BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific
BBCi NEWS   SPORT   WEATHER   WORLD SERVICE   A-Z INDEX     

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: Technology  
News Front Page
Africa
Americas
Asia-Pacific
Europe
Middle East
South Asia
UK
Business
Entertainment
Science/Nature
Technology
Health
-------------
Talking Point
-------------
Country Profiles
In Depth
-------------
Programmes
-------------
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
SERVICES
-------------
EDITIONS
Friday, 13 September, 2002, 13:03 GMT 14:03 UK
Bandwidth hogs eat away at broadband
Napster website with CD
Napster spawned many music swapping services
Swapping music, games and other files in Napster-like programs is costing the internet industry dear, according to a new report.

Peer-to-peer file sharing (P2P) allows surfers to share data and services without using a central server.

But sharing files over the internet takes up lots of bandwidth.

Users are likely to be communicating with a computer located outside of their own Internet Service Provider's network which substantially drives up network access fees, said the study by Canadian network management firm Sandvine.

Tiered pricing?

Napster popularised file-sharing and at its peak had one and a half million daily users.


It is up to customers what they do online but it does use up large amounts of costly bandwidth and the cost has to be shared by all consumers

Freeserve spokeswoman
Despite the demise of Napster, P2P remains incredibly popular, accounting for 60% of the traffic on internet service provider's networks.

"By inflating the financial pressure on service providers' already low margins, P2P is quickly undermining the business model for basic internet access," the report read.

UK ISP Freeserve admits that P2P users are dominating bandwidth but says there is little it can do.

"It is difficult for us to stop people," said a spokeswoman for Freeserve.

"It is up to customers what they do online but it does use up large amounts of costly bandwidth and the cost has to be shared by all consumers."

One solution would be for ISPs to operate a tiered pricing system based on monthly bandwidth consumption.

Some ISPs have experimented with this idea but, in a fledging industry, such discrimination could do more harm than good.

"These approaches can easily be positioned as punitive by internet lobby groups and competitors, generating dissatisfaction amongst subscribers," pointed out the report.

Levelling out

According to industry website ADSLGuide, some ISPs such as PlusNet and ETGlobalSolutions have blocked access to P2P programs for some customers on their cheapest home access products.

ADSL Guide's technical expert Andrew Ferguson thinks that many ISPs will start to charge for bandwidth.

"A charge per megabyte would certainly curtail a lot of peer to peer traffic but if limits are set too low and pricing too high, the move could hold back the adoption of broadband," he said.

It may be that the tech-savvy early adopters of broadband use more bandwidth than mainstream consumers who are just starting to come online.

"In one to two years time the bandwidth demand could level out," said Mr Ferguson.

If P2P continues to grow in popularity ISPs will be forced to spend a lot of money upgrading their networks to cope.

Sharing porn

With so many Napster imitators around, P2P is unlikely to go away any time soon.

Even Napster may be rising from the ashes. The music industry radically changed the nature of the trend-setting music swapping service but the name still carries a great deal of resonance with internet users.

A Nasdaq-listed pornography group, Private Media is reported to be interested in acquiring the Napster trademark.

If its bid is successful, it plans to create a P2P network of pornography which could see the already bandwidth-hungry phenomena skyrocket.

See also:

12 Sep 02 | Technology
03 Sep 02 | Business
23 May 02 | Science/Nature
20 May 02 | Science/Nature
29 Oct 01 | Entertainment
Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Technology stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Technology stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |
Programmes