RBOCs Wait & See on P2P
One network operator CTO is even skeptical that P2P really causes as much congestion in networks as has been hyped. (See P2P Fuels Global Bandwidth Binge.)
In separate conversations with leading technology executives from three of the four largest carriers in the U.S., Light Reading has learned that even while the industry is abuzz over P2P traffic, the big boys don't see it as stopping up their networks… yet. They are, however, quick to draw a distinction between their proposed TV services and the other stuff that traverses the open Internet.
"I think the view that we're looking at is: You have managed services and you have unmanaged services," says Chris Rice, AT&T's executive VP of network planning and engineering. "Peer-to-peer services are unmanaged."
AT&T's consumer IPTV service, Rice says, is an example of a managed service, because its content, though IP-based, travels a private IP network down managed links to consumer homes.
"Obviously, unmanaged IP services deal with impairments. Sometimes they have slower response times," Rice says. "Sometimes they have quicker response times. It just depends on the usage and the volume of traffic on the network at any given time. In a managed environment, throughput is the same all the time."
"What we are doing with it at this point is dealing with it on a congestion management basis," says Verizon's CTO, Mark Wegleitner. "At this point we're a little bit reactive rather than proactive, because we don't want to get out there and do something that's going to stifle a viable service offering. But it's something that I think the industry as a whole is going to have to step up to."
Qwest CTO Pieter Poll says it may not even be causing as much traffic as many think. "I'm not convinced that it causes network congestion at this point, but clearly it has the potential to do that," he says.
Poll says he's looked at Qwest's peering points for some idea of how much P2P traffic is on its networks. And, while he admits that it's not an exact measurement of the P2P traffic load, he says the fears of network congestion are a little overblown.
"I… found that the traffic is well under what some in that industry say is happening. I mean, you hear claims of significant double-digit penetration of peer-to-peer traffic, and it was not near there," Poll says.
By contrast, Internet companies are hyping P2P traffic services, problems, and solutions at every turn. AOL Inc. (NYSE: AOL) is using a P2P video delivery system. BitTorrent Inc. is entering the legit movie business. ntl group ltd. (Nasdaq: NTLI) is using BitTorrent's technology to reach its users with content. And Sandvine Inc. , whose technology could be used to block P2P traffic, had a noteworthy debut as a publicly traded firm. (See Sandvine Leaps on London Listing, BitTorrent to Open Video Store, NTL Teams on P2P Trial, and Carrier VOIP Leads Study.)
That's not to say that the RBOCs won't someday offer P2P services themselves. It's just that, for now, they're not terribly worried about unmanaged P2P traffic, especially that from video downloads and the like.
"I don't want to be too negative on peer-to-peer, because I think there's a place for peer-to-peer communications going forward," says Verizon's Wegleitner. "I think what we have to do though is make sure it doesn't ruin the experience of everyone else."
— Phil Harvey, News Editor, Light Reading