It downloads 320 megabytes (MB) per hour from users' computers, meaning that users could reach their monthly download limits in hours and that it could be unusable for bandwidth-capped users.
The Venice Project is the new system being developed by Janus Friis and Niklas Zennström, the Scandinavian entrepreneurs behind the revolutionary services Kazaa and Skype. It is currently being used by 6,000 beta testers and is due to be launched next year.
The data transfer rate is revealed in the documentation sent to beta testers and the instructions make it very clear what the bandwidth requirements are so that users are not caught out.
Under a banner saying 'Important notice for users with limits on their internet usage', the document says: "The Venice Project is a streaming video application, and so uses a relatively high amount of bandwidth per hour. One hour of viewing is 320MB downloaded and 105 Megabytes uploaded, which means that it will exhaust a 1 Gigabyte cap in 10 hours. Also, the application continues to run in the background after you close the main window."
"For this reason, if you pay for your bandwidth usage per megabyte or have your usage capped by your ISP, you should be careful to always exit the Venice Project client completely when you are finished watching it," says the document
Many ISPs offer broadband connections which are unlimited to use by time, but have limits on the amount of data that can be transferred over the connection each month. Though limits are 'advisory' and not strict, users who regularly far exceed the limits break the terms of their deals.
BT's most basic broadband package BT Total Broadband Package 1, for example, has a 2GB monthly 'usage guideline'. This would be reached after 20 hours of viewing.
The software is also likely to transfer data even when not being used. The Venice system is going to run on a peer-to-peer (P2P) network, which means that users host and send the programmes to other users in an automated system.
OUT-LAW has seen screenshots from the system and talked to one of the testers of it, who reports very favourably on its use. "This is going to be the one. I've used some of the other software out there and it's fine, but my dad could use this, they've just got it right," he said. "It looks great, you fire it up and in two minutes you're live, you're watching television."
The source said that claims being made for the system being "near high definition" in terms of picture quality are wide of the mark. "It's not high definition. It's the same as normal television," he said.