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The insatiable hunger for data

April 15, 2014

John Hayduk   

Blog Contributor

In my last blog I talked about traffic growth being on an exponential curve. I also covered a couple of reasons why I think that trend will continue.

Now let me cover the factors that services providers must 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. It’s my belief that going forward, mobile service providers 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, utilise micro cells in dense areas, and continually use Wi-Fi off-load strategies to maximize spectrum use. Clearly, these are not small asks.

The second angle will be on the network backbone. In the backbone, service providers 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 have taken two or three years each at a minimum. In other words, not fast enough to solely keep up with capacity increases, so service providers will also have to scale with multiple links as well. 

Finally, content delivery technology will also be required. Making sure as much content as possible is sent across the network just a few times, and then to allow that content to be served as close to the edge as possible will help reduce the demand on the backbone. Doing this will help close that gap between faster demand growth and slower technology capacities increases.

Dealing with exponential growth rates is a hard problem. Service providers are going to have to utilise multiple strategies to effectively provide a path to keep up with the demand. And I’ve only discussed the technical challenges here!

Further complicating this problem is trying to deal with this growth and do it profitably. Let’s hope service providers can continue to use these and new strategies to keep pace with the growth of the internet for the next 25 years as well.

As for what future growth means to network design and capacity going forward, I’ll explore that question in my next blog. Stay tuned!


Do you foresee mobile data growing at the rate that John has predicted? How do you think this will impact service providers? Share your insights in the comments section, below.