Last week Stacey Higginbotham reported on GigaOm about the coming upstream revolution:
Demand for upstream bandwidth is growing. Floyd Wagoner, a director of marketing and communications for Motorola Access Networks Solutions, said in an interview today that a U.S. cable provider has seen peak upstream bandwidth use increase by 24 percent from 2007 to 2008. The same provider saw average upstream bandwidth use increase by 17 percent.
While this demand didn't come from video conferencing (or at least not directly), it is important to note that video calling require a lot of bandwidth - both downstream and upstream: a typical 720p HD call, for instance, will take about 1 Mbps, upstream and downstream - a lot more than you have on your average ADSL contract.
While downstream bandwidths are rather decent, upstream bandwidths is one of the main reasons why quality video conferencing hasn't reached the masses and is left in the realm of corporate users. If service providers begin to address the issue of increasing upstream bandwidth, it can lead the way to a lot more use of video calling (as well as other video services) by consumers. As Stacey rightly puts it:
... there's [...] an opportunity to offer products and services that take advantage of consumers' willingness and potential ability to upload larger files. Posting keyboard cat videos or even video conferencing is just the beginning.
The only problem is that bandwidth isn't the only obstacle. There's also the issue of latency: if the delay between sender and receiver is too high (think hundreds of milliseconds high), visual communication (video calling included) will be rendered useless.
My only hope is that ISPs will take into account the latency issue as well, allowing us all to enjoy better real-time services over the internet in the comfort of our homes.