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Content, Capacity, and the Great, Growing Demand for International Bandwidth

Network

By Alan MauldinMay 30, 2018

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Global bandwidth demand continues to grow, spurring terrestrial and submarine cable network operators to undertake extensive network upgrades and deployments.

We can see this in the global demand for international bandwidth, which increased at a rate of 52 percent in 2017.

Further, the amount of capacity deployed on international networks doubled between 2015 and 2017, rising to 689 Tbps.

We can't talk about the ever-growing demand for global bandwidth without touching on one of the biggest factors shaping the market: content providers

The growth in the amount of capacity deployed by content providers like Google, Facebook, and Microsoft has outstripped that of all other customers of international bandwidth in recent years. Content providers experience high volumes of demand between their proprietary data centers.

The requirements for inter-data center demand vary by company but are generally related to database mirroring, search index synchronization, and cloud computing services and applications.

In the Atlantic and Pacific, content providers accounted for over half of total demand in 2017. In contrast, content providers represented only a small share of capacity usage on routes connected to the Middle East and Africa.

The role of inter-data center bandwidth requirements in bolstering overall transport demand becomes clear when examining content provider capacity on major submarine cable routes. In the Atlantic and Pacific, content providers accounted for over half of total demand in 2017. In contrast, content providers represented only a small share of capacity usage on routes connected to the Middle East and Africa. To date, the large content providers have built U.S.-centric network architectures. Their investments on systems directly connecting Europe to Asia are almost non-existent in comparison.

The concentration of content provider demand along certain routes does not mean these huge bandwidth consumers are not focusing on adding capacity to other regions. A comparison of the international capacity growth experienced by content providers versus all other sources reveals a stark contrast.

Across all world regions, content providers added capacity at a compound annual rate of at least 75 percent between 2013 and 2017, compared to a rate no higher than 45 percent for others.

 

Read Next

What's next for the global internet? International internet bandwidth and traffic growth has gradually slowed in recent years, but remains brisk. Read more.

Where are content providers investing in cables? On many routes—like the Trans-Atlantic, Trans-Pacific, and Intra-Asia routes—content providers now account for the vast majority of used capacity. What does that mean?

Alan Mauldin

Alan Mauldin

Alan Mauldin is a Research Director at TeleGeography. He manages the company’s infrastructure research group, focusing primarily on submarine cables, terrestrial networks, international Internet infrastructure, and bandwidth demand modeling. He also advises clients with due diligence analysis, feasibility studies, and business plan development for projects around the world. Alan speaks frequently about the global network industry at a wide range of conferences, including PTC, Submarine Networks World, and SubOptic.

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