Coping with the insatiable hunger for data

John Hayduk
31 Jul 2014

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 is no sign of it decreasing. One of the key drivers of this growth in IP traffic is mobile data which, in turn, is fueled by the rise in mobile users.

Global mobile data traffic is forecast to increase by 66% CAGR or 13-fold by 2017, reaching 11.2 exabytes per month, according to Cisco Systems. Additionally, 46% of all cellular traffic is expected to be offloaded from fixed or Wi-Fi by 2017 (9.6 exabytes a month), compared with 33% (428 petabytes a month) in 2012. LTE is likely to support nearly 10% of all mobile connections by 2017.

What must telecom operators 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 operators 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, utilize micro cells in dense areas, and continually use Wi-Fi offload strategies to maximize spectrum use. Clearly, these are not small asks.

The second angle will be the network backbone. In the backbone, operators 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 operators will also have to scale with multiple links as well.

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