Video streaming services are hugely popular, with more and more people determined to stay up to date with the latest series.

But for service providers, the challenge is to keep up in a different sense. Because over-the-top (OTT) video streaming services like Netflix and YouTube account for an increasingly large proportion of traffic on today’s networks.

According to Cisco’s latest Visual Networking Index forecast,  82% of all consumer internet traffic will be IP video by 2021 – up from 73% in 2016.

And OTT traffic will be a large part of this. Our researchers found that, also by 2021, 71 per cent of all internet traffic will cross content delivery networks (CDNs), which are often used for distributing OTT content. That’s up from 52 per cent in 2016.

The report said:With the emergence of popular video-streaming services that deliver Internet video to the TV and other device endpoints, CDNs have prevailed as a dominant method to deliver such content.”

The growing importance of the aggregation network

The popularity of OTT streaming services means that they are increasingly dominating the internet. And this is driving change in the way that service provider networks function.

In the past, OTT traffic has typically travelled through the network core. But this has meant putting a big burden on infrastructure by streaming multiple pieces of content (such as films) across the whole network to different subscribers.

So to improve the quality of their services, OTT providers are increasingly opting to store caches of popular content in the parts of the network closer to the customer. This means they can send fewer films to these stores of content, which then distribute them to subscribers.

It’s a more efficient way of working. But as these caches are usually placed above the aggregation part of the network, this network area will continue to take the full force of growth in traffic. And that’s not sustainable with current technology – we need a different way forward.

Boosting capacity cost-effectively

One way of boosting network capacity is to make use of dense wavelength multiplexing technology (DWDM), which allows service providers to pass a lot more traffic along their existing network fibres.

In the past, the combination of hardware components needed to utilise 100G wavelengths was too large, power-hungry and complex to be deployed at this layer of the network.

But that’s now changed. We’ve created a streamlined IP router with integrated 200G optical uplinks, that you could fit in your laptop bag.

The solution can lead to total cost of ownership savings of almost 45% over six years, giving service providers a cost-effective way of creating the capacity in their aggregation network that OTT services increasingly require.

Laying the foundations for future success

And the benefits of investing in Cisco’s convergence solution extend beyond increasing bandwidth in the short term.

The reduced cost means that it’s also possible to deploy programmable technologies across the whole network, rather than just the core. It’s compatible with segment routing v6, for example – the technology that’s expected to unleash the low-latency services of the future, such as self-driving vehicles.

The sheer scale of future internet traffic is mind-boggling. Our Visual Networking Index forecasts that by 2021, annual global IP traffic will be 3.3 zettabytes (3.3 trillion gigabytes). That’s almost three times its 2016 level of 1.2 zettabytes.

Catering for this scale of demand will be a real challenge for any service provider. But it’s not an insurmountable one. If providers invest in improving the access and aggregation parts of their network now, they’ll have an infrastructure to cope with this explosive growth. And what’s more, they’ll have laid the foundations for lasting success in the decades beyond that.

So with Cisco, service providers will have a plan for sustainable success in a 5G world. And finding the time to keep up with the latest TV series? I’m afraid that’s one challenge we can’t help with…

Learn more about how we can help you affordably increase capacity in the aggregation part of your network


Ben Colling

Manager, Sales

Global Service Provider, EMEAR