When the standards for local wired high-speed computing networks were first formalized in 1985, streaming media wasn’t a big concern. But as demand for those services has increased, especially in recent years, officials have begun to fear a logjam, so they have taken steps to prepare for a expected flood of streaming and downloaded multimedia in the years to come.The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) recently upgraded Ethernet standards, increasing bandwidth speeds and preparing for new markets, including in-car networking. “When Ethernet networking was conceived in the 1970s … its founders could not possibly have foreseen the global transformation that their ideas and efforts would ultimately set into motion,” said David Law, chair of the IEEE 802.3 Ethernet Working Group. The recent upgrades, which add 100Gbps compatibility, essentially create a bigger pipe for data to flow through locally, making it possible for content from providers like Netflix and Hulu (as well as streaming media from online sites) to stream smoothly to wired devices in the home or office. (The changes will not affect wireless streaming capacity.) Officials are already considering another upgrade to a much higher speed, either 400Gbps or 1Tbps. Bandwidth usage doubles roughly every 18 months, according to the IEEE. That’s in large part due to the public’s growing appetite for online multimedia. The growth of streaming media and the prospect of non-linear IPTV channels will only accelerate the trend. If current trends continue, bandwidth demands in 2015 will be ten times what they were in 2010; in 2020, 100 times the demands of 2010. Today’s home networks wouldn’t be up to the task. That’s what makes regular updates like this one essential. “The [current] standard has helped spawn whole new business models, industries and ways of life — and that cycle of innovation continues today,” said Law.
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