The insatiable demand for bandwidth formed the basis’ for proceedings at this year’s Pacific Telecommunications Council’s annual conference (PTC’13), in Hawaii. The annual gathering for leaders in the international connectivity market is now in its 35th year and the conference has evolved in line with the expansionary trends of the industry embracing not only the traditional cable players, but also the driving forces behind mobility, applications and content.
The recurring theme of the conference was that bandwidth demand continues to surge across all traditional and emerging routes through Asia, the Pacific, Atlantic and into the US and Europe. The bandwidth boom is no surprise, but the additional layers of complexity due to both the changing mix of traffic drivers and technology upgrade demands is certainly keeping everyone on their toes.
The demand has spurred potential new cable activity plans and will result in continued submarine cable system investments. In particular, expansionary activity will continue into the Asia-Pacific market by network and content companies driven by the massive and ongoing connected customer base growth.
New proposed cable system project announcements at PTC’13 included Japan-based start-up CloudNetworks, which plans to develop a new route along the west coast of Japan as an alternative hub for international capacity and cloud computing infrastructure, and offer route diversity to existing subsea cables. Meanwhile two new submarine cable projects were announced to link Australia’s west coast to Singapore and east coast to the US from Australian company SubPartners.
For a traditional cable conference, mobile and cloud were on everyone’s mind. The big shift in thinking is for network operators as they seek to play a critical role in supporting technology convergence and evolution to cloud and mobile applications globally.
A recent report from Cisco revealed that global mobile data traffic grew 70% in 2012 and reached 885 petabytes per month at the end of 2012. Mobile network connection speeds also more than doubled in 2012. Adding to that drive for capacity, global cloud traffic is forecast to increase 42-fold from 2011-2016 with the cloud also accounting for 71% of total mobile data by 2016.
These emerging network demands from both traditional drivers and the evolving needs of the mobile sector are clearly re-shaping the data center industry and all its conduits. Additionally various new players are emerging to try and establish their role in a new ecosystem as traditional walled-gardens rapidly break down.
While new submarine cable investments are being announced, industry-wide, there’s a trend to try and sweat existing assets. Many cables are undergoing technology upgrades into 40G/100G to maximise the bandwidth that can be extracted from an existing cable. Discussions at PTC further highlighted this trend as network service providers look at deploying more intelligent networks and improve network efficiency on a real-time basis. Part of this efficiency improvement means cable companies look at moving their assets closer to the distribution points, and data centers such as Equinix prove to be ideal locations.
Finally, Equinix hosted a panel discussion on “Enabling the New Global Mobile Ecosystem”. At this well attended session, we had a healthy discussion on mobile ecosystem trends and got insights from various service providers (twtelecom, Telstra, BT) on their mobility strategies. Though this ecosystem definition is at an early stage, the prospects are quite exciting. Equinix sits right at the heart of this enablement as mobile operators worldwide are challenged with managing the explosion of mobile data on their networks at the same time that they are transitioning from legacy networks into next-gen, IP-based networks.
One thing for certain is that over the next 12-18 months we will see a lot of movement on this front from various companies. The shifts will undoubtedly have a potentially disruptive effect on the existing mobile ecosystem.