Web TV Streams Triple ISP Costs; PlusNet Blames iPlayer

BBC iPlayer has tripled ISP traffic costs, according to one carrier. BT-owned, Sheffield-based PlusNet reported a record customer bandwidth spike in January, 66 percent more streaming content used since December 1 and a 72 percent increase in the number of subscribers streaming more than 250Mb per month. All-in-all, it increased the cost of carrying streamed traffic from £17,233 to £51,700 per month, the ISP said.

PlusNet’s Dave Tomlinson didn’t break out specific iPlayer traffic against other services’ but observed that the BBC platform – which got 2.2 million users in January, boosted bbc.co.uk traffic 29 percent and accounts for an estimated 38 percent of UK IPTV viewing – had launched on Christmas Day: “The majority of this growth in traffic will be down to iPlayer (with some 4OD, Sky Anytime and Joost thrown in). We can only imagine what the growth will be like when that majority shifts from the PC to the TV.”

Emergence of bandwidth-hogging TV and movie services requires ISPs lease more pipes from BT (NYSE: BT) Wholesale’s IPstream network if services do not employ cacheing technology. Doing the math, Telco 2.0 reckons the pattern would have increased PlusNet’s costs from 6.1p per user to 18.3p per user. Extrapolating PlusNet’s 282,000 customers to the 8.5 million using IPstream, it reckoned all-ISP bandwidth costs would have grown from £500,000 prior to December to £1.5 million in January.

The issue plays right to the heart of Ofcom’s next-generation broadband networks strategy (Virgin Media (NSDQ: VMED) is prepping 100Mbps, BT 24Mbps) – and the concerns Tiscali and Carphone Warehouse expressed to the BBC last year. Consumption of web-streamed iPlayer shows outnumbers that for the P2P download version by eight to one. However, the BBC is currently using CDN operator Velocix to install cacheing technology at local broadband exchanges. Auntie spent £8.8 million on online infrastructure and distribution in 2006/07 and is set on building a new content delivery infrastructure this year.