Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Efficient use of wireless bandwidth

Michael Mace recently posted his second article about the impending doom of mobile executives.  The article (and it's sequel) are very good summaries of the dire straights in which mobile execs find themselves.  They are between the signature rock and a hard place, with either decision they make resulting in the probable loss of their career. 

While he mentions a few things that can be done, i'm not happy about one of them.  I don't support the idea of taking spectrum away from television OTA broadcast signals and giving it to mobile service providers.  I really don't like this idea since for the first time in years, people are finally starting to cut the cable and take advantage of services like Hulu, Netflix, and Windows Media Center.  Given these three major technologies (along with ethernet connected TV tuners, tablets capable of streaming video over WiFi [iPad] [Playbook] [Galaxy], and revolutionary plugins like SecondRun.TV) having only an ethernet connection (or 801.11n WiFi) to a smart set top box could provide all the content ever desired by any TV viewer.  A large component of this is OTA transmissions of HDTV.  If all of this is over your head, think of it this way: remember, the 4 television channels you had growing up?  Taking the DTV spectrum and giving it to mobile service providers would essentially do away with those channels (and their modern HD counterparts).

I do think it would be a good idea to utilize some of the HDTV bandwidth more smartly.  The technology doesn't exist yet, but given the proliferation of USB, PCIx, and ethernet HDTV tuners, it would be a great thing if Microsoft, Apple, and some of the other major update providers (think of Antivirus) pushed their updates daily over a television broadcast.  Many might not realize it, but Microsoft's Windows update pushes significant amounts of data through the internet every Tuesday.  Every single Windows machine (and more every day since MS is making it less obvious how to opt out of updates or OEM distributors are enabling Automatic Windows Updates by default) gets updates from MS every Tuesday.

Wouldn't it be nice if one computer at your house downloaded all the updates and distributed them within your household to all the windows computers?  If you only have one computer, you're not going to be interested in this.  But think about it: I have a TV with two HDTV tuners installed (hopefully eventually going to 4 ethernet connected tuners, but that's a different story).  What if I could use Windows Media Center (available in all Windows 7 and Vista computers by default) to 'tune in' to an 'Updates' channel.  My Computer would listen to and record the broadcast, extract the Windows updates embedded in the video signal and applied the updates to itself.  Then, what if that computer became the central hub for all other computers to get their windows updates.  Instead of going to the internet, the updates would come from the local network (something larger corporations do on a daily basis using a system called Windows System Updates Service).  What if the 'update' channel was product agnostic?  What if you could download updates for Windows, Macs, iTunes, iPads, iPhones, Playbooks, BlackBerries, AntiVirus, etc.?  Any one way communication that comes from any provider to the masses could utilize this service.  Cost is really the only problem.  But what if not only updates, but news, ads, etc. were delivered via this method?  Not only would the update providers be a source of revenue, but advertisers could also benefit.  And since most of the bandwidth would be used by non-human sense consumable content, advertising could take a front seat.

Anyway, just an idea.  I'm sure that since no one has done it yet, that either they haven't thought of it or the costs and challenges are too large.  Oh well, there you have it, internet.  There's my good idea for the day.