Africa leads the way in terms of bandwidth growth levels, experiencing the “most rapid” growth of international internet bandwidth and beating global growth estimates.
The continent experienced a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 44% between 2018 and 2022, reveals telecommunications market research and consulting firm TeleGeography.
Asia’s bandwidth growth is just behind the African continent, rising at a 35% CAGR during the same period, it reveals.
The telecoms analysis company’s latest data of Global Internet Geography was released this week, tracking internet capacity and traffic data sets. The research also examines factors impacting IP transit pricing and the role individual backbone operators play.
From a global perspective, the data shows the pace of internet bandwidth growth has been slowing. However, it’s still a near tripling of bandwidth since 2018, it notes.
TeleGeography research indicates global internet bandwidth rose by 28% in 2022, continuing the return to ‘normal’ from the pandemic-generated bump of 2020.
Total international bandwidth now stands at 997Tbps, representing a four-year CAGR of 29%. The firm further forecasts the Pbps era will soon be under way.
“After a tumultuous 2020 – with pandemic-induced volume surges and shifts in internet traffic patterns – network operators are back to adding bandwidth and engineering their traffic in a more measured manner,” says Paul Brodsky, TeleGeography senior research manager.
“Based on hard survey data gathered from dozens of regional and global network operators around the world, it’s clear the COVID-related expansion of internet traffic and bandwidth was a one-off phenomenon.”
International internet bandwidth growth largely mirrored that of internet traffic, it reveals.
Both average and peak international internet traffic increased at a compound annual rate of 30% between 2018 and 2022, slightly above the 29% CAGR in bandwidth over the same period, according to the research.
All of the stay-at-home activity associated with COVID-19 resulted in a spike in traffic in 2019-2020.
However, following the COVID-19 traffic surge in 2020, a global return to more typical usage patterns meant a decline in average and peak utilisation rates.
“The return to more normal usage patterns has resulted in a substantial drop in average and peak traffic for 2021-2022. Average traffic growth dropped from 47% between 2019-2020, to 29% between 2021-2022, while peak traffic growth dropped from 46% to 28% over the same time period.
“Global average and peak utilisation rates were essentially unchanged from last year, standing at 26% and 45% respectively, in both 2021 and 2022. In terms of pricing, providers’ shift to predominantly 100Gbps internet backbones continues to reduce the average cost of carrying traffic.
“Across seven major global hub cities, 10 GigE prices fell 16% compounded annually from Q2 2019 to Q2 2022, while 100 GigE port prices fell 25%.”
According to TeleGeography, the combined effects of new internet-enabled devices, growing broadband penetration in developing markets, higher broadband access rates and bandwidth-intensive applications will continue to fuel strong internet traffic growth.
While end-user traffic requirements will continue to rise, not all of this demand will translate directly into the need for new long-haul capacity, it states.
The research firm notes various factors will shape how the global internet will develop in the coming years. These include:
Post-COVID-19 growth trajectory: Initial evidence suggests the spike in the rate of bandwidth and traffic growth in 2020 from the pandemic was a one-time event and has largely returned to more traditional rates of growth. Operators indicated they no longer see the pandemic leading to upward adjustments to their demand forecasts.
IP transit price erosion: International transport unit costs underlay IP transit pricing. As new international networks are deployed, operational and construction costs are distributed over more fibre pairs and more active capacity, making each packet less expensive to carry.
The introduction of new international infrastructure also creates opportunities for more regional localisation of content and less dependence on distant hubs. As emerging markets grow in scale, they too will benefit from economies of scale, even if only through cheaper transport to internet hubs.
International versus domestic: While there’s little doubt that enhanced end-user access bandwidth and new applications will create large traffic flows, the challenge for operators will be to understand how much of this growth will require the use of international links. In the near-term, the increased reliance on direct connections to content providers and the use of caching will continue to have a localising effect on traffic patterns and dampen international internet traffic growth.
Bypassing the public internet: The largest content providers have long operated massive networks. These companies continue to experience more rapid growth than internet backbones and they are expanding into new locations. Many other companies, such as cloud service providers, CDNs, and even some data centre operators, are also building their own private backbones that bypass the public internet. As a result, a rising share of international traffic may be carried by these networks.