DIMACS TR: 99-10
Data Networks are Lightly Utilized, and Will Stay That Way
Author: Andrew Odlyzko
The popular press often extolls packet networks as much
more efficient than switched voice networks in
utilizing transmission lines.
is reinforced by the delays experienced on the Internet
and the famous graphs for traffic patterns
through the major exchange points on the Internet, which
suggest that networks are running at full capacity.
This paper shows the popular impression is incorrect;
data networks are very lightly utilized compared to
the telephone network. Even the
backbones of the Internet are run at lower fractions (10% to 15%)
of their capacity than the switched voice network (which operates
at over 30% of capacity on average).
Private line networks are utilized far less intensively (at 3%
Further, this situation is likely to persist.
The low utilization of data networks compared to voice
phone networks is not a symptom of
waste. It comes from different patterns of use,
lumpy capacity of transmission facilities, and the
high growth rate of the industry.
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