Concerns over UK internet capacity dispelled by BT scientist

The UK's internet access will not need to be rationed in the future despite the surging demand for high-speed broadband, according to a leading professor in optical research at BT.

Professor Andrew Lord, who leads optical research at BT, said that while we are seeing a rapid increase in internet use, tests and research indicate the current infrastructure can deal with demand.

He was speaking at the opening of a Royal Society discussion where the growth in data use and its impact are in the limelight.

The remark comes after one of the meeting’s organisers, Professor Andrew Ellis, an expert in optical communications at Aston University, warned last week that at the rate consumers are currently using the web, existing cables will reach their data capacity by 2035.

He told the Sunday Times: “It is growing so fast, currently at an exponential rate, that in theory it could be using all the UK power generation by 2035.

“We cannot make all that extra power, so we have to restrict or reduce access, perhaps by metering consumers so they pay for what they use.”

The demand of popular video-streaming websites such as YouTube and Netflix could be putting an unprecedented strain on communication infrastructure, for example. According to one estimate, internet transmission already accounts for between eight and 16 per cent of the UK’s power.

However, Professor Lord said that BT has run tests that show its network can currently handle the entire internet in the UK on a single fibre.

“What the internet can cope with we've already been able to put into a single carrier, so it's going well; it's up to speed with what's needed at the moment.

“I don't see a crisis in the internet, I don't see a crunch coming. I can see that if you go to the extreme numbers you can break it, but of course you can always do that. You just have to wait long enough for it to break.”

An Ofcom report published yesterday also showed that the amount of time UK internet users are spending online has doubled in the last ten years and attributed the increase to the rise of smartphones and tablet devices that are internet-enabled.

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