International internet capacity growth rates have fallen steadily for many years, and annual growth rates have settled in the low-30 percent range.
But even with the declining pace of growth, 196 Tbps of new international internet capacity was deployed between 2013 and 2017, bringing global international internet capacity to 295 Tbps.
Of the 295 Tbps of international internet capacity, 98 Tbps was inter-regional, while 196 Tbps connected countries within each of the major world regions.
Since TeleGeography began tracking international internet capacity in 1999, the highest-capacity inter-regional route had always been Europe-United States & Canada. This changed in 2013 as capacity on the Latin America-U.S. & Canada route exceeded the Europe-U.S. & Canada route.
In 2017, the Latin America-U.S. & Canada route extended its lead, expanding 28 percent to reach 29 Tbps. This shift may seem surprising, but Latin America’s international internet bandwidth is almost completely connected to the U.S. & Canada, whereas Asia and Europe have their inter-regional capacity spread among other routes, in addition to considerable levels of intra-regional capacity. Also, the considerable deployment of private network capacity by large content providers across the Atlantic and Pacific appears to have dampened the growth of internet capacity on these routes.
The pace of new international internet capacity deployments varies by region. Africa experienced the most rapid growth of international internet bandwidth, growing at a compound annual rate of 44 percent between 2013 and 2017. The Middle East was just behind Africa, rising at a 42 percent compound annual rate during the same period.
Africa experienced the most rapid growth of international internet bandwidth, growing at a compound annual rate of 44 percent between 2013 and 2017.
In recent years, a small group of content providers have captured an increasing share of traffic and migrated it to their own international networks. Content networks have grown faster than internet backbones, and account for their slowing growth. This impact is most acute on the trans-Atlantic and trans-Pacific routes, but also within Asia and Europe.
Content providers have been particularly aggressive in increasing their presence at major peering locations as they expand their global networks. Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft offer public or private peering in a wide array of regions. As a result, many internet backbone operators are focused on bolstering capacity to locations such as Marseille and Singapore where they can connect directly to content providers’ networks.
Anahí is a Senior Analyst at TeleGeography. As part of the infrastructure team, she heads the Global Internet Geography research service. Her regional focus is on Latin America and the Caribbean.