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Qwest on Bandwidth

NOON -- How much bandwidth will we need in the next five years?

Here's what Qwest Communications International Inc. (NYSE: Q) CTO Pieter Poll said in response to that question when Light Reading interviewed him last month:

Let me talk a little bit about a study we did a while ago… this was done by US West… and we wanted to know the answer to that question back in 1994, so we approached it a little different. We didn’t approach it so much from an application perspective, but we approached it from a human practice perspective.

So the question is, if you listen to music, how good does the music have to be? If you’re on a computer and you hit return on your screen what is the interval that you see a change on your screen so that you say it's instantaneous… the interesting thing is we were saying a couple of T1s – three or four megabits per second and here, more than 10 years later, that has actually turned out to be about correct for an individual.

The exception to that is high definition TV… I think, you know, a couple of high def channels looks like where we want to be, and you very quickly get to the sort of 100 megabit per second number where lots of data is moved that's not associated with a human actually observing that data.

So there are things that will drive a need for substantial high amounts of data, but unless you move beyond high def, it really is, you know, multiples of about 20 megabits per second – the 20 to 40 range. I think the results are out there and that 100 megabits is probably a fairly good number to aim towards in the next 5 years… That’s a good number; everybody likes it.

Now it’s another question entirely: can we as an industry get 200 megabits per second in 5 years?

— Phil Harvey, News Editor, Light Reading

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