Friday, September 12, 2008

A blast from the past

Ran across a ZDnet article dated October 13, 2000, entitled "Deflating Bandwidth Glut Predictions".

It's a treasure trove of dot-com era craziness. One of the main arguments in support of the idea that there was no oncoming glut of network capacity (which of course there was) was that so many providers were still spending billions to add more capacity as quickly as possible. The very fact that companies like Lucent (still alive but not well) and Global Crossing (went into and out of bankruptcy) were making the investments was presented as evidence that those investments were sound.

As you would expect, the telecom execs quoted in the piece disputed the notion that the network had been overbuilt:

"If you believe the Internet is going to be the dominant force driving bandwidth demand, then you realize that no matter how big a pipe you have, you will fill it," said Jian Li, senior director of emerging technology at Qwest.

That's right, internet demand = infinite demand. If you need harder numbers to be convinced, some guy at Nortel has them in spades:

Based on these factors and other online usage trends, Ramani calculates bandwidth demand will grow to 100 to 200 times today's rate in the next four to five years. At the same time, even if next-generation equipment makers were able to light their total arsenal of fiber in the next five years, capacity would only increase by about 70 times existing levels, he said.

You might be tempted to question the rigor of any calculation that produces a range of "100 to 200 times", but who is the author to say he knows bandwidth demand better than sellers of bandwidth? Finally, a defense that sounds eerily topical:

Ramani said predictions of bandwidth surpluses also fail to acknowledge that the public network is segmented into several regions. "They treat the entire network as if it's one big black box," he said.

This is apparently a common refrain at the tail end of massive asset bubbles, because it's exactly what the National Association of Realtors says today about residential real estate: "Every market's different!"


January 15, 2002 - More than two dozen North American carriers are in Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Long-haul carriers owe some $75 billion in debt, with some $7 billion of interest required this year alone. According to the Financial Times, some 436,000 jobs have been eliminated from the global telecom industry this year. Bandwidth prices are dropping by as much as 80% annually and long-distance prices in the United States have fallen to as low as 2 cents per minute.

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