Can we cope with capacity?

It was reported last month that the internet could face an imminent ‘capacity crunch’ as quickly as within eight years. Some of the UK’s leading scientists have reported that the cables and fibre optics that deliver the data to users will have reached their limit by 2023.

With the internet already consuming at least 8 per cent of Britain’s power output, equivalent to the output of three nuclear power stations, demand is doubling every four years, according to one estimate.

A recent Royal Society event called “Communication networks beyond the capacity crunch” has once again opened up the widely covered debate around whether the internet will need to be rationed in the future because of a data capacity crunch. Professor Andrew Ellis, an expert in optical communications at Aston University, led the discussions and stated that at the rate consumers are using the web, existing cables will reach their data capacity limit by the end of the decade, leading to a “potentially disastrous capacity crunch”, and the possible need to ration internet use. Indeed, the term “Internet Capacity Crunch” is one that has been floating around for years, and with the accelerating rise of our connectivity, the question is a crucial one.

As more businesses rely on the internet for business critical applications, operators and backbone providers will be responsible for staying ahead of the game and updating communications networks to meet demand. There are many aspects of how technology is used that allow the internet to cope with the ever growing demand that businesses and consumers are placing on it. The growth in connectivity, mobile devices and content consumption is driving bandwidth growth across the internet.

However, the majority of this can be successfully managed through the use of content delivery networks, regional peering and regional hosting of the intended applications or content. Alternatively, developments in optical technologies will enable operators to sufficiently upgrade capacity using both existing and new cabling systems. Ultimately, the internet has grown on demand over the last decade so there’s no reason why this growth can’t continue to accommodate future demand.

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