Total international bandwidth quadrupled since 2016

30 July 2021 | Melanie Mingas

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Total international bandwidth more than quadrupled between 2016 and 2020, to exceed 2 Pbps.

“While mature markets typically grow slower than developing ones, that's not the case when it comes to global bandwidth demand,” said Anahí Rebatta, senior analyst at TeleGeography, the firm behind the numbers.

In conclusion, TeleGeography said the market is thriving.

Rebatta continued: “Content providers like Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Microsoft are huge drivers for bandwidth demand across the globe. Their top priority is to link their data centres and major interconnection points, meaning they often take tremendous capacity on core routes, while focusing less on secondary long-haul routes.”

As is the case with current networks, it's all about content and cloud, with TeleGeography confirming that the likes of Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Microsoft are the "primary sources of demand".

As of 2020, these companies are the dominant users of international bandwidth, accounting for two-thirds of all used international capacity.

However, their capacity varies between route as these companies focus on linking data centres and major interconnection points for their own needs.

To provide a sense of their thirst for bandwidth – and contrast between key markets – among content providers, TeleGeography said hyperscalers accounted for 91% of used capacity on the Transatlantic route in 2020, but just 12% on the Europe-East Asia route.

Secondary long-haul routes are still the playground of traditional carriers.

Clearly, the pandemic has amplified the international bandwidth market's critical role in keeping the world connected and moving forward – demand has accelerated across almost all global networks, with TeleGeography reporting that operators feel this increase most acutely in access networks.

The lit capacity on major submarine cable routes continues to soar, with the pace of growth most rapid on the Transatlantic route, where lit capacity increased nearly five-fold between 2016 and 2020.

Examining the same period with a global perspective, lit capacity more than tripled on many major submarine routes.

“Demand for international bandwidth is more than doubling every two years. To meet this demand, companies are investing in existing networks and in new infrastructure,” added Rebatta.

“The lit capacity on major submarine cable routes is soaring to keep pace with demand. Between 2016 and 2020, lit capacity more than tripled on many routes. The swiftness of growth was the most rapid on the Transatlantic route, where lit capacity increased nearly five-fold between 2016 and 2020.”