Forbes and the Bandwidth Problem

January 4th, 2010 by · 3 Comments

In an article on entitled Solving the Bandwidth Problem just before the new year, Ed Sperling caught my attention by repeatedly declaring that there is a bandwidth shortage in progress.  In the category of exhausted synonyms for our apparently overwhelmed infrastructure, there was bottleneck, traffic congestion, slowdown, overcrowding, and of course log jam.  And the solution?  Private networks apparently, paid for at a premium from the same providers supposedly unable to handle congestion in the first place.  It’s the exaflood story all over again with existing fiber capacity soon to be maxed out worldwide, but without the need for video apparently since doomsday is already nigh.  Really?  Could have fooled me…

Now don’t get me wrong, traffic is certainly growing steadily as always and private networks certainly are a growing business.  But the idea that traffic growth is swamping the available bandwidth and pushing people to jump off that cliff is just a bit daft.  The fact is, with the exception of wireless backhaul networks and metro access, there remains plenty of potential bandwidth out there for the internet to grow into as long as someone is willing to pay for it.  Just ask Level 3 how many of their original 96 fiber strands nationwide still remain dark today – most of them.  There’s always congestion somewhere on the internet of course, but has it been getting worse as the author claims?  If it has, the only reason would be the capex pullbacks in the wake of last year’s recession.

But I submit that it is not congestion that is driving financial companies to invest in private networks.  They aren’t trying to get around a surge in congestion, what they’re trying to do is do *better* than the internet itself can ever do whether congested or not by picking their locations, equipment and fiber paths for very specialized purposes.  They’re not refugees from an unusable internet, they’re opportunists with money and a glint of greed in their eyes.  And IP transit providers?  They’re in the midst of yet another pricing war, as each seeks to drum up new buyers and at least not lose marketshare.

That’s how you can tell that rumors of a breakout of log jams on the internet is just talk.  If internet congestion were rampant, then raw IP bandwidth would be something other than the commodity it currently is.  It’s gotta be the iPhone thing that is making people crazy.  If AT&T can’t handle the iPhone, the internet must be suffocating – yeah that’s it.

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