Worried scientists fear that the internet could reach breaking point within eight years.
This is serious.
One has even warned that people in this country may soon have to make a tough choice – cough up more for broadband, or put up with Netflicks ‘juddering’ all the time.
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There’s been a crisis meeting called in London on May 11, with top engineers, physicists and telecoms firms reportedly summoned.
Hammering home the seriousness of the problem, Professor Andrew Ellis, one of the organisers, told the Daily Mail: ‘Are we prepared to pay more? Or should we stop expanding capacity and put up with Netflicks juddering?’
The problem, apparently, lies with the cables and fibre optics that send data to computers, smartphones and tablets.
They will have reached their limit in eight short years, meaning internet companies will have to lay more cables if they want to keep up with demand.
And that won’t be cheap.
Prof Ellis continued: ‘We are starting to reach the point in the research lab where we can’t get any more data into a single optical fibre.
‘The intensity is the same as if you were standing right up against the sun.
‘The deployment to market is about six to eight years behind the research lab – so within eight years that will be it, we can’t get any more data in.’
In 2005, broadband internet had a maximum speed of 2 Megabits per second. Today 100Mb-per-second download speeds are available in many parts of the country.
And that’s not all the gloom and doom.
The internet is also sucking up our electricity – with data transfer, as well as powering computers, phones and television, it takes up to eight per cent of a developed country’s energy consumption.
And that increases whenever speeds go up.
Prof Ellis said: ‘That is quite a huge problem. If we have multiple fibres to keep up, we are going to run out of energy in about 15 years.’
But there’s hope for us yet.
Andrew Lord, head of optical research at BT reckons the crisis can be averted by storing data in ‘server farms’.
‘The internet is not about to collapse,’ he told The Mail.
‘It has a lot of bandwidth left in it.’
On behalf of the Netflicks-watching community, we hope you’re right, sir.