BBC: We won't bring down the internet

BBC iPlayer - popular service
BBC iPlayer - popular service

BBC iPlayer head Anthony Rose believes that reports of the internets demise due to the use of the iPlayer have been grossly exaggerated, pointing out that even at peak times the BBC VOD service only accounts for 7 per cent of bandwidth use.

The BBC has been criticised by some ISPs because they believe that the extra bandwidth that the service needs because of its success should be funded by the public broadcaster and not by them.

This led to a small section of the mainstream media suggesting that the BBC could eventually bring down the internet with its popularity and end the good times for us all.

YouTube and Facebook

Rose points out, quite rightly, that the likes of fellow VOD service YouTube and social network Facebook uses more bandwidth, but does not go as far as to suggest the ISPs should be asking them for money as well.

"The press largely misrepresented the situation by saying that due to the iPlayer, the internet will collapse and everything will come to an end. Of course, this is not true," Rose tells the European Broadcasting Union Q4 Technical Report.

"We spent a lot of time talking to ISPs and we continue to meet with them regularly. The reality is that about 7% of peak UK internet usage is due to the iPlayer. So, the iPlayer service is only a small fraction of the overall traffic and will certainly not cause internet failure."

IP Streaming problem

Rose points out that it is only those ISPs that are paying BT Wholesale fees for IP stream (rather than local loop unbundled or fibre-optic cable) that are suffering through the extended bandwidth use of the modern internet

"If you are looking for some figures, there are in total about 5000 points of presence (POPs) around the UK. About 1500 of them are LLU enabled. About 30% of users are on cable.

"For cable and LLU the cost is relatively low, while for IP stream the cost of bandwidth is very high. This hurts those ISPs.

Peaks at the same time

"There is no problem with the amount of bandwidth as the iPlayer is no way near reaching the bandwidth limit. However, our audience statistics show that iPlayer usage peaks in the hours between 6 and 11 p.m., which is also peak traffic for ISPs.

"The ISPs license the bandwidth for IP stream, based on peak usage. For this reason, iPlayer traffic is costing those ISPs. It is not just iPlayer, all traffic from YouTube, Facebook and other services is costing them.

"Our statistics indicate that this traffic is even larger than the iPlayer's traffic."

The current climate sees cable operators like Virgin Media merrily pointing out that it is delighted to let its customers use their fibre connections to use the iPlayer, in stark contrast to the likes of Tiscali.

"The situation is quite complicated as some ISPs like Virgin Media (cable) are offering 50 Mbit/s packages. This encourages people to use more bandwidth. Virgin Media is happy with the iPlayer and higher bandwidth consumption. Other ISPs that offer an IP Stream service are less happy because the iPlayer traffic is costing them more," explains Rose.

Patrick Goss

Patrick Goss is the ex-Editor in Chief of TechRadar. Patrick was a passionate and experienced journalist, and he has been lucky enough to work on some of the finest online properties on the planet, building audiences everywhere and establishing himself at the forefront of digital content.  After a long stint as the boss at TechRadar, Patrick has now moved on to a role with Apple, where he is the Managing Editor for the App Store in the UK.