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The way our insatiable net demand grows may soon mean that feeding it will consume all of the UK’s power supply in just 20 years from now!

That’s what the view is. By 2035, we will use all of our energy just feeding the internet.

Through data storage and transmission and the electricity to power all our devices, we will use the totality of our capacity up; our net demand will have swallowed the whole thing.

Already the internet apparently consumes between 8% and 16% of the nation’s power output and that is doubling every four years. This is equivalent to the output from three nuclear power stations!

When things increase at that rate, it adds an extra knock-on effect and the doubling actually speeds up – exponential growth. And we can’t forget our other increasing demands for energy for heating, lighting, building, travel, food production ….

Capacity Crunch

Professor of optical communications at Aston University, Andrew Ellis is of the belief and told a conference called Capacity Crunch – is the party almost over? that as we cannot make enough power we ‘may have to restrict or reduce net access, perhaps by metering consumers.’

So, on two fronts, future net users may be somewhat handicapped and frustrated by our inability to meet future net demand.

Capacity to carry data is being absorbed by online video which is enjoying a boom, with use currently rising about 25%-30% each year.

Some experts think internet cables and switches will hit top limit within just five years.

Andrew Lord, who is head of optical access at BT told Jonathan Leake of The Sunday Times (May 2015) said ‘advances have already multiplied the data that can be sent down a single optical fibre thousands of times.’

But fibres with their growing ‘light energy risking signal distortion’ will be incapable of expansion. More cables can and probably will be laid, of course. But there comes a point beyond which the economic viability of endless expansion is not feasible.

Rationing By Payment

Lord seems to think that rationing by pricing by data usage of both businesses and individuals is the only way forward. ‘If we don’t fix this then in 10 years time the internet could have to cost more.’

Back in 2013, Larry Greenemeier asked in the Scientific American  ‘when will the internet reach its limit and how do we stop that from happening?

He argued that network-connected gadgets ‘will outnumber humans by the end of the year’ and that was then. He said that the world’s networking infrastructure is finite. Something has to give.

Once we’ve accounted for boosting capacity with extra cables packed with more fibres and off-loading traffic onto smaller satellite networks, they simple ‘delay the inevitable.’ A way forward may be to ‘extend the internet’s capacity by raising its IQ.’

Or getting systems in place which filter content better instead of assuming it’s all of equal value. But of course that raises a whole bunch of other future problems. Is my data more important than yours? Will yours get carried before mine because you can pay more?

Another Idea

Spatial Division Multiple Access (SDMA) is a way of transmitting multiple channels within a single cable.

What is needed is not a dumb internet by a network that can interpret data to gauge significance, not see it as simple digital traffic. Yet, that is how the internet started and has developed.

What’s changed is our net use in terms of quantities and varieties of activities while demanding ever faster speeds and resilient systems.

The net may soon be a victim of its own success, but we have to solve the net demand problem or we will have no net worth talking about.

For your data transmission needs talk to MBF.

Some blogs about data, the net and devices:

The Battery Has Till Now Been the Weak Link in the Digital Device World, 28 April 2015

Is Sky High Hope in Cloud Security Misplaced If Not Actually Dangerous? 1st April 2015

Has the Internet of Things Already Become an Obsession? 22 September 2014

Open Data Update Opens New Doors on Resource, 6 August 2014

Big Data Will Generate New Jobs Besides New Questions, New Approaches and New Thinking, 28 May 2014

The Internet Is Outdated, So Welcome to the Outernet, 8 April 2014

Image: Elbpresse