Solving the Netflix Effect

Friday, 25 September 2015


Prefetching may help Australia respond to the Netflix effect

Dr Lawrence Ong

Innovative research at the University of Newcastle (UON) could help Australia respond to the 'Netflix effect' by prefetching data to improve internet speeds during peak periods. 

The research, led by Dr Lawrence Ong is aimed at increasing the ability of Australia's existing internet infrastructure to cope with dramatic increases in demand, driven by internet television services such as Netflix.

"The arrival of Netflix has had a disruptive effect. More than one million users are now subscribed to the service and some Australian providers have reported up to a 60 per cent increase in data consumption since Netflix was launched.

"In certain areas the network is really struggling to keep pace with demand," said Dr Ong.

Prefetch technology predicts future usage by analyzing a users' recent history. Using this intelligence, it automatically downloads or 'prefetches' the required content during off-peak hours.

"Just as roads become congested and slow during peak hour travel periods, the Internet becomes congested and slow during peak evening usage periods, impacting everyone's experience.

"If we can redirect some of that traffic to off-peak periods we can dramatically reduce usage spikes, improving user experience across the Internet broadly," said Dr Ong.

As the Internet is increasingly required to power more things, the technology could help to address performance issues in the short-term.

"Everything from our fridges to light bulbs and personal fitness devices now transmit data over the Internet as part of an interconnected Internet of Things. While these devices place a comparatively smaller demand on the infrastructure, it signals a growing demand," said Dr Ong. 

Using information theory and graph theory, Dr Ong studies the fundamental limits of different prefetching technologies and the benefits they bring to wireless and wired communication systems.

Read more about Dr Ong's innovative research