A Global Crisis: Showcasing Dependence on Submarine Cable Infrastructure

By Henry Lancaster
May 18, 2020

The spread of the contagious SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes the illness COVID-19, has led to a range of physical distancing measures and lockdowns. In turn this has resulted in many millions of people being required to work from home. Compounded by demand for online entertainment, there has been a sharp spike in internet traffic since mid-February. Internet Exchange Points have reported significant traffic increases, while daytime traffic in individual countries has increased by 40% or more.

The strain on telecom networks has been dealt with by several measures, including a reduction in video quality by some OTT VoD players (Netflix and Amazon in Europe, for example), and the acquisition of additional bandwidth from wholesale providers (particularly noticeable in Africa and Latin America). However, since telecom networks are geared to manage peak traffic  – roughly during the hours of 6pm to 10pm – most have coped with the increased traffic demands in working day hours.

During the last two decades BuddeComm has been analysing the maturing telecom infrastructure globally, assessing its readiness to support smart infrastructure and its associated components (including tele-working, tele-health, tele-education and similar services). It is a testament to the robustness of this infrastructure that in the short space of three months telecom networks internationally have coped with the extra traffic demanded of them. It will be fascinating to assess what long-term patterns will emerge from the crisis, in terms of tele-working becoming mainstream rather than a perceived bonus for employees, and tele-health being considered normal rather than just an aspirational cost-saving platform.

There are good reasons to expand internet capacity, and to keep doing so as a continuing process. Africa is a case in point. It is one of the world’s regions where traffic demand will be particularly high in coming years. Many African countries are experiencing strong economic growth: in 2019 ten of the top 20 and five of the top ten GDP performers were in Africa. This growth ultimately depends on old-fashioned infrastructure, including roads, rail and ports, but also connectivity. This is why so much effort is underway to build national telecom networks and to link them to the global economy.

To continue reading the rest of this article, please read it in Issue 112 of the SubTel Forum Magazine on page 20 or on our archive site here.