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What is the
internet backbone?

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 Telia Carrier (AS1299) is one of the largest and best connected. 

What makes a good Internet backbone?

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?

Telia Carrier’s Internet backbone

Spanning 67,000km of our own fiber, and using state-of-the-art DWDM and IP technology, our network connects more than 300 Points-of-Presence (PoPs) in 35 countries across Europe, North America and Asia. On top of the world’s #1 ranked IP backbone and a unique ecosystem of cloud and network service providers, we provide an award-winning customer experience to more than 2000 customers in 120 countries worldwide. Our global Internet services connect more than 700 cloud, security and content providers with low latency and more than half of all Internet routes rely on AS1299.

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