The UK is 'running out of internet,' pundit says

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Britain, the world's No. 6 nation in Gross Domestic Product, is about to run out of internet capacity, according to pundits. Lack of fiber capacity and power generation to blame.


The United Kingdom, which is ranked on a GDP basis just behind France, Germany, and Japan – which in-turn are out-ranked only by the U.S. and China – is going to run out of internet soon, and might need to ration it, according to Andrew Ellis, a professor in optical communications at Aston University in Birmingham, England.

The web will collapse because existing fiber optic cables can't accept any more data, and telcos can't afford to keep laying more fiber, Ellis has said recently.

In any case, pumping data through cables is using up the country's power supply, Ellis says. At the current rate of growth, the web will consume the country's power supply within 20 years, he reckons.

Ellis has organized a pow-wow later this month at the Royal Society, an academy comprising of distinguished scientists, where he hopes experts will come together to figure out how to keep the internet running with the proliferation of ever-increasing streaming services.

Power supply issues

Internet media use could wolf-down all of the nation's electricity by 2035, according to Ellis.

Internet transmission, which, in this case, includes computer and television hardware, already uses between 8% and 16% of the country's power, Adam Withnall says, writing about Ellis' projections in the Independent newspaper.

Demand is increasing. The only solution would be to ration the internet or increase prices, Ellis said, according to the Independent.

Fiber 'capacity crunch'

"We are starting to reach the point in the research lab where we can't get any more data into a single optical fiber," Ellis said in an interview with Ben Spencer of the Daily Mail.

"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," he added.

Adding more cables will mean higher bills, and in any case, more cable provisioning would require more power generation—which is going to run out, he says. Power use increases with speed. Internet power use doubles every four years, the Daily Mail report said.

Money grab

As one might imagine, there are those who don't agree with Ellis' prediction of rising Internet demand consuming the nation's entire power supply by 2035.

"This is a money grab" by the telecom companies, Reddit user Dsigned001 said in a discussion of Withnall's article.

"They just ran gigabit over DSL. Netflix isn't taking up a gigabit per household, and energy consumption for the same services is decreasing," Dsigned001 adds.


Andrew Lord, the head of optical research at telco BT, also disagreed with Ellis' dire prediction. Scientists will come up with a solution, Lord told the Daily Mail. He will be attending the Royal Society meeting too. "The internet is not about to collapse," he told the Daily Mail.

However, new cable dropped now would already be filled within "a year or two…which is far too short," Lord told another newspaper, the Sunday Times.

Net neutrality

There's going to have to be "some sort of demand management," Ellis says. One way would be to ration it, and another way would be charging or taxation of service providers." Intermittent, mandated switching-off is another option, he suggests.

But in any case, if you listen to these warnings, the internet is failing to keep up with demand. Whether or not that's simply due to a lack of investment by telcos is the question, though.

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