Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Lala, streaming for life, cloud computing, bandwidth, and the ISP

Lala says it will sell you the right to stream a song, for life, for 10 cents. Thats quite a sweet deal for someone who listens to music on the computer only. In case you really want to take the song on the go, you can buy the song permanently for your music player for the same 99 cents. Lets do some bandwidth Math now.

Use case 1: Fixed line user
A user streams 8 hours of music every day @ 128 kbps from Lala. First off, 8 hours at 4 minutes per song is about 60*8/4 = 120 songs. If the user's Lala library has a different 120 songs for each day of the week, s/he has 600 songs (= 120 * 5). An investment of $60, for a lifetime. Now this is quite a good deal compared to the corresponding $600 based on the current 99 cents-a-song model. Offcourse you loose the right to download the song into your iPod, but for this use case lets say it doesnt matter to the user. The critical point is, users will not download the song one time as in the current model but will download it everytime they want to hear it.

Now lets do the bandwidth calculation.

(8 * 3600) seconds * 128 kbps = 460MB

So we have a 460 MB sustained streaming download per day. For 20 week-days a month, we are talking about a bandwidth usage of 9GB per month. This usage certainly puts use case 1 into the ISPs' "power user" category. Do we have enough bandwidth provisioning in the core and access networks to deal with large numbers of such users?

Use case 2: Mobile Internet user
Use case 2 is a mobile internet user (think UMTS on a laptop) user. Even if we cut the music streaming about 1 hour per day, we have a usuage of over 1GB per month just for music. Do we have that sort of bandwidth on 3G networks and will flat-rate data plans tolerate such perfectly legal users?

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