the Internet Backbone in 10 Seconds


An Image of the Internet Backbone

English: Partial map of the Internet based on the January 15, 2005 data found on Each line is drawn between two nodes, representing two IP addresses. The length of the lines are indicative of the delay between those two nodes. This graph represents less than 30% of the Class C networks reachable by the data collection program in early 2005. Lines are color-coded according to their corresponding RFC 1918 allocation as follows:

•Dark blue: net, ca, us

•Green: com, org

•Red: mil, gov, edu

•Yellow: jp, cn, tw, au, de

•Magenta: uk, it, pl, fr

•Gold: br, kr, nl

•White: unknown

Each line is drawn between two nodes, representing two IP addresses. This is a small look at the backbone of the Internet.

The Internet backbone refers to the principal data routes between large, strategically interconnected networks and core routers on the Internet. These data routes are hosted by commercial, government, academic and other high-capacity network centers, the Internet exchange points and network access points, that interchange Internet traffic between the countries, continents and across the oceans of the world. Internet service providers (often Tier 1 networks) participate in Internet backbone exchange traffic by privately negotiated interconnection agreements, primarily governed by the principle of settlement-free peering.

Contents  [hide

•1 History

•2 Architectural principles

•3 Infrastructure

•4 Modern backbone

•4.1 Tier 1 providers

•4.1.1 Verizon

•5 Economy of the backbone

•5.1 Peering agreements

•5.2 Transit agreements

•5.3 Regulation

•6 Regional backbone

•6.1 Egypt

•6.2 Europe

•6.3 India

•6.4 Japan

•7 See also

•8 References

•9 External links



The first high speed backbone was created by the National Science Foundation in 1987. It was called the NSFNET, and was a T1 line that connected 170 smaller networks together. The following year, IBM, MCI and Merit would create a T3 backbone.[1] In the early days of the Internet, backbone providers exchanged their traffic at government-sponsored network access points, until the government privatized the Internet, and then transferred the NAPs to commercial providers.[2]


Architectural principles

The Internet, and consequently its backbone networks, do not rely on central control or coordinating facilities, nor do they implement any global network policies. The resilience of the Internet results from its principal architectural features, most notably the idea of placing as few network state and control functions as possible in the network elements, but instead relying on the endpoints of communication to handle most of the processing to ensure data integrity, reliability, and authentication. In addition, the high degree of redundancy of today's network links and sophisticated real-time routing protocols provide alternate paths of communications for load balancing and congestion avoidance.



The Internet backbone is a conglomeration of multiple, redundant networks owned by numerous companies. It is typically a fiber optic trunk line. The trunk line consists of many fiber optic cables bundled together to increase the capacity. The backbone is able to reroute traffic in case of a failure.[2] The data speeds of backbone lines have changed with the times. In 1998[citation needed], all of the United States backbone networks had utilized the slowest data rate of 45 Mbit/s. However the changing technologies allowed for 41 percent of backbones to have data rates of 2,488 Mbit/s or faster by the mid 2000's.[3] Fiber-optic cables are the medium of choice for Internet backbone providers for many reasons. Fiber-optics allow for fast data speeds and large bandwidth; they suffer relatively little attenuation, allowing them to cover long distances with few repeaters; they are also immune to crosstalk and other forms of EM interference which plague electrical transmission.[4]


Modern backbone

The examples and perspective in this section may not represent a worldwide view of the subject. Please improve this article and discuss the issue on the talk page. (September 2011)

Because of the enormous overlap between long-distance telephone networks and backbone networks, the largest long-distance voice carriers such as AT&T Inc., MCI, Sprint, and CenturyLink also own some of the largest Internet backbone networks. These backbone providers sell their services to Internet service providers (ISPs).[2]

Each ISP has its own contingency network and is equipped with an outsourced backup. These networks are intertwined and crisscrossed to create a redundant network. Many companies operate their own backbones, that are all interconnected at various Internet exchange points (IXPs) around the world.[5] In order for data to navigate this web, it is necessary to have backbone routers, which are routers powerful enough to handle information on the Internet backbone and are capable of directing data to other routers in order to send it to its final destination. Without them, information would be lost because data does not know how to locate its end destination.[6]


Tier 1 providers

The largest providers, known as tier 1 providers, have such comprehensive networks that they never need to purchase transit agreements from other providers.[2] As of 2000 there were only five tier 1 providers in the telecommunications industry. These carriers included Cable & Wireless Worldwide, UUNet, Sprint, AT&T Corporation, and Genuity.[7]



As of 2010 however, Verizon has become "the world's most connected Internet backbone". Verizon has a very large Internet footprint that is present throughout the world due to its diverse customer base which includes small- and medium-size businesses, large corporations, and content providers. They have held this top spot for 11 of the past 12 years.[8] Verizon plans to increase backbone speeds in the United States to 100 gigabit per second (Gbit/s), which would make it the first company to do so. Some of the enhanced data speed routes can be seen in Chicago, New York City, and Minneapolis.[9]


Economy of the backbone


Peering agreements

Backbone providers of roughly equivalent market share regularly create agreements called peering agreements, which allow the use of another's network to hand off traffic where it is ultimately delivered. Usually they do not charge each other for this, as the companies get revenue from their customers regardless.[2][10]


Transit agreements

Backbone providers of unequal market share usually create agreements called transit agreements, and usually contain some type of monetary agreement.[2][10]



Antitrust authorities have acted to ensure that no provider grows large enough to dominate the backbone market. In the United States, the Federal Communications Commission has decided not to monitor the competitive aspects of the Internet backbone interconnection relationships as long as the market continues to function well.[2]


Regional backbone



The government of Egypt shut down the four major ISPs on January 27, 2011 at approximately 5:20 p.m. EST.[11] Evidently the networks had not been physically interrupted, as the Internet transit traffic through Egypt, such as traffic flowing from Europe to Asia, was unaffected. Instead, the government shut down the border gateway protocol (BGP) sessions announcing local routes. BGP is responsible for routing traffic between ISPs.[12]

Only one of Egypt's ISPs was allowed to continue operations. The ISP Noor Group provided connectivity only to Egypt's stock exchange as well as some government ministries.[11] Other ISPs started to offer free dial-up Internet access in other countries.[13]



Europe is a major contributor to the growth of the international backbone as well as a contributor to the growth of Internet bandwidth. As of 2003, Europe is credited with 82 percent of the world's international cross-border bandwidth.[14] The company Level 3 Communications has begun to launch a line of dedicated Internet access and virtual private network services which gives large companies direct access to the tier 3 backbone. Connecting companies directly to the backbone will provide enterprises faster Internet service which meets a large market need.[15]

Certain countries around Europe have very simple backbone networks; for example, in 2011, a woman in Georgia pierced a fiber backbone line with a shovel and left the neighboring country of Armenia without Internet access for 12 hours.[16]



This section does not cite any references or sources. (August 2011)

With more than 100 million Internet users as of 2009, India's backbone is extremely extensive. Four of India's top Internet service providers are Tata Communications, BSNL, MTNL, and Reliance Communications. Tata Communications is a tier 1 IP network, with connectivity to more than 200 countries across 400 PoPs and nearly 1,000,000 square feet (93,000 m2) of data center and colocation space worldwide. It is India's largest provider in data center services and also operates India's largest data center in Pune. The backbone structure continues to grow due to the huge number of emerging mobile operators, which leads to decreasing prices thanks to market competition.



Japan's Internet backbone needs to be very efficient due to the high demand for the Internet and technology in general. Japan had over 86 million Internet users in 2009, and it is projected to climb to nearly 91 million Internet users by 2015. Since Japan has a demand for fiber to the home, Japan is looking into tapping a fiber-optic backbone line of Nippon Telegraph and Telephone (NTT), a domestic backbone carrier, in order to deliver this service at cheaper prices.[17]


See also

Internet portal

•Backbone network

•Collapsed backbone

•Default-free zone

•Distributed backbone



•Network service provider

•Parallel backbone


•Serial backbone





1.^ Kende, M. (2000). "The Digital Handshake: Connecting Internet Backbones". Journal of Communications Law & Policy 11: 1–45.

2.^ a b c d e f g Jonathan E. Nuechterlein; Philip J. Weiser. Digital Crossroads.

3.^ Malecki, E. J. (2002). "The economic geography of the Internet's infrastructure.". Economic Geography 78 (4): 399.

4.^ Williams, Edem E.; Essien Eyo (2011). "Building a Cost Effective Network for E-Learning in Developing Countries.". Computer and Information Science 4 (1): 53.

5.^ Tyson, J.. "How Internet Infrastructure Works". Retrieved 9 February 2011.

6.^ Badasyan, N.; Chakrabarti, S. (2005). "Private peering, transit and traffic diversion". Netnomics : Economic Research and Electronic Networking 7 (2): 115.

7.^ Roseman, D. (2003). "The digital divide and the competitive behaviour of Internet backbone providers: Part 1 - issues and arguments". The Journal of Policy, Regulation and Strategy for Telecommunications, Information and Media 5 (5): 25.

8.^ ""Verizon global IP network ranks No. 1 as most-connected Internet network". Fiber Optics Weekly Update". General OneFile. 10 December 2010.

9.^ "Verizon first service provider to announce 100G deployment on U.S. network". PRNewswire. 30 March 2011. Retrieved 16 April 2011.

10.^ a b "Internet Backbone". Topbits Website. Retrieved 9 February 2011.

11.^ a b Singel, Ryan (28 January 2011). "Egypt Shut Down Its Net With a Series of Phone Calls". Wired. Retrieved 30 April 2011.

12.^ Van Beijnum, Iljitsch. "How Egypt did (and your government could) shut down the Internet". Ars Technica. Retrieved 30 April 2011.

13.^ Murphy, Kevin. "DNS not to blame for Egypt blackout". Domain Incite. Retrieved 30 April 2011.

14.^ "Global Internet backbone back up to speed for 2003 after dramatic slow down in 2002". TechTrends 47 (5): 47. 2003.

15.^ "Europe - Level 3 launches DIA, VPN service portfolios in Europe". Europe Intelligence Wire. 28 January 2011.

16.^ Lomsadze, Giorgi (8 April 2011). "A Shovel Cuts Off Armenia's Internet". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 16 April 2011.

17.^ "Japan telecommunications report - Q2 2011". Japan Telecommunications Report (1). 2011.


External links

•Russ Haynal's ISP Page

•US Internet backbone maps

•Automatically generated backbone map of the Internet

•IPv6 Backbone Network Topology