|Topic:||The Internet’s Taking Off:|
Ensuring Strong Network Performance in the Mediterranean Basin
|Author:||Harald A. Summa|
Harald A. Summa was named CEO of DE-CIX Management GmbH in 2003, where he oversees all DE-CIX strategy, finance and controlling functions. DE-CIX in Frankfurt, Germany, is the world’s leading connection point for Internet peering, which is the peer-to-peer exchange of traffic between Internet service providers.
Summa is also the founder and CEO of eco, the Association of German Internet Industry, of which DE-CIX is a wholly owned subsidiary. Additionally, Summa was a co-founder of the European Internet Service Provider organizations, EURO-Ispa and Euro-IX, whose overarching goals are focused on improving the European Internet infrastructure.
Internet traffic volumes throughout Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) are a key part of the global increase. In fact, Middle East and Africa show some of the biggest growth figures of any region.
The heavy growth rate of African users is clear. With close to a massive 7,000 percent growth between 2000-2015, Africa is adding users and growing Internet penetration by more than two times the next region. And that next region is Middle East, which has grown Internet users by more than 3,300 percent in the same time period.
Three billion people. That’s billion, with a B.
That number is not even half of our planet’s current population. Yet according to the Internet Society’s “Global Internet Report 2015,” that’s how many people were online around the globe by May 2015.
That same report had some powerful things to say about mobile devices, too: More than 90 percent of the world’s population has access to mobile phone services, and it’s the primary way most people around the world access the Internet today. Add advanced new smartphones to the equation, and you have a recipe for rapid uptake in mobile Internet use around the world.
For the next billion Internet users that come online, mobile devices will play a critical role in bringing them the services and information they want and need. The content has to be local, the services have to be “up” and not cost huge sums of money. The next billion Internet users will demand more.
Up, Up & Away – The Global Scene
Internet traffic volumes around the globe are increasing at a ravenous rate. Growth drivers include an increasing number of Internet users, more smart devices, faster broadband speeds and fast-growing video consumption, particularly on mobile devices.
In a growing sign of the importance of mobile video, Cisco’s 2015 Visual Networking Index (VNI) [http://www.cisco.com/c/en/us/solutions/collateral/service-provider/visual-networking-index-vni/white_paper_c11-520862.html] reported that mobile video traffic exceeded 50 percent of total mobile traffic for the first time in 2012. That figure grew to 55 percent by the end of 2014. The take-away? More and more video will be consumed on tablets, smartphones and other mobile devices in the future.
The Internet of Things kicks things to higher gear. As more and more traffic crosses an increasing number of electronic devices, Internet Protocol (IP) traffic will grow. This includes not just video and data, but also voice, which is rapidly trending away from traditional analog PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network) formats and toward a Voice over IP (VoIP) format.
Incorporating all these factors, IP traffic will dominate the future network. Cisco’s VNI report forecasts an increase in global IP traffic by 3x from 2014 to 2019, representing a 23 percent CAGR. By 2019, monthly average global IP traffic will reach 168 Exabytes (an Exabyte is equal to one billion gigabytes of data). [Citation: http://newsroom.cisco.com/press-release-content?type=webcontent&articleId=1644203]
EMEA in the spotlight
Internet traffic volumes throughout Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) are a key part of this global increase. In fact, Middle East and Africa show some of the biggest growth figures of any region.
Reviewing the table below, the heavy growth rate of African users is clear. With close to a massive 7,000 percent growth between 2000-2015, Africa is adding users and growing Internet penetration by more than two times the next region. And that next region is Middle East, which has grown Internet users by more than 3,300 percent in the same time period.
These figures are astounding. They also demonstrate the critical role the Internet now plays in the global economy, and to regional businesses and local families that are increasingly building their livelihoods on the Internet.
[Insert DE-CIX JPG Table Graphic]
More local networks and content
Around the world, the number of networks is growing in concert with the growing number of Internet users. Network numbers are increasing especially strongly in Eastern Europe, the Caucus region, the Middle East and Northern Africa.
[Insert DE-CIX graphics – Networks in Eastern Europe / Networks in Northern Africa]
As network numbers continue to grow, so is the amount of content generated on them. At the same time, there is a higher demand by the larger number of users for more access to existing content that lies mainly in Europe and the U.S. This puts pressure on Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) to bring content closer to the edge. With this dynamic in play, the “center of the Internet universe” for Middle East and Africa will gradually become a more regional home base.
To deliver content to three billion users who don’t want to wait for video and other content to download, content and the user have to be closer to one another. As the political situation and infrastructure in many Middle Eastern and African countries are still developing, networks today are mainly exchanging their data outside of the region. This must change as the next billion users come online.
How does Internet content reach the end user?
To bring content closer to the user, the role of network interconnection suddenly becomes more important. Network interconnection takes place within an entity called an Internet exchange. Let’s take a closer look.
No single organization is the unique and ultimate source of the Internet. The Internet is built by every carrier, Internet Service Provider (ISP) and network operator offering Internet access. This is why it is often referred to as “the network of networks.”
In order for the Internet to work smoothly, all those individual carriers, ISPs and network operators need to exchange data. That access is either agreed on a payment basis – for transit/upstream – or on a cost-neutral basis known as “peering.”
Internet exchanges (IXs) offer a neutral local network hub where carriers, ISPs and network operators connect and exchange traffic. The IX uses switching equipment to build the local network, placing equipment in existing carrier-neutral data centers – sometimes in more than one location for redundancy purposes. And the exchange uses dark fiber to interconnect those locations.
In Europe and throughout the world, there is a developed ecosystem of Internet exchanges, where hundreds of networks exchange data. Examples of Internet exchanges in Europe include DE-CIX in Frankfurt; AMS-IX in Amsterdam; and LINX in London. There is an Internet exchange in Dubai, UAE-IX, and a new Internet exchange in Luanda, Angola, called Angonix.
With more Internet exchanges opening in-region and delivering more local content, end users will not only experience lower latency and faster upload/download times, but also stronger IP network resilience, better security and a lower risk of network outages.
A healthy and thriving ccosystem
As noted above, Internet traffic into or out of Africa and the Middle East in the past decade has mainly been exchanged in the U.S. and Europe. The closest locations to Africa where traffic can be exchanged are located in the Mediterranean basin where submarine cables travel and land. New Internet exchanges were recently announced for Marseille, France, and Palermo, Italy, and they will be opening in the second half of 2015. Both Palermo and Marseille sit directly on key landing stations for a high number of subsea cables that pass through the Mediterranean Sea and carry Internet traffic from the Middle East, Africa and Asia.
An additional spot coming into focus is Istanbul. Turkey’s economy is booming, and the country has a large and growing domestic Internet market. Istanbul serves as a major hub for finance, transport and – importantly – terrestrial communications networks. A new Internet exchange will be opening in Istanbul in the second half of 2015.
Across the region, existing systems like MedNautilus and new terrestrial cable builds such as AMEER (Alternative Middle East European Route), GBI North, JADI (Jeddah-Amman-Damascus-Istanbul) and RCN (Regional Cable Network), are all designed to provide connectivity to Middle Eastern markets and have landing points in Istanbul. While some of those systems suffer from outages due to political instability in the region (e.g., JADI has been inactive for approximately two years due to regional turmoil), they are designed to provide connectivity to and from the Middle East diverse to the traditional subsea cable infrastructure routes crossing the Red Sea and Suez Canal.
[Insert DE-CIX PPT slide – Subsea cables in Mediterranean]
[Or http://submarinecablemap.com ]
With existing Internet hubs like Frankfurt, Amsterdam and London more than 2,000 km away, Marseille, Palermo and Istanbul play key roles in building new “centers of gravity” as Internet gateways for Europe, Middle East and Africa.
Other key elements to a healthy Internet ecosystem include bandwidth availability and data center/colocation space. Pricing for capacity and colocation in the Middle East and Africa regions is still not as competitive as Europe, the U.S. or parts of Asia. However, with the advent of new and regional Internet exchanges that keep content local, the region’s carriers are experiencing lower bandwidth costs and the arrival of more advanced and affordable data centers. In turn, this increases the region’s attractiveness for international Internet business.
A priority on content closer to the user
Currently, only a small percentage of IP traffic in the Middle East and Africa is kept within the region. But this is changing rapidly. The new Internet exchanges coming into the Mediterranean basin and Turkey play a key role in this transformation. The exchanges will bring content closer to the growing number of Internet users, which means a higher quality user experience. Web pages will load faster, making Internet surfing a positive experience.
Keeping content as close to the user as possible is critical to maintaining a healthy and thriving Internet ecosystem. This will build stronger, more reliable and secure Internet performance across the EMEA region so that the future of the Internet remains bright.