Mobile data growth is a key reason Facebook is investing in a private fibre network in Europe

Mobile operators worldwide should be preparing for an impending surge in traffic over the next several years,  with mobile users in 2016 consuming an average of 6.5 times as much video, over eight times as much music and social media, and nearly ten times as much games than in 2011.

The statistics are drawn from recent forecasts from Informa Telecoms & Media, but with foresight of this curve, social giant Facebook is investing in its own European fibre network, to cope with similar increases in traffic on internal systems.

Erik Hallberg, president at TeliaSonera International Carrier, which is building the network for Facebook, explained that the infrastructure will be used to backhaul traffic between its newly-built datacentre in Sweden – the hub of its European operation – and datacentres elsewhere. The company has already set up long distance links to provide capacity between its European and US datacentres.

“Facebook is processing enormous amounts of data per user, and it needs to sort it and share it with everyone,” Hallberg told Telecoms.com. “This will be the main place for Facebook to aggregate data for European and Middle East users. It needs a network to take traffic back and forth and make data accessible to Facebook users.”

Ron Kline, principal analyst, network infrastructure, at Ovum added that resilience of the network is a key reason for Facebook to invest in its own private network.

“One of the tenants of Facebook and any other internet service providers is that the network can’t fail – the reliability and resiliency of the network are key,” he said. He added that latency is another consideration, because if it takes too long for a signal to transfer to the network, then Facebook will have issues with sessions timing-out, which would affect internal processes such as backup and mirroring.

“The other thing is they have huge amounts of data – it’s hard to imagine how much data is in these datacentres – just racks and racks of servers,” Kline added. “It’s a lot of bandwidth. To buy here and there from different carriers is virtually impossible – you need to have a private network that can be sized to the bandwidth requirements and give you the most reliable network you can have.”

Projections from Informa show that there will be a huge upsurge in traffic for most mobile data services over the next five years, largely driven by the spread of smartphones and a 23 per cent increase in the number of mobile users.

“The top three data guzzlers on mobile phones over the next five years will be applications, video streaming and web browsing – in that order of importance,” said Guillermo Escofet, senior analyst. He added that global mobile data traffic will grow from 3.89 trillion MB in 2011 to 39.75 trillion MB in 2016, amounting to a tenfold increase.

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