Internet Traffic Begins to Bypass the U.S.

Geoff Huston gih at
Mon Sep 15 20:42:28 CDT 2008

On 15/09/2008, at 10:36 PM, Joe Abley wrote:

> On 14 Sep 2008, at 23:38, Matthew Moyle-Croft wrote:
>> Other cable systems predated FLAG (at least for voice).
> The qualifier might be important.
> As should have been obvious from all the IIRCs and related  
> qualifiers in my note, I wasn't in Europe at the time I started  
> paying attention to these things. However, in other parts of the  
> world, circuits provisioned and planned for voice traffic growth  
> started to become effectively full as soon as there was demand for  
> circuits much bigger than an E1.
> As an example, PacRimEast still had capacity in the late 90s,  
> strictly speaking. But given the difficulty in ordering anything  
> other than E1s on it at that time, did it really exist as a  
> terrestrial option for New Zealand ISPs trying to send packets to  
> the US?

yes, for Australia, certainly. A number of us were using E1 inverse  
MUX units to pull higher channel rates out of the circuits. Same thing  
happened a few years later with muxing up 155Mbpsd circuits.

> There was a lot of satellite transmission sold around that time on  
> PanAmSat, IntelSat and Loral transponders, and it's not as if  
> anybody was really using satellite out of choice. There are only so  
> many discrete E1s you can comfortably inverse-mux together before  
> it's really not worth bothering.

heh heh - we ran out of cable capacity before we ran out of cascading  
inverse muxes at the time! Satellite really was a very inferior choice.

> The timelines are no doubt different, since Europe experienced a  
> giant boom in Internet demand and infrastructure while smaller  
> markets like New Zealand were still preoccupied with X.25. However,  
> the original question was whether there had ever been a time during  
> which Europe had no option but to cross oceans to get to Asia, and  
> I'd be surprised if that wasn't the case.

The original telegraph circuits in the latter half of the 19th century  
were largely overland, but, unless there are markets you want to  
intercept with in the middle, undersea tends to be a better option  
where you consider all aspects (territorial rights, political issues,  
total length, stability etc etc). There was a very informative article  
by Neal Stephenson in Wired some years back that was published at  
about the time FLAG was being constructed which still is about the  
best article on the submarine cable business I've read. Everyone  
interested in this submarine cable game except Joe should read it.

The problem with the routes in that part of the word include: the  
Wallace line, territorial waters, shallow waters, the Luzon strait,  
the stability of overland segments, the size of the markets in the  
middle, the cost and availability of the alternatives, and the major  
factor that spending 100% of your investment money to optimise 80% of  
your traffic needs makes more sense than many other investment  
strategies - hence the outcome that the Pacific has become the heavily  
favoured route for submarine cable systems in this area of the world.

> Perhaps someone who actually knows this stuff can throw some facts  
> into the thread and put a stop to my wild speculation.

nah - more fun to watch you speculate Joe.

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