Lakshmi Mandyam, director of enterprise segment marketing at ARM, David Stephens, Founding Member of the Grameen Foundation Technology Advisory Board and special advisor to Nobel Laureate Muhammad Yunus and I made up the panel. In researching for our talk, we realised that there are rather a lot of challenges facing just maintaining the connectivity we already have. Some forecasts state that the number of data centres needs to double over the next 3 years just to keep up with demand. If that’s the case, an extra 30 nuclear power stations will be needed – if we rely on traditional servers and data centre designs.
Then there is the data itself, by 2016 the amount of data flowing in just one month will equal 10 Exabyte. What’s an Exabyte? Well, Lakshmi found out that if you were to put the data onto DVDs, one Exabyte would fill 13,500 747 Jumbo jets – that’s a 640 mile long line of jumbos sitting on a very long runway. And that’s before accounting for a possible Big Data future.
Next there’s “spectrum”, the invisible infrastructure over which all wireless transmissions travel. "Network traffic is increasing," says an official at the FCC's wireless bureau. "[Carriers] can manage it for the next couple years, but demand is inevitably going to exceed the available spectrum." AT&T says wireless data traffic on its network has grown 20,000% since the iPhone debuted in 2007. Video and mobile are breaking the Internet.
In the US, 70% of all traffic is VOD, 50% of the VOD is Netflix and 80% of those downloads are the top twenty movies – being downloaded again and again and again. Surely we could manage this data more efficiently. Before we can even start thinking about the next two billion, must consider the efficiency of downloads and data management.
So given the problems we face just keeping up with the demand from established markets, how are we to extend broadband services to another two, or even 4.5, billion people? Clearly we need a different approach. We will need the lowest power computing possible, we will need a new model for data centres, we will need to be innovative and create business models that encourage new approaches and the ability for different regions to develop their own solutions. We will need to find new ways of delivering communications services, lower power base stations, better use of satellite bandwidth and secure, local caching to limit repeated downloads and secure low cost devices.
Moving to the next 4.5 billion, what difference can broadband services really make in poor communities anyway? Seemingly, quite a lot. VOD holds great promise for health and education services in areas where it is hard to retain skilled staff. There are now charities looking at how to train people in poor communities, even in refugee camps, to perform data search and entry tasks so that new job opportunities, and money transfer services, can be delivered to the poorest communities.
When mobiles arrived in Africa, everyone thought they would serve only a very few and yet now only a very few lack access to a mobile. Mobile banking has transformed lives, giving the ability for people with no bank account to send money to relatives and pay for services. Internet and broadband holds great promise for these communities. We believe that with developments in very low-power servers, secure base stations, satellite connectivity, low cost smartphones and overall increased security we will be able to connect the rest of the world, the 80% without access today. ARM technology and the innovation of our Partners will be central to achieving this.
Dominic Vergine, Sustainable Development, ARM, Dominic has many years experience working on IT policy and strategy with governments and international agencies and is passionate about the role ARM can play in improving global energy efficiency and extending the benefits of technology to the next billion people.
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