Internet Bandwidth Expands Around the Globe

The amount of bandwidth being delivered over the Internet keeps growing at a strong rate, with the most obvious pattern being less dependence on the United States as part of the Net’s infrastructure.

International Internet bandwidth grew 174 percent between 2000 and 2001, according to TeleGeography, Inc. While this is a strong growth rate, it has slowed from last year, when cross-border Internet links increased by 382 percent.

The Internet’s global topology is growing in uneven spurts, however. In the past year, Latin America’s international connectivity grew by almost 480 percent to 16.1 Gbps. Telegeography credits new submarine cable systems built by Telefonica and Global Crossing for the Latin American increase. Internet backbone providers purchased capacity on these systems in larger quantities and at lower prices than previously available.

This sporadic bandwidth growth has also led to a more diffused map of Internet connections. The United States still plays a central role in Internet infrastructure, but most countries have become less dependent on the United States as a switching station. But the United States remains the world’s main hub — as of mid-2001, more than 80 percent of international Internet capacity in Asia, Africa and South America still connected directly to a U.S. city.

This growing network required 40,000 broadband switches and routers to move only the estimated 20,000 terabits per day generated by U.S. Internet traffic last year, according to Insight Research. With the network doubling every year, Insight estimates $50 billion dollars in new gear will be needed over the next five years or U.S. Internet traffic will gradually grind to a halt.

Total U.S. Internet traffic in 2006 will exceed 1.5 million terabits per day, Insight found. Not only will the number of broadband switches and routers required to move this traffic triple, but the throughput capacity per switch will also increase by a factor of 25. Essentially all of the switches used in 2006 for distribution and backbone packet networks will be new, and the aggregated investment will amount to almost $50 billion.

But what about the “bandwidth glut”, which is the name for the perception there is more capacity for bandwidth than there is actual data to transfer?

“The so-called capacity glut is a chimera,” said Insight president Robert Rosenberg. “It’s a mythical creature invented by the investment community because they couldn’t justify their inability to distinguish between the long-term telecom infrastructure investments needed to meet forecasted demand and the short-term market development capital that was thrown at ‘new economy’ dot-coms. Our analysis suggests that over the next five years a tremendous investment in switching systems will be required or the network will choke on its own traffic — and we just don’t believe that is going to be allowed to happen.”

International Internet Bandwidth by Region, 1999-2001
Nation 2000
Africa 649.2 1,230.8 89.6%
Asia 22,965.1 52,661.9 129.3%
Europe 232,316.7 675,637.3 190.8%
Latin Amercica 2,785.2 16,132.5 479.2%
U.S. & Canada 112,222.0 274,184.9 144.3%
Note: Data as of mid-year
Source: TeleGeography research

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