Private Networks Deliver 39% of Global Traffic

The Internet has caused the biggest change in global telecom since the advent of mobility. To wit, former telcos now are participants in the broader Internet ecosystem, not the leaders of the “telecom” ecosystem.

One example of the trend: application providers already operate private wide area networks that
account for 39 percent of global traffic. In a few years, it is likely OTT app providers will carry a majority of global traffic, largely on their own networks.

In other words, the app providers no longer rely on “telcos” to carry their traffic, and increasingly operate their own networks, as functional substitutes for telco services.

Likewise, OTT providers now offer services and apps that effectively replace telco voice and messaging services. That is highly significant as voice and messaging have historically represented the vast bulk of telco revenues.

Facebook and Google also have been active reshaping access networks as well. Access historically has been the province of “telcos.” But Google is testing fleets of balloons, fixed wireless, unmanned aerial vehicles, Wi-Fi and fiber to the home networks.

Facebook is developing unmanned aerial vehicles, multiple-antenna array fixed wireless radios, and launched the Telecom Infra Project to create open-source telecom platforms spanning access, backhaul, core networks and network management. The Open Cellular effort likewise concerns ways villages and other entities can create and operate their own cellular networks.

Google has launched its own tablets and smartphones, increasingly, with its new Pixel devices, set to challenge the likes of Apple and Samsung at the high end of the market.

Facebook, meanwhile, has launched the Free Basics program to allow users to sample key Internet applications without having to buy mobile data plans.

One might well argue that innovation, to a large extent, has passed from the tier-one telcos to the few big app providers able to operate at “web scale.”
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