The public Internet is a complex mesh of almost one hundred thousand different, but ‘open’ networks - linked together with an almost limitless inventory of network hardware and millions of kilometers of fiber-optic cable. In technical terms, these are known as Autonomous Systems (AS). An AS is essentially a unique collection of IP addresses/address blocks and network hardware within a common administrative domain. Autonomous Systems communicate route information and steer traffic to each other using a protocol known as the Border Gateway Protocol, or BGP.
At the core of the Internet is the Internet backbone. Here, the largest and fastest networks are linked together with fiber-optic connections and high-performance routers. Internet networks are primarily owned and operated by commercial, educational, government or military entities. Collectively, they facilitate a stable foundation for the Internet Service Providers (ISPs), content and cloud providers who provide Internet access or online content, applications and services to end-users and businesses.
The largest providers are known as Tier 1 networks. Positioned at the top of the Internet ecosystem, these networks are sufficiently comprehensive that they don’t purchase IP Transit from anyone else. Tier 1 networks exchange Internet backbone traffic on the basis of privately negotiated interconnection agreements, usually on the principle of settlement-free IP peering. In general, networks lower down in the hierarchy pay for upstream IP Transit and networks of similar size and merit peer with each other. There are a dozen global Tier 1 providers today, of which Arelion (AS1299) is one of the largest and best connected.
Whilst Internet connectivity is often viewed as a commodity, performance can vary significantly between suppliers. When selecting an Internet backbone, there are a number of important things to consider:
Reach - a larger footprint generally means a service provider has greater control of network resources, and ultimately, quality.
Scalability - is a backbone built on leased capacity or own infrastructure? This will dictate the ability of a supplier to scale-up capacity, quickly and efficiently.
Proximity - How well connected is a backbone with the rest of the Internet and in what tier do they reside?
Connectivity – Does a backbone connect via third party transit networks and public exchanges or through a well-managed ecosystem of private peering connections with critical networks?
Serving customers in 125 countries, our 70,000 km fiber backbone spans North America, Europe and Asia. Our PoPs give you a direct route to the world’s best content and billions of end-users. Fiber-up control of our network with cutting-edge optical and IP technology deliver the scalability you need, whenever you need it.
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