Internet Traffic Cops Battle Seriously Clogged Web
That Netflix movie. Those cloud applications. Streaming media of every variety. All of it threatens to stop up the Internet. Every day, entertainment and software companies add new and larger Internet content, but infrastructure has not expanded to accommodate this new traffic.
Enter a group of Princeton researchers working around-the-clock to ensure the Internet doesn't clog to a complete halt.
Led by Mung Chiang, Princeton's EDGE Lab is dedicated to researching and implementing new methods of tackling issues surrounding Internet data flow. It's a problem, Chiang says, that has become even more pertinent with the rise of online video streaming on sites like Netflix which is reportedly responsible for nearly a quarter of the Internet's capacity consumption as well as cloud-computing networks such as Google Docs and Office 365.
"There's been an explosion of capacity demand on the Internet and wireless networks ," Chiang told InnovationNewsDaily. "We have to work to regulate these demands or the quality of service will degrade and the systems will weaken dramatically."
While the idea that the Internet could collapse from overconsumption might be shocking to some, Chiang says that people are more familiar with the symptoms of these issues than they might realize.
"A lot of people actually know the problems, because they're everywhere," he says. "When your Wi-Fi doesn't work, when your 3G speed is too low , when you're paying $10 per gigabyte on your Verizon or AT&T bill. It's just that not everybody fully appreciates what it takes to solve the problems."
What it takes, according to Chiang, is a bit of clever reorganization. Simply adding more space to the networks won't solve anything, because "people's needs for usage will always outweigh researchers' ability to add capacity." Instead, Chiang and his team are hoping to improve the Web's efficiency by changing users' consumption habits.
In partnership with AT&T, EDGE is conducting a trial of a prototype system called TUBE, which stands for Time-dependent Usage-based Broadband price Engineering. The system determines wireless service prices based on demand it divides wireless usage times into "peak" and "off-peak" hours, with data usage during the former costing significantly more. By using a TUBE app on their phones, users can see a log of their usage and current pricing.
During peak periods, users must determine for themselves whether their Web usage is urgent enough to justify the higher cost. Theoretically, users can lower their phone bills by doing the majority of their Web use and downloading during off-peak hours.
"Our goal is to create a win-win for both the consumers and carriers by regulating consumption patterns in a smarter, more efficient way," Chiang said. "This solution has the ability to please both parties by increasing revenues and lowering phone bills."
The trial currently consists of 50 test subjects all Princeton students, staff and faculty and Chiang says that so far it has been a great success.
Though it's difficult to predict, Chiang says major wireless carriers could implement the TUBE technology within the next two years.