Gigabit is not enough

Submitted by fredrik.nyman on Mon, 05/13/2019 - 11:16
Image removed.

The Amsterdam Internet Exchange point has been around for a long time and is one of the largest exchange points in the world. Traffic between Internet Service Providers pass over the AMX-IX. Total average bandwidth has been documented since 2002 according and according to Wikipedia the volume has gone from 12Gbit/s in 2002 to 5500Gbit/s in 2017. That averages a 55% growth per year in actual traffic. While the growth rate in the past few years "only" has been in the 25-30% range per year it is still growing significantly. The Netherlands, together with Scandinavia, is one of the most evolved FTTH markets.

The Brazilian Internet Exchange point has only data publicly available dating back to 2012, but since then they have had an annual growth in traffic rate of about 68% per year. Brazil is an emerging FTTx market. Bandwidth growth in the 50%+ range is not just a European phenomenon.

Researcher Jacob Nielsen stipulated Nielsen's law back in 1998. https://www.nngroup.com/articles/law-of-bandwidth/

Basically, Nielsen states that a high-end user's connection speed grows by 50% per year. Taking his own connection as an example he could verify this statement from 1984 and 300bps dial-up modem to today's (last entry from 2018) high-speed connections. His most recent diagram predicts that soon 1Gbit/s will not be sufficient for his own needs and nor will it for many other power users.

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Source: Jacob Nielsen

A study made by the Fibre to the home Council a few years ago also confirmed Nielsens statement. The bandwidth rates available on the market tend to grow at about 50% per year. The bandwidth growth of the Internet Exchange points mention above seem to also be well in line with this prediction.

What Nielsen also concludes is that the vast mass of users lags 2-3 years behind the power users. This gives FTTH operators a planning horizon. What is sold today as premium services to a few users will be mass-market services in 2-3 years. If your premium today is 500Mbit/s then build your network to handle these service rates for the bulk of your users in three years time.

Looking at the Scandinavian markets which for long have been leading in fiber based broadband services and penetration, the majority of ports deployed for the past four or five years have been 1Gbit/s symmetrical. Service rates have increased and the most popular services today are 100Mbit/s+ with 250Mbit/s taking on a lot of subscriptions lately. Swedish ISP Bahnhof has even launched a 10Gbit/s service for those willing to pay, which I would say that power users are.

The increase in available bandwidth for users in the Scandinavian market has of course enabled more and new services. Obviously HD-TV and other bandwidth craving services has benefited from this evolution, but not everything is about the average bit-rate you consume but rather the latency in the interaction with the service you use over the connection.

For example, to really make use of a cloud based file storage you need a lot of bandwidth when you want to retrieve or upload the file. Its not that you need a high speed service because you are constantly transferring lots of files. You need a high speed service so that when you do upload or download a file, it is superfast. Only then that cloud storage becomes a viable option to your hard drive, and only then you can start using cool services that can handle and process your image library or use web-applications for IoT control of your home and so on.

Time is also money, and I think all of us value our time more than spending it on waiting for a transfer to complete. High bitrate means faster transfer times even if your files are not gigabytes in size.

Now that Germany, Austria, Italy and Great Britain among other nations are gaining momentum in FTTH deployment, they can benefit from the pioneering countries where widespread FTTH has created a market for bandwidth intense services and functions .

Just remember, soon gigabit is not enough!

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In this blog I will be writing about some of the topics, big and small, facing network engineers and fibre networks and the kind of challenges I have encountered working with our customers over the past 20 years or so.