Susan Boyle Effect on Video Calling

I've promised myself not to talk (or tweet) about Susan Boyle. But I just couldn't resist it, reading how Robert X. Cringely does the math on her YouTube video:

The video file as presented on YouTube is just over seven minutes and 26 megabytes long. Twenty million (and counting!) times 26 megabytes is 520 terabytes or approximately half the size of the Internet Archive. That's 520,000 gigabytes or the equivalent of maxing-out in a single week the monthly bandwidth allotment of 260 co-lo servers at Running at top speed for a week would require 1040 such servers to do the job and we haven't even made it to a week yet. That's 520 million-million bytes.

As a VoIP person, the first thing that came to my mind was: how does that fit with visual communications?

We're all hearing about HD Video these days, and how it will bring video telephony/conferencing/communications to the masses. But what will happen if that REALLY does become a reality?

A quick search got me to this small tidbit: in 2006 international voice traffic was almost 500 billion minutes. That's 500,000,000,000 minutes. That's 41 billion minutes a month (or should I say 951,293 concurrent calls?).


Now let's do the math:

Let's assume that only 1% of all calls are video calls. As I've stated in the past, video calling is not here to replace face-2-face meetings or voice calls. 1% is quite conservative, considering that Skype stated that 28% of their calls are video.

1% means 416 million minutes a month.

For HD video let's assume a bandwidth of 1Mbps (125,000 kilobits per second).

That will bring us to 52,000 gigabytes, only 10% of the bandwidth Susan Boyle brought in a single week.

You should note that there's still a big difference between VoIP (that's Video over IP) calls and YouTube content (or any streaming content for that matter). Communications are not static - they're dynamic. You can't store this video on local servers or use CDN architectures. Every bit needs to be sent over the network, across the globe if necessary. This means that traffic is much more chaotic, and you can't really optimize it.

Just think what will happen if, god forbid, video will account for more than those lousy 1% of international calls?

One thing is sure - the guys on the plumbing (Cisco, for instance) would LOVE this to happen. They will be one of the main benefactors if and when this becomes reality.

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