New data from TeleGeography’s Global Bandwidth Research Service show that international network operators have weathered the recession surprisingly well. International bandwidth usage increased 60% in 2009, in line with the past two years, and well ahead of the trend of 2002-2006. Growth has been particularly rapid in the Middle East, Africa and Latin America. However, capacity requirements to seemingly mature markets, such as Europe and the US, have also grown at a compounded annual rate of more than 50% since 2002.
Over the past seven years, aggregate international capacity requirements have grown more than 22-fold. Providers have kept pace with high demand by rapidly upgrading their fibre-optic networks with additional wavelengths. Nearly 90% of US terrestrial network operators surveyed by TeleGeography plan on lighting extra wavelengths in 2010, and just under 70% of European carriers plan on doing so.
The scope to expand submarine cable capacity is far more limited than that of terrestrial networks. High demand has combined with a relative scarcity of bandwidth to drive technological innovation, according to TeleGeography analyst Tim Stronge. 'Some undersea cable operators have managed to install far more wavelengths on existing cables than thought possible even just a few years ago,' noted Stronge. 'Providers are also exploring ways to squeeze additional capacity out of their cables by replacing 10Gbps wavelengths with 40Gbps wavelengths.'
Growing capacity requirements, combined with carriers’ desire for improved route diversity, have also spurred a boom in submarine cable construction. 17 new cables were built in 2009, and investment in submarine cable construction in 2010 is projected to top last year’s levels.