UK internet system facing power and capacity squeeze

Posted: May 4, 2015 by oldbrew in Energy, Uncertainty

UK internet usage per hour (2012) [image credit: ISPreview]

UK internet usage per hour (2012)
[image credit: ISPreview]

The UK Daily Telegraph says the internet is already consuming at least 8 per cent of Britain’s power output and this figure is bound to rise. The Press Association (via Yahoo! News) reports:

Britain’s internet demand is expanding at such a rate that it could consume the nation’s entire power supply by 2035, an expert has warned.

Andrew Ellis, professor of optical communications at Aston University, said the success of video-streaming websites such as YouTube and Netflix along with new innovations meant optical fibres could reach their limit within eight years.

Prof Ellis said rationing internet use or charging more so that more cables can be installed may need to be considered, as experts prepare to meet at London’s Royal Society later this month to discuss what can be done to avert a web crisis.

The conference has been called to discuss the two biggest problems facing the internet – its surging power demands and its capacity to carry data.

Prof Ellis said the major telecom operators account for 1% to 3% of national energy consumption – the equivalent of three nuclear power stations – and rising internet demand could consume the nation’s entire power supply by approximately 2035.

“Since we had the first modem, the capacity people have been able to achieve has been growing exponentially, doubling every two years,” he said.

“We can’t get much more capacity in one fibre, and there have been signs of slowing since 2010.

“If we want to continue to have better and better communication, we’re going to have to install more capacity.

“It is likely there will be some sort of demand management.

“One way is rationing and another way is charging or taxation of service providers.”

The Royal Society meeting will take place on May 11.

Source: Warning over internet cable limits – Yahoo News UK.

Comment: Britain is already pushing the limits of its electricity generation capacity. Building more wind turbines won’t solve this.

  1. michael hart says:

    8% ?? Sounds like rubbish. [Telegraph link leads to a dud page – fixed, thanks]
    The other article link only claims that telecom companies are using 1 to 3% of UK national energy consumption.

    The claim in the Birmingham mail that “internet demand is expanding at such a rate that it could consume the nation’s entire power supply by 2035, a Birmingham expert has warned” sound like something out of the global warming handbook.

  2. oldbrew says:

    They missed out the magic words ‘in theory’ 🙂

    Professor: ‘It is growing so fast, currently at an exponential rate, that, in theory, it could be using all the UK power generation by 2035.’

    ‘Prof Ellis said the public had to begin deciding whether they were prepared to pay more for Internet access.’

    What happened to ‘market forces’ here?

  3. ivan says:

    Of course it will use all the power generated in 2035 – all 100 watts of it that is being generated by the remaining windmills when the wind blows.

    What is it with the universities at the moment? All I can see is that they are populated by green unknown quantities that are acting like drips under extreme pressure (experts) that have given up thinking. Maybe this is the education, education, education birds coming home to roost.

  4. Ben Vorlich says:

    Why is the solution always?

    “One way is rationing and another way is charging or taxation of service providers.”

    Rather than diverting a bit of cash from climate research into telecoms research, about 8% should cover it.

  5. E.M.Smith says:

    Looks to me like taking exponontial bits growth at present W/bit and ignoring the long history of lower W/bit with tech generation change. Compare W/bit of electrical 9600 baud modem with video over fibre… IOW the thesis is nonsense looking for money and fame via FUD. Fear, uncertanty, and doubt.

  6. gallopingcamel says:

    Professor Ellis is a typical academic twit. He is just as clueless as the people who predicted that our children would not know what snow looks like.

    My business involves training people to build fiber optic networks. Fiber optics now accounts for over 99.9% of the information transfer between continents and 99% of the transfer between major cities. At the local level it accounts for 95% of the traffic between local switches, Thus fiber optics dominates long haul communications right down to the local central office that used to be called a “Class 5 Switch” here in the USA. Today that switch is called a VSO (Video Serving Office) by Verizon.

    The only place that fiber does not dominate is from the local office (Class 5 or VSO) to your home. Right now less than 10% of US homes enjoy FTTH (Fiber To The Home). Two thirds of the existing FTTH connections are provided by Verizon and the remainder by about 400 smaller organizations.

    It took 35 years (1980 to 2015) to install the fiber that now dominates well over 90% of the information transfer from the Class (VSO) office and above. So how long will it take to achieve a similar dominance from the VSO to your home? The answer is at least 20 years because the amount of fiber required is more than five times what has been installed over the past 30 years.

    So why bother to rewire the USA with fiber? The simple answer is “Television”. My home has a state of the art copper cable that downloads data at 20 Megabits per second. This means that I can watch or record up to four high definition (1960 by 1080) TV streams simultaneously. That is pretty impressive unless you happen to have a 4K TV (3840 by 2160) set that can be purchased at Walmart for $700. A 4K TV needs four times the bandwidth of current “High Definition” TVs so my copper cable can at best deliver one TV stream at a time.

    When you own a 4K TV you will need FTTH (Fiber To The Home) that currently can provide the extra bandwidth needed to deliver multiple 4K programs to your home. Copper wires can’t do it at a price you can afford.

    Once you have a high bandwidth FTTH connection the cost of your TV programs will fall dramatically. For $8.99 per month you can access the huge library at Netflix. You will no longer require DVRs at up to $20 per month or even “Set Top Boxes” at $3 per month or more.

    So what about live TV such as local news or the “Fight of the Century”. As long as you have a fast download capability you can use Meercat or similar services.

  7. oldbrew says:

    Maybe this is the future: ‘Plans for a secure quantum internet take a leap forward’

  8. tom0mason says:

    Looks too much like a report especially designed to prepare the sheeple for the coming tax initiatives and regulations for internet access.

    As EM Smith says above it’s all about FUD, Fear, uncertanty, and doubt.
    If the population swallows this boloney as fact then, IMO, they are resigned to increasingly restrictive internet access coupled to rising costs.
    Good luck with that then.