Internet demand could outstrip network capacity by 2010

Internet demand could outstrip...
World Wide Web warningPhoto: NASA
World Wide Web warningPhoto: NASA
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World Wide Web warningPhoto: NASA
World Wide Web warningPhoto: NASA

November 20, 2007 A new research report on the ability of Internet infrastructure to cope with burgeoning demand warns that usage could outstrip network capacity both in North America and worldwide as early as 2010.

Described as the first-ever study to independently assess Internet infrastructure and model current/projected traffic patterns independent of one another, the report from Nemertes Research estimates that global investment of $137 billion is required - primarily in the area of broadband access - to stop services declining. In the U.S. alone its predicted that 42 billion to $55 billion is needed to match demand with capacity and this figure is in addition to the $72 billion service providers are already planning to invest.

Current demand is growing due to the high take up of voice and bandwidth-intensive applications such as streaming and interactive video (according to research by comScore nearly 75 percent of U.S. Internet users watched an average of 158 minutes of online video in May and viewed more than 8.3 billion video streams), plus the growing number of mobile devices equipped for Internet access. The other big problem is that no one can predict what's around the corner.

“This groundbreaking analysis identifies a critical issue facing the Internet – that we must take the necessary steps to build out network capacity or potentially face Internet gridlock that could wreak havoc on Internet services,” said Larry Irving, co-chairman of the Internet Innovation Alliance. “It’s important to note that even if we make the investment necessary between now and 2010, we still might not be prepared for the next killer application or new Internet-dependent business like Google or YouTube. The Nemertes study is evidence the exaflood is coming.”

The study entitled “The Internet Singularity, Delayed: Why Limits in Internet Capacity Will Stifle Innovation on the Web” is based on a range of sources including data and Internet traffic statistics collected by academic organizations, user demand data, interviews with enterprise organizations, equipment vendors, service providers, IT executives and investment companies. It looks at user demand and Internet infrastructure independently so that rather than measuring current traffic patterns, it accesses how user demand would evolve if Internet capacity was not limited.

“This is the first study to independently model both Internet capacity and demand,” said Johna Till Johnson, president and senior founding partner of Nemertes Research. “The Internet is inherently self-protecting -- you can’t push more traffic onto the ‘Net than it can handle. This means that studies which focus just on growth rates of existing traffic on the Internet miss the issue of how much more traffic could be appearing on the ‘Net -- based on the measured demand by business and consumer users -- if Internet capacity were sufficient to accommodate it.”

To view the Nemertes Research study visit or

Ed's Note: there is another side to this story that's been well documented by Save the Internet , Freepress and Daily Kos, where the motivation behind this research is questioned the an argument about making better use of existing network capacity is set-out.

See also Washington Post and PC World.

1 comment
1 comment
Gregg Eshelman
How about an update to this article about how this doomsday prediction didn\'t happen, seeing as it\'s over halfway through 2011 and the net doesn\'t seem to be anywhere near to running out of capacity. Search for \"dark fiber\" or \"unlit fiber\". Telcos laid a lot of fiber optic cable in the 90\'s which went unused for quite a while.
What is running out is the IPV4 number space. IPV6 implementation is going to have to get going faster.