How the Internet works


Ars Technica runs a nice overview article “How the Internet works: Submarine fiber, brains in jars, and coaxial cables“.  It features plenty of cool images, statistics, and details of the Internet wiring from under the sea to the last mile to the last 100 meters.  It’s mostly focused on UK, but it provides a good understanding of what’s involved in the modern day connectivity.

P.S.: On a less serious note, here’s The IT Crowd take on how the Internet works.  Thanks to Maxym Balabaev for a reminder.

Good news from Cyta

Cyta – Cyprus Telecommunications Authority – has updated its website.   First time in years you can visit it without having 20,000 animated banners thrown in your face from the front page.  In fact, the new site looks pretty good.  And it’s easy to navigate around as well, which is not so common for sites with a lot of information.

cyta website


And these aren’t even all the news.  They’ve also reduced the prices of the mobile internet.  How often does that happen?  Exactly, never!

Good job, guys.

Submarine cables world map

Here comes an excellent map of world’s submarine cables.  If you live on an island, like myself, using this map you can see where from you get your Internet.  Zooming in shows the landing stations and which cables connect where.  Also, clicking on the cable provides the details of the cable length and bandwidth.

P.S.: I have no idea how accurate or trustworthy this map is, but it sure looks legit.

4 Mbps with PrimeTel

Here is a quote from the latest PrimeTel newsletter:

PrimeTel upgrades for even faster Internet speeds and provides 4Mbps / 512Kbps as an upgrade option for the PrimeHome and PrimeADSL2+ subscribers. The additional monthly fee for the PrimeHome subscribers is EUR65,92 while for the PrimeADSL2+ subscribers is EUR53,33. Read more

Anybody tried that already?

Note to PrimeTel : By the way, I’d much prefer an RSS feed from your site to those Greek emails that you send me. Thank you.

It is NOT the end of the world, as we know it

Web Worker Daily links to the article titled “AT&T: Internet to hit full capacity by 2010“. Here is a summary:

Speaking at a Westminster eForum on Web 2.0 this week in London, Jim Cicconi, vice president of legislative affairs for AT&T, warned that the current systems that constitute the Internet will not be able to cope with the increasing amounts of video and user-generated content being uploaded.

Well, thank you for pointing out the obvious, Mr. Jim.  The current systems that constitute the Internet will not be able to cope indeed.  That’s why they will be upgraded, updated, redesigned, and multiplied to cope with the increasing amounts of video and user-generated content.  That’s how it was before and that’s how it will be in the future.

There is this nice concept that I’ve learned about back in the college days.  I don’t remember how it’s called, but it is very related to three terms: “supply”, “demand”, and “equilibrium”.  I’m sure that current economics aren’t as simple, and that there are many better concepts to explain things, but I liked the simplicity of it.  I am also a big believer in the ultimate power – natural balance.  Things can be pulled a little bit left and right, and that’s possible, but in the long term, everything will balance out.

Looking through that prism on the problem of ever increasing Internet traffic, that seems to be like a lot of demand.  If big companies, such as AT&T won’t be able to supply enough, it doesn’t mean that the Earth will stop revolving and wait for them to catch up.  This has been proved before and will be proved again, if needed.  If it will come to the worst, ISPs can be decentralized by self-managing network units (individual or small networks) that interconnect with each other.  That’s actually what happens in areas which are not covered by major Internet Service Providers.  People install their own wireless networks, connect to each other, and between those who can connect them further.  If there will be too much demand for solutions like this, they can be rather easily automated with hardware units and simple software packages.

As to the claims of how fast the traffic will rise, I don’t quite agree.  It will continue to rise at dramatic rates, but not as dramatic as:

“In three years’ time, 20 typical households will generate more traffic than the entire Internet today.”

That’s just insane.

Cicconi added that more demand for high-definition video will put an increasing strain on the Internet infrastructure. “Eight hours of video is loaded onto YouTube every minute. Everything will become HD very soon, and HD is 7 to 10 times more bandwidth-hungry than typical video today. Video will be 80 percent of all traffic by 2010, up from 30 percent today,” he said.

HD is a promising technology, and it has its niche, but saying that everything is will go HD very soon, well… It reminds me of all those claims about radio disappearing when TV came along, and TV disappearing when Internet appeared.  HD will be pretty popular, but there are many areas where it is not applicable.  For example, it will take a long time before mobile phones will learn how to create HD content.

And not to forget the money issue, people are prepared to pay today than they used to before. And they are paying more.  Think about it.  Ten years ago not a lot of people had a dial-up account.  Which was a really crappy way to connect to the Internet.  And it was priced at about $20 USD a month.  Today I pay about $60 USD a month to my ISP, which brings me Internet, television, and telephony through a single cable.  And guess what – I am prepared to pay more.  And guess what – I am by far not alone.  I know more people today who pay $60 USD for their Internet connectivity than I knew before paying for their dial-up connection.

The Internet is changing.  If before it was mostly good for checking email and reading an occasional web site, today it is a powerful tool that solve a whole range of communication and entertainment problems.  Make it better and we’ll pay more.

Oh, and you’ll get paid from the other side too – web services, and the rest of the crowd who make a lot of money on the Internet.  10 years ago a service such as Flickr would be possible.  Or it would have been rather useless.  Today I now more people paying for a Pro account to Flickr than I knew before paying for their dial-up connection.  How’s that?  I’m sure Flickr is ready to pay more for better connectivity.

So, Mr. Jim, stop whining.  It’s not the end of the world.  It doesn’t even look like it. Quite the opposite.  It’s the golden time for the people who work in technology.  Let’s get back to work and make the world a better place.

19 inch from PrimeTel

No, no, you aren’t getting screwed.  Quite on the contrary!  I got an SMS from PrimeTel today with their special offer.  Here is the text of the message:

Free 19″ LCD TV.  Get 2 of your friends to become PrimeTel subscribers and the 19″ LCD TV is yours.  Call 133. Learn more

I know that you know that I’m biased towards PrimeTel, being an ex-employee and having a friends over there.  But I still have to say that this is a pretty neat offer.  I saw that 19″ LCD TV (remember that LCD means flat), and I wish I had any friends who aren’t PrimeTel subscribers… I have a much bigger CRT TV, and would swap it any day for a smaller LCD, that I could use as a monitor for my laptop too.

Too bad I’m out of non-PrimeTel friends right now, but you.. you got get the TV!

Google from the 700 MHz point of view

In the last two years, the well-known fact of Google offering free WiFi Internet access in Mountain View, California has almost been forgotten (except, of course, by people living in Mountain View and Googlers themselves).  At the time of news many were wondering about why Google is doing such a thing.  Not it all suddenly became obvious…

Slashdot reports that Google is preparing for a bid in the upcoming auction set up by FCC for a 700 Mhz radio frequency.  There are a few interesting twists about the offer – “open access” and “nation-wide”.  With these news, it’s hard to see the Mountain View setup as something else rather than a test platform.  With the recently released Android open mobile platform, the connections seem obvious.

The stakes for the band are high, and Google is planning to bid at least $4.6 billion USD dollars.  And they are paying this all out of their own pocket (not sharing with another company, etc).   Wh?  Because there are quiet a few things on Google’s agenda.

If you are like me, and need more information on this whole thing, here are a few pointers:

P.S. : Now those Indian telecoms have to re-think their position.

P.P.S. : In the completely unrelated news,  Ubiquiti Networks announced world’s first 700 MHz WiFi radio.  Here is the official press release.

Qatar – small country with a huge problem

Qatar is a country I know nothing about. And whenever I hear the name of a country that I know nothing about, the first thing I want to know is if they have Internet connectivity over there. It appears, that I should have be more careful with my Internet criteria evaluation – via via TechCrunch:

Qatar has a single ISP, Qtel, with a single IP address shared by the entire country.

So, the fact that there is Internet connectivity today does not necessarily imply that there will be Internet connectivity tomorrow…

Billing. It’s a serious matter.

Now this one is simply great.

I was reading through the funny IRC quotes at Bash.Org.Ru, which is a Russian analogue of, when I came across the quote #4741.

Here is a rough translation for you:


Dear customers! For the last three days we had a technical problem and your used Internet traffic wasn’t calculated properly. We kindly ask you to calculate the approximate amount of traffic that you used during this period and pay cash accordingly in our office. With best regards, company management.

I smiled and almost went away. But before I did so, I noticed a small post-scriptum – it was a moderatorial note from that confirmed that this message was actually posted to the official website of the provider.

So, I rushed to check it out and, indeed, it was still there.

I was laughing so hard that I almost woke up Olga and Maxim. I mean how stupid and naive that is – asking your customers to pay based on their own calculations? What are they counting at? Good will? Honesty? Or maybe they just have an excellent sense of humor. If so, they should have an update of some sort published shortly.

After all, those who thought tha Borat (.kz stands for Kazakhstan, as does Borat) was an exhageration are wrong. He is by far not. No.


Due to some problems with my ISP the site will be somewhat slower at least for the next few days. Some traffic shaping rules were applied to my connection and now it will deliver only half the speed of what it used to. Hopefully, the problem will be resolved in a few days and everything will be back to normal.

In the meantime, I feel like I am back on dial-up, although I have a 512 Kbit/s link…