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Page 4

Delivering bandwidth

The connection between a web user and the server machine is complex and the problems of bandwidth delivery are closely related to this complexity. Users fall into two classes:

The first group have low speed connections in general (up to 56 kbs) using a modem or similar connection. The second group have access to their local network at a much higher speed, such as 10Mbs or above, and that network may be connected to the Internet at a similar speed. In addition many of the local networks in large companies and universities have high-speed direct links to local networks in other parts of the company or to other universities, in addition to their public Internet connection.

The problems of bandwidth lie in the public Internet. As society uses the Web to increase connectivity between individuals and organisations, proportionally more traffic will be carried on the public part of the network. In 1997 8 million individuals in Europe were accessing the web via dial-up, and 20 million employees had Internet access; [3] by 2005 the figures are expected to be roughly equal at around 75 million.

Dial-up users access the Internet via an ISP (Internet Service Provider) who connects them to the Internet backbone. Until recently most users have accessed their ISP via a telephone company using a standard telephone line. The line goes to the local exchange, the exchange is connected to the ISP via a faster line and the ISP connects to the Internet backbone either directly or through a local higher level Internet node. At the other end servers are either part of an ISP system or have a similar level of connection to the backbone. All the systems and connecting links are shared between the users except the users own computer and link to the local exchange. There are three types of components in the system:

Each of these can become a bottleneck, holding up traffic and lowering response time. At different times and in different contexts each has created problems. Service providers have learnt a great deal about different demand profiles and how to meet them.

If the web activity of individual users were to remain relatively static, with growth coming from an ever increasing number of users and some extension in information services, then there would be no problem in meeting demand. However, and as noted above, the growth in Web TV and other streaming media, changes the levels of activity radically.

To meet the expected demand for greater bandwidth a number of new delivery methods have been developed and are being implemented. These include:

In addition significantly increased backbone capacity is needed to meet the overall growth in demand. Other components need to be improved in step with these bandwidth-related changes.

Other aspects of delivery are being tackled by ISPs. Large ISPs such as T-Online and AOL provide a considerable variety of traditional content on their own sites, so that users can meet their information needs without having to transfer material across the web.

In addition, ISPs locate their servers in co-location facilities with other ISPs, [4] and link to each other directly via high-speed local networks rather than the Internet backbone.

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[3] Morgan Stanley Dean Witter publish a great deal of analytical material and statistics on their web site http://www.msdw.com/. The European Internet Report was published June 1999 and the Global Internet Primer June 2000.

[4] http://www.telehouse.co.uk/ is an example of a European company specialising in this type of service.

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