It is difficult to argue the Web’s ubiquitous influence on nearly all of our lives. It’s even harder to believe that it’s only been 25 years since Sir Tim Berners-Lee set one of the most important communications platforms of all time in motion on March 12, 1989.
The Web’s growth and the growth of Internet traffic in general has been staggering, and looking ahead to the next 25 years, there are no signs of it decreasing. The chart below shows the global customer traffic on Tata Communications’ public IP network over the past six years and projected growth for the next six, which clearly indicates exponential growth.
One of the key drivers of this growth in IP traffic is mobile data which, in turn, is fuelled by the rise in mobile users. Global mobile data traffic is forecast to increase by 66 percent CAGR or 13-fold by 2017, reaching 11.2 exabytes per month, according to Cisco. The company expects 46 percent of all cellular traffic to be off-loaded from fixed or Wi-Fi by 2017 (9.6 exabytes a month), compared with 33 percent (428 petabytes a month) in 2012. LTE is likely to support nearly 10 percent of all mobile connections by 2017.
Services providers must look at to deal with this ever increasing capacity growth each and every year. There are three angles to take into consideration. The first is the network edge. Going forward, mobile service providers will have a monumental challenge dealing with mobile data growth at the edge. They will have to continue to deploy 4G technologies for increased data speeds, utilise micro cells in dense areas, and continually use Wi-Fi off-load strategies to maximize spectrum use. Clearly, these are not small asks.
The second angle will be on the network backbone. In the backbone, service providers will have to scale backbone links two ways: utilizing higher capacity transmission technology and adding more of them. Transmission capacity has been scaling from 10G, to 100G, and now even 400G line cards are being tested. However, each of those step functions in capacity has taken two or three years each at a minimum. In other words, not fast enough to solely keep up with capacity increases, so service providers will also have to scale with multiple links as well.
Finally, content delivery technology will also be required. Making sure as much content as possible is sent across the network just a few times, and then to allow that content to be served as close to the edge as possible will help reduce the demand on the backbone. This will help close that gap between faster demand growth and slower technology capacities increases.
Dealing with exponential growth rates is a hard problem. Service providers are going to have to utilise multiple strategies to effectively provide a path to keep up with the demand while tackling the technical challenges Further complicating this problem is trying to deal with this growth and do it profitably. Let’s hope service providers can continue to use these and new strategies to keep pace with the growth of the internet for the next 25 years as well.
About John Hayduk
John Hayduk is President, Product Management and Service Development at Tata Communications, part of the $100.09 billion Tata group. He is responsible for providing the technology vision and leadership needed to support Tata Communications’ network and managed services growth. He also oversees, manages, and sets the strategic direction for Tata Communications’ Information Technology infrastructure. John has over 18 years of experience in the telecommunications industry and began his career at Bell Communications Research as a Senior Engineer in 1990.