Courts Melbourne Vic 8010

Tel: 03 9963 6800

Fax: 03 9963 6899

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Sydney Office

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Tel: 02 9334 7700, 1800 226 667

Fax: 02 9334 7799


Overview 1

Key findings 1

Summary of developments and trends 2

Infrastructure 2

Applications 3

Use 4

Regulatory challenges 6

Resource and industry management 6

Consumer protection and safeguards 7

Infrastructure 8

Computing and digital media 8

Compression and encoding 8

Computer processing power 9

Cross-platform media 9

Virtualisation and cloud computing 10

Digital display 10

Digital urban living 11

Green IT/Green computing 11

Home networks 12

IP-based audio-visual distribution 12

Voice over IP 16

Fixed and mobile broadband 16

Fixed broadband networks 16

Mobile broadband networks 17

Mobile operating systems/Open source software 18

Smart networks 19

WiFi 19

Radiofrequency spectrum 20

Spectrum sharing 20

Intelligent transport systems 20

Managed spectrum park 21

Applications 23

Web Applications 23

Continuing evolution of the web 23

Web browsing alternatives 24

Content and network management applications 25

Deep packet inspection 25

Internet call blocking 25

Manufacturer control 26

Mobiles 26

Applications development and distribution 26

Location-based social networking 27

Mobile payments and money transfer 28

E-security developments and outlook 28

Human computer interaction 30

Emerging forms of telecommunication 30

Telepresence 30

Social and economic trends and implications 32

Consumer Web experience 32

What constitutes a full web experience? 32

Web usability 33

Data portability 33

Social web 33

Social media 33

Social networking 36

Consumer participation in content creation and distribution 38

Cloud computing 38

Conclusion 39


Trends in Communications and Media Technology, Applications and Use provides an overview of infrastructure, applications, social and economic trends and developments, and anticipated developments over the next five to ten years.

The report focuses on developments since the release of ACMA’s Top Six Trends in Communications and Media Technologies, Applications and Services – Possible Implications,1 in May 2008. Some continuity is provided through references to incremental advances in trends and developments identified previously. This report includes recent developments and expectations in technologies, applications and use that were introduced in the May 2008 report, such as spectrum sharing, deep packet inspection, the semantic web and social web.

While the primary focus of this report is on technology, a section on the social and economic implications of technology developments has been added. This new section recognises that the social and economic use of technology also enables innovation and change.

This overview section also provides a high-level outline of potential regulatory issues arising from developments in technology and use.

The views set out in this report are not put forward as predictions and there is no attempt to pick technology winners or losers. The report contributes to work ACMA is undertaking to inform its understanding of the operation of regulation in the communications and media markets and as part of its statutory responsibilities to be informed and advise on technology developments and service trends. It offers an opportunity to identify and engage with change, and to anticipate the need for possible action by ACMA.

Research was conducted using desktop analysis over the period April to November 2008, focusing on developments of significance reported over the period. ACMA will continue to update this report regularly and welcomes your feedback.

Key findings

Technology and service developments over 2008 were consistent with the established trend of network and service convergence. Developments identified in this report provide evidence of ongoing technology development, continued evolution of the web, and social and economic change driven by use of the social web. These expectations must however be qualified given the consequences for capital and R&D intensive information and communication technology (ICT) sectors that have arisen or that may arise from the global economic slowdown.

The report provides evidence of the ongoing convergence of networks and services, particularly through:

  • increasing use of IP video, providing further impetus for the integration of professionally produced content on the internet and

  • the continued evolution of cellular and other wireless networks and mobile operating systems capable of supporting packet-based transmissions and new software applications.

    There is evidence of more profound change evolving through:

  • a more personalised web experience

  • a rapid expansion of social media and a consequential surge in new media influencers and

  • social networking and the use of web-based computing systems like cloud computing developing in ways that change the way people work and business is conducted.

    Some of these changes continue established regulatory pressure points, particularly:

  • the increasing demand for and use of use of radiofrequency spectrum to support IP- based services and the evolution of high-speed data on mobile networks

  • potential privacy concerns arising from network management practices that incorporate location aware services and use of personal information for behavioural marketing

  • change in the way content is produced and distributed across multiple platforms highlighting where there is differential treatment of content across distribution platforms.

    New regulatory challenges include:

  • increasing public interest in data portability between web service providers, and the management of online identity, data and reputation

  • the evolving cyber-crime economies which operate across the internet.

Summary of developments and trends


Continued growth in internet traffic is expected, driven mainly by an increasing use of IP video, data centres and virtualised computing. Growth in internet traffic has been forecast to increase four-fold over 2008–2012.2

The main driver of internet traffic internationally is expected to be web-based video including streaming or downloading from a file-hosting site. Australian developments include streamed on-demand video targeted at broadband subscribers, and a subscription radio service streamed to 3G mobiles.

Internet-enabled digital TV sets may provide further impetus to the integration of professionally-produced content to the internet, along with greater consumer control and interaction.

Performance improvements in Australian broadband networks are expected from the migration from an underlying range of transmission protocols to a native IP over ethernet3 protocol and higher-speed broadband networks.

Mobile networks and operating systems are increasingly capable of supporting packet-based transmission and mobile software applications, and have some compatibility with other radio and fixed-network access systems. More consumer electronics and laptops are expected to be manufactured with the hardware required to connect with cellular mobile networks.

Open source mobile operating systems have emerged as alternatives to proprietary systems. Internet connectivity for mobile devices together with new mobile operating systems and third-party applications for mobiles have been made available without organised support from equipment vendors and network operators. Consumers may benefit from handsets with more functionality and greater ease of use.

The GSM Association4 (GSMA) successful trialling of voice calls using the SIP-I protocol foreshadows the migration of mobile voice calls from circuit-switched to packet-based voice between mobile networks.

Mobile phones equipped with near field communications capabilities are now available in some countries including Australia. This is a very specific short-range wireless technology that is expected to drive increasing uptake of mobile commerce and payments services in Australia within the next few years and bring Australia into line with developments that are already occurring in Asia.

Spectrum-sharing developments have taken on more momentum with proposals for the release of spectrum ‘television white space’ under consideration in the United Kingdom and USA. The allocation of radiofrequency spectrum for the development of intelligent transport systems is under consideration in several jurisdictions including Australia. These developments reflect ongoing changes in radiocommunications spectrum management globally that respond to an increasing sophistication and diversity of radio technologies, along with congested and contested spectrum.

Green IT developments and initiatives are also expected to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and energy use in activities related to information technologies during this period.


The web continues to evolve through developments in location-based services, and more personalisation of web experiences.

The first generation of the web was characterised as the Information Age that enabled search functions. With the emergence of the second generation (Web 2.0) over the early part of this decade, the story of the web has largely been about interaction. It became known as the social web. Currently in the early stages of development, the semantic web (or Web 3.05) is expected to provide a more personalised web experience by anticipating and delivering information of interest to individual users.. While the full potential of the semantic web is not expected to be realised until 2010– 2020, advances in standards development have enabled some early applications to be made available.

Location-based services (LBS) are one example of this type of personalisation of the web. In Japan, South Korea and the United States location-based services are now a firm part of mobile services marketing.6 Wider take-up is possible should leading social network sites add location-aware services. Demand for LBS in Australia has been limited in comparison, although this may change with the increased availability of mobile broadband services and GPS-enabled handsets, and as operators seeking to provide value-adding services.

Another potential growth area is new revenue streams earned from monetising7 information about users. Behavioural-targeting software is used to harness and direct relevant information of interest to users. Where these new revenue streams are directed towards infrastructure upgrades there are potential benefits to consumers, but there are potential risks to privacy.

A report published in October 2008 outlined the top five global e-security threats and challenges for 2009 and beyond. These include:

  • malware threats (due to poorly designed and maintained web sites)

  • botnets (malware delivery systems gaining in sophistication and obfuscation techniques)

  • cyber warfare (direct denial of service attacks by antagonist nations)

  • voice over internet protocol (VoIP) spam and phishing

  • the evolving cyber crime economy incorporating data theft and fraud.8

Recent developments in human computer interaction (HCI) point to a possible future where computers are more usable and responsive to user needs. A number of telepresence videoconferencing systems are now available in Australia. Evolving tele-immersive systems are expected to provide much richer forms of virtual reality communications.


Developments in digital media offer consumers more control, more choice and more opportunities for social interaction through control over what they watch, how they watch it and who they share the experience with. This is leading to changes in the social and economic use of the internet and IP-based services, which in turn is driving an expansion of social media and the development of new media influencers.

Understanding or monitoring user web experiences has become more complex. Factors to consider include the:

  • practices of website developers, owners and ISPs

  • users’ choice (and maintenance) of computing hardware and software, and

  • users’ own level of digital literacy.

Moreover, these variables are not static but subject to ongoing change, which makes understanding and monitoring user web experiences more challenging. Nevertheless, the exercise is important as accessing digital media and communications services via the web is increasingly part of everyday life. Users need to be able to recognise risks in this environment and adopt protective behaviours.

One response to these issues is the formation of interest groups such as the Data Portability Project9 which is an advocacy group formed to promote the idea that individual users have control over personal data and how data is used by service providers. The project seeks to use open-source solutions and promote the use of existing open standards that enable data portability through influencing industry developments.

Further evidence of the internet’s transformative effect is that readership of blogs is now a mainstream online activity internationally. The number of blogs tracked internationally by blog search engine Technorati reached 133 million by September 2008. However, Technorati’s figures may disguise total blogging activity. In China (which now has the world’s largest internet user population of 253 million) the number of regular blog users rose to 107 million in 2008, up 116 per cent over 2007.10 There is evidence to show that blog readership in Australia is following international trends.

The functionality and popularity of social networking sites continues to expand. Facebook reported it had 3.36 million Australian users (18 per cent of the population) by the end of July 2008, an increase of 43 per cent over the preceding six months.

Social networking is being deployed within enterprises as well. Online social networks are being used for web-based business networking, job hunting and for connecting with customers online. Web-based collaboration through blogs, wikis and social networking sites enables enhanced employee collaboration, inside and outside an organisation. The functionality of social networking is expanding as online social network providers add mobile interfaces to their services.

Social media provides individuals and organisations with a low-cost medium for producing and distributing content in ways that were previously only available through traditional media (TV, radio and print). The participative web has empowered consumers to become part of the value creation process. This is evident in online marketing sites (for example, eBay and Amazon) and ‘community of practice’ involvement in after-sales service.11

Web-based computing systems, applications and services may transform the IT industry through enabling use of centralised computing services. Cloud computing (the use of web-based computing systems, applications and services that are accessed independently from the underlying infrastructure or geo-physical location) enables computing services to be available where and when needed. With recent economic factors driving uptake (including the falling costs of storage and business looking for IT savings or efficiencies), cloud computing has the potential to profoundly change the way people work and the way companies operate.

Regulatory challenges

Resource and industry management

Technology and service developments over 2008 were consistent with the established trend of network and service convergence. High-speed fixed and mobile broadband networks are increasingly used for video communications and the distribution of media content over multiple platforms.

To achieve higher data rates for mobile broadband networks, more radiofrequency spectrum will be needed to supplement technological advances. Industry anticipates that there will be a requirement for 20 MHz channels for LTE-Advanced (the proposed further enhancements to mobile networks that go beyond those of the existing global standard for third generation wireless communications) compared with 5 MHz channels for HSPA and WCDMA networks.

Increasing demand for data capacity over broadband networks is expected to drive the need to improve the efficiency and flexibility of the available infrastructure. Interference issues need to be managed if spectrum is to be licensed to enable more flexible use of the frequency.Potential spectrum management implications arising from shared use include the potential for a greater reliance on class licenses and the development of self-management arrangements between users of the same spectrum. On the other hand, the rights of incumbent spectrum rights holders will need to be protected. These issues underscore the importance of technology and service neutrality to allow for competing interests in spectrum use. Industry regulation based on assumptions of segmented, independently operated services is also open to challenge.

Privacy and security concerns about the use of behavioural-targeting and location-aware services to track consumer interests and activities may develop over time. Striking a balance between promoting innovation and protecting user privacy are important policy considerations. Intervention may not be required should users acquire sufficient control of privacy settings through industry-led trust and verification software. The development of new industry codes of conduct has been proposed as a flexible regulatory tool to keep up with new services and avoid more prescriptive regulation.12 It is still early days for applications hosted in the cloud computing environment.13 Nonetheless, it is apparent that the internationalised nature of cloud computing can pose challenges to the reach and effectiveness of data regulation across jurisdictions.

Cybersecurity is a growing concern to consumers, business and the public sector because of the increasing importance of IT processes in society. Cybersecurity threats are likely to be addressed by a combination of:

  • e-security regulation to set limits on the behaviour of industry participants, and

  • technology standardisation that could reduce the probability of equipment and data being misused.

Multi-faceted regulatory strategies are necessary to address the nimble and innovative developments in cybercrime economies.

Consumer protection and safeguards

As social networking and the use of social media become more widespread, consequential issues of interest to users that are likely to arise include online identity management; personal and commercial data management; reputation management; and the influence of social media.

Recent developments in the semantic web foreshadow an increasing interest in data portability between web pages and between web service providers. Web users may want to take their online identity, media, contacts and content to web services of their choice. The useability of social networking may be enhanced if it were possible for data to be easily transferred from one web service to another (for example, personal contact details to be updated in one location with updates to other social networks flowing automatically). Relevant considerations include questions about commercial incentives in the use of data and the ability of individuals to have control over their data. Meanwhile, industry initiatives and user-led initiatives like the Data Portability Project may help to resolve data control and portability issues. Monitoring the level of user interest in data portability and industry performance in enabling portability may be of interest to ACMA because of the ongoing growth of social networking.

New influencers from the blogosphere and social networking sites have an increasing role in informing and shaping public opinion and attitudes.

Digital literacy, consumer education programs and industry performance monitoring and reporting will need to recognise the fact that web users’ experiences are complex and fast changing. Cybersecurity threats and risks can be addressed in part through education to make users more aware of the care that should be taken in using IT processes.

Managing quality of service expectations is also likely to become a more prominent as growth in the use of applications that are particularly sensitive to jitter and latency, such as VoIP, video streaming and real-time gaming, may make consumers more sensitive to the quality of their service experience.


This section provides an overview of trends and developments in communications and media infrastructure, including computing and digital media hardware and software, network operating systems and physical networks.

Computing and digital media

Compression and encoding

There have been some developments internationally in compression standards development and encoding systems for the transmission and storage of video. This is a key development to enable more content to be delivered to customers and to enable customers to handle more content efficiently.

While compression techniques enable more efficient delivery of video content, the process requires a compromise between the transmission/storage requirements and the user experience. Too much compression may noticeably distort images by reducing the level of detail on display, a situation that is likely to be more noticeable in high-action video such as sporting events. Alternatively, uncompressed high definition (HD) video provides higher-quality viewing, but needs higher bandwidth broadband connections well in excess of that required for compressed video. Compression techniques will continue to be of significance because of the increasing demand from users to access content regardless of the format in which it was created and because of the interest in tailoring content to the variety of display terminals that can be used to access content.

Recent developments in this area include work of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) Study Group 16 – Multimedia coding, systems and applications which established a special team known as the Joint Video Team (JVT). The JVT consists of experts from ITU-T Video Coding Experts Group (VCEG) and Moving Picture Experts Group (MPEG). Study Group 16’s JVT was responsible for developing the H.264 standard which has seen widespread support by Apple (iTunes), Adobe Flash Player, the BBC and ABC iView streaming. H.264 can deliver the same video quality as an older standard MPEG-2 (used for DVD video) while only using half the storage space.14

Study Group 16 will focus on a definition and begin algorithm design for H.265, the next video compression standard. H.265 will not be an extension of the existing H.264 standard, but a new process with a focus on simplicity and more efficient encoding. According to Study Group 16, the final recommendation of H.265 is expected to be delivered around 2009–2010 with a complete standard expected around 2012.15

In a separate initiative, a new encoding system offering the ability to stream HD video was launched by IBM and Broadcasting International in the USA in April 2008.16 It is claimed that the system allows for an 80 per cent reduction in the amount of bandwidth needed to stream HD video. Broadcast International has been reported to be targeting HD video encoding at 1.5 Mbit/s and Mobile TV at 46 kbit/s.17

Computer processing power

Advances in computer processing power will allow for higher performance applications to run on customers’ terminals. A future option for increased computer processing power, known as tera-scale computing, will use multiple cores (currently up to 80) embedded on a single central processing unit (CPU) chip.

In recent developments by Intel, the tera CPU can calculate one tera-flop (one trillion floating point calculations) per second.18 However, more processor cores does not necessarily equate to better performance. According to a study reported in New Scientist, when more than eight cores are added to a chip, there is no performance improvement. This is due to the processing required to schedule the tasks of the separate cores and combine their separate outputs. However, research into the integration of memory and processors continues as chip processes improve. The results of this research have been described as ‘promising’.19

These developments are important as they could enable ‘supercomputer-level’20 processing to become increasingly available in commodity computer hardware. Modern graphics cards containing dedicated graphics processors and memory are relatively cheap and can add one or two orders of magnitude performance increases over standard multi-core processors.21 While their present use is predominantly for gaming and scientific purposes, the potential for rapid solving of cryptographic and artificial intelligence problems is evident. Reductions in data processing costs could also enable more processes to be implemented at the edge of the network enabling more efficient uses of network transmission facilities.

Cross-platform media

Digital media content distribution is increasingly being distributed via IP-based streaming to a variety of devices— mobile phones, games consoles, media gateways and computers. This is significant as different users can link into the same content and topical content can be available instantaneously to a variety of users. Content distributors are experimenting with different platforms and suggest that we can expect to see new and creative ways to make the best use of distinctive platforms, without the need to reformat the information in some cases.22

Increasing use of the web and IP processes for multimedia has been achieved with the relatively limited bandwidth available over broadband networks to date.23 Notwithstanding improvements in video streaming picture quality (from compression and encoding developments) some expect that higher bandwidth broadband networks will be necessary for better quality viewing. Much higher bandwidth networks may be necessary to support anticipated developments in super and ultra HD content and 3D video over the next 10 years and beyond.24

Virtualisation and cloud computing

Developments in computing, storage and networking resources point to a possible future of ‘real-time infrastructure’ where enterprises and individuals may access a virtual computing system25 and run web-based applications as required. The important developments come from new and greater web-based ability to link remote computing and storage infrastructure to create the required services and the new ability to deliver information or services to users. With cloud-computing, access can be via a high-speed connection so that there are fewer limitations on the data that can be exchanged with the server. Global connectivity enables the user to have access to computing facilities and data storage that could be located anywhere around the globe. Although data storage within the internet is not new, the term ‘cloud computing’ has now taken hold.

Technical factors behind the growth of cloud computing include the more widespread deployment of wired and wireless broadband networks, improvements in storage capacity and the proliferation of hand-held devices with powerful processors that can access the web.

An important business and social benefit of virtualisation comes from the effective use of what would be under-utilised computing resources. Virtualisation of data centres is not a new concept, but the focus now is shifting from virtualisation of servers to virtualisation of all other service providing resources (for example, switches, routers, and storage) within data centres. Virtual resources will combine physical resources that can be accessed across the data centre, the network or the world. To the application, it will seem like a single, stand-alone local resource.26

Digital display

The adoption of new TV display technologies in Australia tends to take place over many years. About 39 per cent of Australian households were estimated to have an HD LCD, HD Plasma or Full HD 1080p television set as at June 2008.27 There are a number of potentially important technical developments that could impact on the adoption of new display units. The developments are important because of the potential for improving the user experience for existing media businesses and because they could enable developments in the displays used in public areas.

Gradually over the next few years, Organic LED (OLED) is expected to challenge conventional LCD display technology. OLED has been implemented already in several mobile phones and car stereo systems. OLED directly emits light onto a screen with only a microsecond response time, giving a crisper image.

Another technology currently under development known as a Surface-conduction Electron-emitter Display (SED) offers a fast response time in contrast to a Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) display. SED technology features include low power consumption, low-cost production and a slim LCD type design.28

Currently under development, Phosphorescent Organic Light-Emitting Diode (PHOLED) uses an organic matter to emit light onto a screen when an electric current is applied. PHOLED can convert more of its energy into light compared to OLED. A typical application might include producing a large-screen television by covering an entire wall with PHOLED.

As well as the developments in screen technology outlined above, digital signage operators might become significant players in the media sector. Digital displays are now being located in more and more places where people gather such as cafes, on public transport, university campuses, workplaces and public areas. Displays with internet connectivity, Bluetooth, touch screen and potentially facial recognition technology may be used for interactive services and advertising targeted at particular demographic segments.29

Digital urban living

‘Connected communities’ is a term used to describe an emerging form of digital media in urban spaces. Using infrastructure comprising screens, digital surfaces, media facades, computing software and participatory art forms, public areas can be transformed into spaces for users to create media that they and others can enjoy in ways that aid community interaction. An illustration of what might lie in the future was showcased at Melbourne’s Federation Square in October 2008. Using media tools already incorporated into the architectural design, the event demonstrated moving images and was the first ‘urban screen’ event to be held in the Asia-Pacific region.30

The streaming of high-quality video to outdoor display screens has been flagged as a potential market in Australia for evolved HSPA (eHSPA) technology.31

Green IT/Green computing

The term Green IT refers to the means to cut emissions and energy use in all activities related to IT. It applies not only to operational efficiencies such as lowering power consumption and cooling requirements for equipment, but extends into whole-of-life considerations. This will become of increasing importance if environmental issues weigh heavier amongst community concerns.

Research firm Gartner has estimated the global ICT industry is responsible for two per cent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions.32 Gartner’s analysis is inclusive of desktop computers, servers, cooling, fixed and mobile telephony, local area networks, office telecommunications and printers.

More efficient and environmentally friendly power supplies such as fuel cells are reaching the market. There is also renewed interest in thin client33 workstations as replacement for desktop computers. Their attraction is that they use about half the electricity of a typical desktop computer but the principal energy saving relates to data centres. There is increasing emphasis on energy-efficient servers and more effective cooling. Virtualisation is an efficiency technique that is finding increasing application for data centres (outlined in the data centres section above).

Cloud computing may have a positive impact in reducing emissions should users forego use of their own computing resources in favour of more efficiently utilized centralised computing services.

Other carbon footprint reduction initiatives include implementing sensor networks to monitor and improve energy use, and replacing physical products and services with online services. The process has been referred to as ‘dematerialisation’.

One of the things that IT users can do to make a significant difference is to use power management applications on computers and other digital devices (for example, where devices are set to enter a sleep mode or power off when not in use).

Home networks

From a technical perspective, home networks are becoming increasingly sophisticated, comprising central file storage systems, media centre boxes, networked personal video recorders with multiple digital television tuners and hard-disk storage, VoIP services and multiple computers. HD television programs can be recorded digitally without loss of resolution and distributed within the home network for later playback. Video content from the internet can not only be viewed on the computer screen but can be sent to the personal video recorder or media centre for playback on a television.

According to ABI Research, although having a wireless networks within a home is still an early-adopter’s practice, there is potential for considerable growth over the next five years. Home networking will become essential if customers are to enable in the domestic environment, the degree of service and future integration that is available with mobile devices or in the business environment. As more wireless systems appear in homes, ‘word-of-mouth benefits will spread, boosting acceptance levels’.34 The Consumer Electronics Association claims that more than 30 per cent of US households have a wireless home network, and that nearly three-quarters of consumers would like to replace the wired connection between their TV set and digital appliances, such as DVD players, with a wireless connection.35

IP-based audio-visual distribution

The main driver for internet traffic growth internationally is forecast to be online video, according to analysis by Cisco Systems and eMarketer. Online video includes video that is downloaded or streamed for viewing on a desktop or to a TV screen, and video for communications. The upsurge of traffic is through the combined effects of increased online viewing along with more HD streams as shown in Figure 1 below.

Figure 1: Monthly consumer internet traffic, by segment

According to the forecasts in Figure 1, total internet traffic worldwide will grow from 5,315 petabytes in 2008 to 20,331 petabytes by 2012, representing a near four-fold increase in total traffic. Peer-to-peer applications (P2P) traffic is forecast to increase as well, but online video via PC and TV traffic is forecast to replace P2P as the leader in bandwidth consumption by 2010. A similar annual increase in global internet traffic (50 to 60 per cent) has been forecast by Minnesota Internet Traffic Studies (MINTS). However, by November 2008, MINTS reported evidence of a slowdown in traffic growth, although there is evidence of a much higher rate of growth on wireless networks.36

In other research carried out over the third quarter of 2008, P2P technologies are reported to still account for a significant portion of global network downstream traffic.37 But P2P has lost ground to video streaming, that is, video sharing, internet TV, catch-up TV and video on demand to desktops, laptops or internet enabled mobile devices. According to the researchers, internet subscribers are turning to alternatives such as file hosting/online storage web services: ‘Often, it is faster to download a large file, such as an HD movie or a full season of TV series, from a file hosting site than from a P2P network. As these sites become more familiar to a wider range of subscribers, their contribution to global bandwidth consumption will only increase.’ The report noted that real-time content such as peercasting,38 streaming and gaming are particularly sensitive to jitter and latency.

ACMA’s analysis of consumer benefits in the telecommunications sector in 2007–08 shows that Australian internet users increased the volume of data downloaded per subscriber by 37 per cent, from 21.1 GBs in 2006–07, to 29.9 GBs in 2007–08.39 A number of Web TV and radio developments in Australia and internationally over August–October 2008 indicate that data usage is likely to increase, including:

  • The ABC launched iView providing free, high-resolution streamed on-demand video to PCs or web-enabled TVs. The service was created for broadband subscribers with high-speed internet access of at least 1.1 Mbps (available using an ADSL2 connection). Other technical requirements are either a Pentium PC or PowerMac, and Adobe Flash Plug-in. According to the ABC, 35 per cent of Australian internet users subscribe to broadband internet speeds of 1.1 Mbit/s or faster.40

  • With the opening of an Australian television division, MySpace announced its intention to develop original online television shows in addition to TV shows that are already available.41

  • Internet portal ninemsn released its first made-for-web drama series.

  • Social network site Bebo launched a global online television series. An original Australian television series may be produced by Bebo in 2009.42

  • BlinkxTV launched a broadband TV offering Blinkx BBTV that enables users to browse or interact online with other websites while watching video through their browser.43

  • Stripe, an Australian subscription radio service commenced business. Distributed over 3G networks, Stripe can be accessed from mobiles, laptops or desktops.

Sam Doust, creative director of ABC’s Innovation Group, claimed that just seven weeks after the launch of iView, usage levels were 2,000 to 3,000 hours per day. In addition to the ‘send to a friend’ function, the next version is expected to have more social media functions.44

Two competing technology-based trends were on display at the International Broadcasting Convention (IBC) held in September 2008. On the one hand there were HD and 3D technologies that improve picture and sound quality—essentially a continuation of one-to-many broadcasting. Also on display were technologies that use multiple delivery channels involving user interaction and on-demand video, where flexibility and reach, and access to underlying telecommunications infrastructure, are matters to be grappled with along with picture size and quality.45

Some have expressed the view that the future lies in digital two-way, IP-based networks that provide interactivity and personalisation—TV will be … ‘just another broadband application, something you can consume in a number of places and on a variety of devices’.46

Developments in digital media offer consumers more control, more choice and more opportunities for social interaction. According to ScreenPlays, the Beijing Olympics represented a sea change in viewing experiences. Viewers had more control over what they watched and how they watched it, ‘ … whether at home on TV, in the office on their computer or on the go on their mobile phones’.47

Expectations of internet-enabled TV sets seem to be building. One recent suggestion by Duncan Riley (an Australian new media developer and professional blogger) was that leading consumer electronics firms are likely to offer internet-enabled TV sets internationally from 2009. By 2015, new TV sets would be expected to have internet connectivity enabled.48 Moreover, according to research firm In-Stat, ‘… digital TV will be the second largest category of consumer electronics stationary devices shipped with WiFi … ’ by 2012.49 Meanwhile, in Australia, there are plans to offer internet-enabled TV sets by the first quarter of 2009.50

Potential developments in internet-enabled digital TV sets from 2009 would provide further impetus for the distribution of broadcaster-produced content to the internet, along with greater consumer control and interaction.

A service is now available in the US that provides media player users with greater navigational control similar to operating a DVD fast forward, rewind, time-shift or play in slow motion. Adaptive streaming technologies (where the content provider serves multiple streams at varying bit rates and the client application is able to actively monitor bandwidth and select the most appropriate stream) allows delivery of the highest-quality video available, based on the local conditions of the end user’s system as opposed to stalling or buffering as bandwidth varies.51

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