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Global internet traffic, bandwidth ‘return to normal’

Global Internet Geography Research Service analyses internet capacity, traffic and IP transit pricing and finds average traffic growth and peak traffic growth drop as world accommodates post-Covid environment

The latest Global Internet Geography report from telecommunications market research and consulting firm TeleGeography has revealed that after the massive surge in bandwidth and usage driven by the almost overnight pivot to home working, the internet has seen a return to more standard operating conditions.

The study analysed the meaning behind internet capacity and traffic datasets, the factors impacting IP transit pricing, and the role individual backbone operators play. Based on hard survey data gathered from dozens of regional and global network operators around the world, TeleGeography concluded that Covid-related expansion of internet traffic and bandwidth was largely a one-off phenomenon and that the trends observed in recent years have reasserted themselves.

Among the key findings in the report were that global internet bandwidth rose by 29% in 2021, a return to “normal” from the previous year’s Covid-driven surge of 34%. The survey noted that total international bandwidth now stands at 786Tbps, representing a four-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 29%. Africa experienced the most rapid growth of international internet bandwidth, growing at a CAGR of 45% between 2017 and 2021. Oceania was just behind, with a 38% CAGR over the same period.

The stay-at-home activity associated with Covid-19 resulted in a spike in traffic from 2019-2020. The analyst noted that as might be expected, the return to more normal usage patterns resulted in a substantial slowdown in the annual growth rate. While average traffic growth dropped from 48% between 2019-2020 to 23% between 2020-2021, and peak traffic growth dropped from 46% to 26% over the same period, overall traffic was largely growing.

“International internet bandwidth growth largely mirrors that of internet capacity, which both had a CAGR of 29% between 2017 and 2021,” said Alan Mauldin, research director at TeleGeography. “And our Global internet geography report has officially been running for 20 years now, meaning that two decades of research inform our latest findings.”

Anahí Rebatta, senior analyst at TeleGeography, added: “On a global scale, we’re seeing a whole range of new internet-enabled devices, growing broadband penetration in developing markets, higher broadband access rates, and even more bandwidth-intensive applications. These are just some of the factors fuelling strong internet traffic growth and end-user traffic requirements.”

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