Level 3 Communications

Jon Alexander

As CES Showcases Tech-Goodies Galore, Don’t Overlook Content Delivery Infrastructure

Many of you probably experienced something like this scenario over the holidays: you invited people over, and everyone tried to connect their smartphones, tablets or laptops to your Wi-Fi. If enough of your guests tried to use it, the network may have started to groan. Soon, your friends were complaining that they couldn’t get on the network, their virtual reality (VR) game was frozen, or their downloads timed out because the connection was too slow.

This situation is increasingly the norm as people grow more and more dependent on mobile devices to communicate, check the weather, listen to music, stream video and engage in other activities. Accessing all this content places a burden not only on your Wi-Fi, but networks in general.

The day after Christmas is particularly notorious for increased data-throughput demands. In fact, it is one of the busiest days of the year on our network as people plug in new devices and use gift certificates to download and stream content. Peak utilization on Level 3’s content delivery network (CDN) on Dec. 26 nearly doubled in 2016, a pattern repeated the previous two years.

The largest consumer electronics show of the year, CES 2017, is underway and while we may be dazzled by the latest technologies on display, we all should be aware of the strain an increasingly connected world is placing on content networks. Users and businesses alike tend to focus on what the latest service or technology can do without putting enough thought into data-throughput demands.

For businesses that transmit massive volumes of video, audio and data content, overlooking capacity to support peak demand is a mistake that can impact the bottom line. If you lack the capacity and performance required to deliver content, customers aren’t likely to sit around waiting for slowly loading screens or sluggish progress bars. Put them through that experience enough times and they’ll go elsewhere.

CES Emphasis on “Connected”

CES is celebrating its 50th year and highlights products from nearly 4,000 vendors. Look at the menu of products and technology on display, and you’ll notice that “connected” is a common feature.

Among the products are organic light-emitting diode (OLED) and 4K TVs with curved displays, VR headsets, wearable devices, connected semi-autonomous vehicles, video-capturing drones and voice-controlled Wi-Fi devices that are starting to give us a real feel for the what the “connected home” will look like. The Internet of Things (IOT) isn’t somewhere far down the road; it’s already here.

The common thread among the assortment of new and emerging technologies at CES is the transmission and reception of content. Connected cars are becoming mini mobile networks that constantly send and receive data for audio streaming, emergency communications, location coordinates, proximity sensors and other functions. TVs, meanwhile, are becoming more interactive and app-intensive, receiving commands from viewers and pulling data from weather-app providers as well as Pandora, Netflix and YouTube.

Whether you’re accessing streaming services on your curved-display TV or via a smartphone or laptop; or using Wi-Fi connections to remotely open your garage door, adjust your thermostat or check your security webcams, you expect reliable, uninterrupted service in order to carry out these tasks.

At home, a single Wi-Fi router no longer will suffice, but will rather mesh systems with multiple transmitters to handle increased traffic. Businesses sending out large data volumes will need reliable content-delivery networks that can handle data without letting it degrade as more and more customers try to access it.

Futuristic No More

As content demands grow — thanks to the proliferation of connected devices — Cisco foresees 50 billion connected “things” by 2020. Given that prediction, content producers need reliable, secure and scalable delivery networks for video, audio, mobile apps and website content. This is the case whether you transmit live sporting events, breaking news or one-time broadcasts to millions of viewers around the world; or run a content-intensive, high-traffic website with thousands of downloads daily.

This year CES is giving us a real glimpse of what a truly connected world will look like. Technology that once felt futuristic is starting to become commonplace. But those technological advances cannot truly improve our lives in their intended ways unless they have reliable, secure networks to support them.

Want to provide a superior end user experience for your customers? Learn how Level 3’s CDN and other content distribution services can help you deliver.