Internet still growing dramatically, says Caspian Networks' CTO

Aug. 17, 2001
Aug. 17, 2001--"Borrowed time is about to run out -- if traffic continues to grow at rates like these, network buildouts will need to continue soon."

Contrary to some opinions, the Internet is not shrinking, nor does it appear to be slowing yet in its growth, says Internet veteran and network scientist Dr. Lawrence Roberts. In fact, new measurements by Roberts and his research team suggest traffic on the Internet has recently been growing faster than ever before, increasing as much as an unprecedented four times annually through the first quarter of 2001.

Roberts' data shows traffic has been doubling every six months on average across core IP service providers' networks, or in other words, growing by four times annually. This is an even faster rate of traffic growth than the average of 2.8 times per year carriers had been experiencing across the core since the Internet began growing aggressively in 1997, spurred by mainstream interest in the web.

"There's been a lot of supposition and educated guessing, but remarkably little actual data on what's been happening at the core of the world's networks," says Roberts. "The National Science Foundation used to track U.S. Internet traffic, but stopped in 1996. Our work is the first scientific study quantifying Internet traffic across the leading carriers since then."

Roberts' findings run counter to many networking vendors, analysts and media, which have maintained the growth rate of Internet traffic has slowed recently. But none of these reports are based on scientific evidence, Roberts says, only anecdotal evidence. Part of the confusion appears to stem from statements and speculation on the capacity of carrier networks, not the traffic across them. Other reports have confused growth in carrier revenue with growth in traffic, or assumed direct relationships between the two.

Service providers normally keep network traffic statistics confidential for competitive reasons. However, as the purported first scientist to prove packet networking's viability, and as the founder of the first commercial data packet carrier, Roberts has special access to top scientists at data carriers. Beginning last year, he and his team obtained non-disclosure agreements with the top 19 data carriers and began the process of polling them for their network topologies, trunk utilization and traffic. Network traffic was sampled in April, 2000, October, 2000 and April, 2001.

Roberts believes this data has implications for service providers and communications equipment vendors. "Carriers have been holding back on purchases due to spending constraints. Recently, some had been growing their capacities by redeploying equipment and capacity they'd previously acquired for OC-192 testing. But this borrowed time is about to run out -- if traffic continues to grow at rates like these, network buildouts will need to continue soon."

About Dr. Roberts:

Dr. Lawrence Roberts led the team that designed and developed ARPANET, the first major computer packet network, which evolved into the modern Internet. Roberts started the first data packet carrier, Telenet, which eventually became the data division of Sprint. Today, Roberts is the founder, chair and CTO of Caspian Networks, a high-profile networking startup. His full bio can be found at

About Caspian Networks:

Caspian Networks is an Internet infrastructure company designing a new generation of equipment for service provider networks upon which the Internet is based. For more information, visit

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