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Internet Insights using Tata Communications data 2017 (Part 1)

December 4, 2017

Hon Kit Lam   

Vice President, Hybrid Connectivity Services, Tata Communications

Our network – the only manmade structure of its kind to encircle the entire globe – carries more than 28% of all Internet routes. As a result, we’re in a privileged position to see and understand what’s going on in the Internet. Looking at data from our network from 2017, we have observed some fascinating trends which demonstrate how the Internet is continually evolving as people and businesses’ data demands continue to grow. In the first of a two-part series, I discuss some of the major areas of growth for Internet usage.

More and more traffic

Today, the Internet and technologies that depend on it – from cloud computing to unified communications and virtual reality to smart home hubs –permeate all aspects of our lives. So, it’s perhaps unsurprising that we have seen an increase in SSL traffic which became the largest traffic type in 2017 vs HTTP was the largest traffic in 2016.

Video is the biggest bandwidth hog of all due to the popularity of applications such as Skype for Business and streaming services such as Netflix. Furthermore, there is a seismic shift happening behind the scenes of the media industry: a move away from traditional cable and satellite broadcasting to cloud and IP-based content distribution. Earlier this year, for example, we announced that VICE Media will use Tata Communications’ network in this way.

To put the continued growth of video traffic into perspective, Cisco predicts that it would take an individual more than 5 million years to watch the amount of video that will cross global IP networks each month in 2020.

At the other end of the scale, while individual Internet of Things applications don’t require a lot of bandwidth, the sheer volume of these devices will drive Internet traffic growth too. As more and more smart things are developed, and previously ‘dumb’ things such as clothing, personal electronics, factory equipment and energy networks get connected to the Internet, traffic will grow inexorably.

The rise of Instant-Messaging  

Of course the way we keep in touch is being transformed by the Internet too. Given how deeply ingrained the simple SMS used to be in people’s lives, it’s interesting to see how quickly the world has embraced Internet messaging apps such as WhatsApp and WeChat. IM traffic on our network is still rising at pace at 3x YoY when we look at our network trends over the past four years.

However, because the vast majority of content shared on IM is low-bandwidth text – though of course people share a lot of images and videos on the platform too – it actually represents a very small percentage of overall traffic on our network.

That being said, the incredible growth of IM traffic over the last few years clearly suggests that instant messaging apps like this will play an increasingly important role in our lives. WeChat has over 900 million users today, and while it started out as a messaging app, it is now a complete Internet platform, where users can manage more or less every aspect of their lives – including shop, pay bills, book taxis, buy tickets for the cinema and make medical appointments, and collaborate in the workplace too.

While this growth is enabling some fantastic innovations across the globe, there is a growing realisation that security needs to be at the heart of everything we do.

In part two of this series, we look at how the rise of Internet-enabled everything is leading to some interesting security trends.

Read a previous blog on the next steps that need to take place to ensure Brazil’s long term economic recovery.