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Summary:

Last year demand for bandwidth rose by 40 percent, and much of that demand is now coming from all over the world, not just in developed countries.

Submarine Cable map
photo: Telegeography.com

Demand for international bandwidth grew 39 percent last year, and at a compounded annual rate of 53 percent between 2007 and 2012, according to Telegeography. The interesting bit here is that the growth is coming not just from developed regions, but all regions of the world.

Cheaper mobile phones with access to the web are certainly a part of that demand growth in developing nations, while in more traditional technology markets, hotspots, larger applications and cloud computing are to blame. Whatever the reason for demand, carriers are responding accordingly, with new submarine cables connecting more countries than ever before.

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Telegeography tracks bandwidth supply, pricing and data on submarine cables, and the latest data shows how carriers that range from traditional players like Level 3 and Tata to newer investors such as Google are connecting all areas of the world. The firm estimates all regions are getting about 10 to 12 new terabits per second of capacity in the last five years. All in all in the last five years the world has gained 54 Tbps of new capacity.

This is great, because additional cables means more redundancy, so when accidents happen or cables get cut — as happened late last month off the coast of Egypt – traffic can route around the nicks in the system. That redundancy also allows new players into the market and can result in lower bandwidth costs, which is good for businesses buying bandwidth and indirectly for consumers.

  1. All of us being “bandwidth hogs” is like all of us being “excellent”, right? If everybody is, then nobody really is… and the pipe providers ought to start treating us as customers instead of scofflaws, get their thumbs out of their posterior orifices, and ramp up accordingly. Most of us could see this coming back when RoadRunner (now Time Warner Cable Internet) was in pilot. Twenty years or so on, we’re still paying extra for doing “normal” stuff.

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  2. Very Interesting.

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  3. Yeah, the ISPs are full of it. We’re not bandwidth hogs just because we manage to come close to consuming the bandwidth we’ve contracted with them to provide. Or really, a small fraction of the potential bandwidth, yet higher than some secret threshold on the ISP’s spreadsheet.

    I guess I’m a road hog since I often drive close to the speed limit. Maybe even faster (don’t tell anyone!)

    I’m also a phone hog since I don’t speak slowly and space my words out. When I talk fast, it’s like transmitting data at a higher rate, right? Maybe folks who talk fast should pay a higher rate. That sounds fair. Don’t want to force grandma down the lane to subsidize my phone calls. Folks who speak Spanish would likely be impacted hard by this.

    But you know this redundancy won’t result in lower rates for most of us. Monopoly ISPs have too much interest in rationing bandwidth to keep prices high. It’s also interesting how a fiber cut doesn’t get rerouted quickly as we would expect. This is because it’s a complex matter to rearrange the 1-1 peering that Monopoly ISPs practice. This is the trick that allows them to set a high, arbitrary *price* on bandwidth, while never having to pay anything for it. They manage their traffic so that they earn enough credit from their peers to offset charges. However, smaller ISPs are forced to buy bandwidth at the arbitrary cartel rate, so they operate on a razor-thin profit margin.

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