Rapid decompression can cause complications.

The rapid jump in video consumption that began a couple of years back took some service providers by surprise. What are the odds of another similar surprise?

Brian SantoThe exaflood Cisco has been talking about doesn’t qualify. That prediction is predicated largely on some prosaic assumptions: more people connected, all consuming more data, largely video.

Implicit is that video is the largest file type that people are likely to commonly consume (and generate). The impending exaflood can be dealt with by judicious expansion of bandwidth, with a little help from ever-more-efficient compression.

And that’s what leads us to a possible development that could very well lead to an unexpected, huge leap in bandwidth demand.

Compressed media is compromised. Yeah, yeah, yeah, your “golden eyes” and “golden ears” certify that what’s tossed out is indiscernible to the average consumer. Blah, blah, blah.

The fact is that less is less. And less is especially less among audiophiles. These are people who have reviled digital recording from long before Ry Cooder recorded “Bop Til You Drop,” and don’t get them started on tube amps, I’m begging you please.

Some hardcore audiophiles are already trading in uncompressed files. The moment you start offering 50 or 100 megabits a second at a fee average people are willing to pay, casual audiophiles are going to leap at the opportunity, too.

Service providers will have to answer several questions:

  • To what extent will the audiophile attitude ooze into the mainstream?
  • Will that audiophile attitude infect the average video consumer?
  • To what extent?

A precipitous leap in demand for decompression isn’t guaranteed. The counter-argument remains: Most consumers won’t be able to tell the difference. Maybe. But recall how many people bought HDTVs, didn’t hook them up to an HD service but still insisted their video quality was better? Being able to tell the difference is not a prerequisite for wanting the best.

Now imagine a competitor marketing the superiority of their uncompressed video.

Bonus question: Will audiophile/cinephile demand, coupled with enormous bandwidth, lead to bringing back analog?