I've had a number of posts lately talking about major online players and their cloud offerings (Apple, Amazon, Google) and the growing success of media streams (both music and video - expanded content offerings, Pew Report, Magid report,, Yahoo report). These and more show expanded use of the Internet for the delivery of media content of almost all forms. In addition, networks are improving their network infrastructure, extending the range of broadband access as well as their capacity to handle high-bandwidth applications like video streaming.
But the vision of the future of media clouds and streams is predicated on having not only a secure, high-speed broadband network, but also on pricing schemes that can accommodate normal usage within basic pricing structures. If networks aren't secure, people may not want to place their faith in the clouds - and keep programs and content off-line. And if spending a few hours or more a day listening to streamed music and/or watching streamed video programming pushes people past their ISP's price-level download caps - to the point where they encounter high per Gb fees - well, that's when users will think twice about relying on streaming for their media use. Several stories from last week raise those spectres. In one, a former US counter-intelligence official told a conference of net security officials that cyber-warfare is an imminent threat. Already, a number of government agencies and large corporations have seen major attacks on their systems. Another looks at another bottleneck in the network infrastructure - signalling. Expanding the pipe - the total capacity of a channel is fairly cheap and easy, at least compared to the capacity to get those data packets to the right place in a timely manner. Mobile networks are experiencing increased congestion as users increase their use of high-bandwidth and increasingly complex applications run on smartphones and tablets. Some are concerned that the new high-capacity broadband mobile network being launched (LTE) may not be able to cope with smartphone and tablet uses, and the tendency for those users to have their devices remain connected to multiple platforms for long periods.
The darkness on the edge of town, though, is what's happening with mobile and ISP pricing plans. Here in the U.S., one mobile provider after another are dropping "unlimited data" plans, and many cable operators are placing download caps, or implementing added delays on downloads past a certain limit. Now most can offer higher caps, if you move to a more expensive service tiers, but the fundamental impact is the same - as the cost of using clouds and streams increases, the value they offer to consumers declines. This could slow or even halt the development of these and other new ways of delivering media content to potential users.
Sources: "Ex-CIA Official Warns Black Hat Attendees of Coming Cyber-War", e-Week.com
"Signaling: the other bottleneck?" Telecoms.com
"Verizon Tiered Data Pricing is a Mistake: 10 Reasons Why," e-Week.com