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June 12, 2019

The Internet Is Changing the Way We Build Networks

By Russ Fordyce
Sr. Director, Marketing

Mary Meeker’s 2019 Internet Trends Report Details Important Changes to Consumer Behavior

Great news – the use of the internet is growing. Duh! Venture capitalist Mary Meeker, a partner at Bond Capital, a spin-off of Silicon Valley’s venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins, just released her annual Internet Trends Report at the Code Conference.

This infamous slide show dates back to 1995 and presents a historical and current view of consumer and business trends on the internet. Outside of the obvious trends, like that e-commerce spending is up, we found some other interesting facts that will affect how operators expand their networks in years to come.

More People Are Online, but Getting Access Is Still a Challenge

This is the first year that more than half of humans on Earth have access to and are using the Internet in some way – 51% of them, to be precise. But, as with most large and growing entities, the pace of growth is slowing. This isn’t a huge surprise, as getting bandwidth to the more remote places on Earth is difficult for lots of reasons.

The good news: lots of people are working on how to solve this challenge. Many think space is the answer. Bezos’ Amazon, Musk’s Space-X, and even Zuckerberg’s Facebook are among the companies that are already preparing and launching low Earth orbit satellites into space as a solution.

For operators, look for even more growth in submarine networks as more of the world’s remote locations come online and start to expand their reach and bandwidth demands.

Internet Users vs. Y/Y Growth
Source: Internet Trends 2019, Mary Meeker

People Are Spending More Time Online, and Mobile is Accelerating

Those of us already on the internet are spending more time online – about 6.3 hours per day. That said, how we stay connected is continuing to evolve. Desktop access is slowly shrinking, but we are accelerating the time we spend staring at our smartphones.

The “Other Connected Devices” category is growing at a good pace. Connected TVs, Amazon Echos, smart watches, and other devices are becoming more pervasive every day as we look to connect our entire lives to the Internet.

With the continued growth of mobile and the Internet of Things, the need for 5G transport appears to be more real than ever. The evolutionary step in mobile technology will provide massive improvements in speed and latency and allow all those devices to continue to consume content-rich applications.

Daily Hours Spent with Digital Media per Adult User, USA
Source: Internet Trends 2019, Mary Meeker

We Are a Fickle Bunch when It Comes to Apps

What we are doing online is also changing. According to Meeker’s research, fewer people are using Facebook at least once per day. In fact, one of the most surprising facts in the report was that overall growth in social media usage is decelerating, with only 1% growth in 2019. And simple messaging apps, once all the rage, are largely flat or shrinking.

What’s not surprising is that daily use of YouTube and Instagram is increasing at a very fast pace.

So, what’s the trend? Content is king. More people are moving toward content-rich applications and over the top (OTT) streaming video that will continue to drive bandwidth needs for decades to come. With the popularity of streaming, interactive games, and other content, low-latency demands will continue to drive operators to drive fiber deeper into their networks with distributed access architectures.

% Internet Users Using Select Platforms > 1x per Day, Global*
Source: Internet Trends 2019, Mary Meeker

Don’t Let Gaming Sneak Up for a Kill Shot on Your Network

Interactive online gaming is growing as well. According to Meeker, more than 2 billion people are now playing games online, and this number should grow as new entrants, like Google Stadia, look to disrupt the gaming industry by leveraging their cloud infrastructure and make it easier for consumers to gain entry to massive libraries of less-casual games.

As game streaming continues to expand, operators will have to continue to evolve their networks to provide enough bandwidth at the edge of the network to accommodate all its demands. Disaggregated routers will unlock the vendor lock-in handcuffs operators currently wear and will provide a seamless path to rapidly upgrade edge routing capabilities to stay ahead of the curve without massive capital investments or operational expenses. Many may also choose to deploy multi-access edge compute devices to improve computing capabilities and further enhance performance for the sake of customer experience.

Interactive Game Players, Global
Source: Internet Trends 2019, Mary Meeker

More of us online.
More time online.
More video.
More pictures.
More interactivity.

For network operators, content providers, and network infrastructure providers, this could very well be the beginning of the golden age of the internet!

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