Big changes in the bowels of the Internet as data is loaded onto private networks

Ian Scales
By Ian Scales

Aug 29, 2018

© Flickr/cc-licence/Bob Mical

© Flickr/cc-licence/Bob Mical

  • International Internet traffic growth slowing
  • Large players are moving international internet traffic onto private nets
  • More users and applications will drive traffic growth in access networks, but much of it will be managed locally

The big internet-using companies are gradually assigning more of their International traffic growth to private networks instead of loading all the increase onto the Internet’s International backbones as the bandwidth economics shift, according to TeleGeography.

In a recent blogpost, Anahi Rebatta of TeleGeography's telecom infrastructure and voice traffic team, points out that International internet traffic growth has gradually slowed in recent years in what she calls a pattern of “broad deceleration”:  it’s still growing at a brisk pace, just not quite as briskly as it has in the immediate past.

Meanwhile many large players are building or using private network capacity to syphon off traffic that might otherwise have been moved across international backbones as IP transit.

“IP transit price declines continue globally, but significant regional differences in prices persist around the world,” says Anahi. So where the IP transit prices are high, employing a private network link instead has become ever-more viable.

Just to kick this process along, a larger and larger proportion of Internet traffic is being generated by an ever smaller number of giant Internet players.

The upshot is that the largest content providers’ private networks are having a major impact on the growth of internet capacity requirements, says Anahi.

“As the content providers extend their networks into new locations, backbone operators will continue to optimize their topologies in response. In some cases, backbone operators may reduce capacity or shift capacity to new locations. Additional companies, including Akamai, Dropbox, and Oracle, are in the process building global networks, which will shift additional traffic away from the public internet.

“The increased reliance on direct connections to content providers and the use of caching will continue to have a localizing effect on traffic patterns and dampen international internet traffic growth. As demand for content and applications grows in new locations, CDN (content distribution network) nodes and caches will be deployed into these areas.”

She points out that more users and applications will drive traffic growth in access networks, but much of it will be managed locally, so won’t lead to ‘proportional’ increases in traffic on international links.

What about 5G?

It seems to me that this trend might dovetail with mobile edge computing and 5G. Looking forward, private networks employed to shift non-local traffic off the Internet might also play a part in providing low-latency connections between content provider data centres and the network edge compute facilities which are set to emerge, probably in 5 to 10 years time, with the advent of 5G.

Ultra-low, microsecond latency will be accomplished on the user’s first hop to the network edge, supplemented by reasonably low latency (just a few milliseconds, say) operating between the network edge and the content itself.  

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