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Private undersea cable is growing networking trend; IoT drives IPv6

This week in telecom news, potential Google undersea cable project underscores networking trend; the Internet of Things may drive IPv6 adoption.

In telecom news this week, proving that it's a small world after all, reports of an upcoming Google undersea cable build across the Pacific Ocean indicates the need for more global fiber for private companies as well as global carriers. The same old IPv4-to-IPv6 discussions continued, but this time, the Internet of Things is driving actual adoption as a burgeoning number of devices require IP addresses.

On the U.S. front, remember the broadband stimulus funds awarded to service providers -- largely rural -- in 2009? Designed to create jobs and improve bandwidth options in rural areas, the Government Accounting Office wants to know what the reach and effectiveness the $3 billion in stimulus funds have been. No can do -- yet -- because the Rural Utilities Services hasn't exactly tracked that information.

Private undersea cable ventures validate network growth trends

Google may invest in a multi-million-dollar cable across the Pacific Ocean that will help handle increasing amounts of undersea traffic being sent across private networks, according to The Wall Street Journal. Despite arguments about Net neutrality, privately owned undersea cables, for example, give the companies that own it more control over traffic prioritization long before it reaches consumers.

Google's potential move makes sense in terms of a recent TeleGeography Global Bandwidth Research Service report, which found that while international backbone operators are still the primary users of international bandwidth, the bandwidth needs of large content providers like Google, Microsoft and Facebook can exceed the needs of the biggest global carriers.

Google would reportedly use part of the cable to connect some of its data centers in the U.S. with Japan. Google invested in a similar subsea venture completed in 2010.

Overall, the demand for international bandwidth grew 39% in 2013 to 183 terabits (Tbps), up from a mere 30 Tbps in 2009. Private network bandwidth grew at a faster rate between 2009 and 2013 than international Internet bandwidth and private networks accounted for 25% of international bandwidth in 2013, an increase from 2009's 20%.

Private tech companies -- the really big ones -- are showing telecom providers that they can sink their own cash into building out networks and have the advantage of managing their own data the way they want to, before consumers get it via the Internet.

Internet of Things driving need for IPv6 addresses

The shrinking number of IPv4 addresses is actually beginning to cause problems for organizations around the world, especially as more non-computer devices come online, the head of the regional Internet registry in Asia-Pacific said last week. PC Week reported that Paul Wilson, the general director at the Asia Pacific Network Information Center (APNIC), told attendees of an Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) meeting in London that the new IPv6 128-bit address field, compared to the 32-bit field used by IPv4, will be needed sooner rather than later due to the massive number of IP addresses needed for the Internet of Things (IoT).

Worldwide adoption of IPv6 is only at 3.5%, according to Google, which is up from 1% at the beginning of 2013 and the upgrades are happening largely because they have to. For example, PC Week reported that Microsoft had to start using its global stock of IPv4 addresses for its Azure cloud service in the U.S. because it was running out of U.S.-based IPv4 addresses.

Wilson told ICANN that carriers planning to avoid switching to IPv6 and rely instead on Carrier Grade NAT with IPv4 to stave off switching to IPv6 are betting on a dead-end technology. The IoT is increasing the pressure to move to IPv6, Wilson said, who was in London to help ICANN get ready to take over running key functions of the world's central Domain Name System (DNS) servers from the U.S. National Telecommunications and Information Agency, which was announced in March.

Government agency on hook to show broadband stimulus uses

The Rural Utilities Service, which is overseen by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is on the hook to provide data showing how $3 billion in federal funds awarded for the Broadband Infrastructure Project has affected broadband availability. The point of the project was to stimulate the economy and create jobs since 2009.

While 14% of the funded broadband infrastructure projects were terminated by March 2014, 87% of the 255 remaining projects were complete or partially completed, which means they provide services to subscribers.

In a more than 25-page report sent to Congress in June, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) looked at the impact of the broadband stimulus money the federal government provided to rural utilities providers is now in the GAO's crosshairs. The GAO said the Rural Utilities Service has as not shown how much the program's approximately $3 billion in project funding has affected broadband availability. The GAO called the money "an unprecedented level of federal investment in broadband."

Network operators who accepted stimulus money -- and many elected not to -- were supposed to indicate how many locations they expected to reach as a result of the cash infusion, but apparently the Rural Utilities Service hasn't been tracking the number of locations reached or the number of customers who have signed up for service. The USDA has now said it will put procedures in place so the program complies with the GAO's reporting recommendations.

For its part, the Rural Utilities Service said most projects will be completed by the June 2015 deadline. According to the GAO report, the USDA said it will institute procedures to comply with the GAO's reporting recommendations. The full GAO report can be found here.

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Do private undersea cable builds cut into traditional global carrier transport markets?
Not terribly surprising. An awful lot of those rural programs weren't about rural areas and in fact covered areas that were already well served with broadband.