Wireless streaming video – the next ‘tragedy of the commons’

Are you ready for your cellular network to melt down in 2010?

The NFL and Major League Baseball are deploying streaming applications for the iPhone. Sending streaming video over a TCP/IP connection that uses acknowledgments is exceedingly stupid, since there are going to be tens of thousands of people who want to view this, all at the same time.

A UDP connection would be a better idea, because you can design a protocol that doesn’t expect acknowledgements for those video packets.

Years ago, when I worked on a project to build the Boston Community Information System, we used a broadcast channel. It scales to a million users as easily as it serves one user. We didn’t expect to clutter a packet switching network with content that had a large community of interest.

Where will the bandwidth come from?