Telecom and Data

The World Wide Web turns 30… what's next?

Steven Vermeulen Mar 12, 2019

Thirty years of network evolution…

It’s exciting to see how the infrastructure has evolved to support the exponential growth of the Internet that came with the WWW. Remember the 1990s? Internet speed was only 33 to 64 kbit/s. At this speed, downloading a half-hour episode of your sitcom would take you more than a day! Today, the average global Internet connection speed is around 6 Mbit/s. And once 5G networks will have been fully implemented, it's expected to grow 10-fold! 

All this wouldn’t be possible without the evolution of the physical infrastructure. In 1988, TAT-8 became the first subsea fibre optic cable laid in the Atlantic Ocean, carrying just 280 Mbits between the US, the UK and France. Since then, both the capacity and the number of cables have increased many times. In fact, today there are over 440 submarine cables carrying data all over the world - including SAIL, Nexans’ 6,000-km submarine fibre optic cable connecting Cameroon to Brazil.

…and still a lot to be done

In just 30 years, the WWW has become an integral aspect of many people’s lives. It has completely transformed the way we work, the way we communicate, the way we access health, education, financial and governmental services. For most of us today, it is impossible to imagine the world without our emails, messengers and social media, not to mention our apps and connected devices.

That said, just over 55% of the planet’s population is online - which means almost 4 billion people are still in digital darkness. And the lack of digital access can have many negative consequences, severely impacting a country’s economic growth, hampering education, cultural and social initiatives. This is why enabling universal, affordable internet access is today part of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

 At Nexans we've been proud to contribute to projects that bridge the digital divide, such as the Jayabaya Digital Highway Project or Brazil’s Connected Amazonia Program. It gives a strong sense of purpose knowing that our submarine cables contribute to ensuring broadband access for over 267 million citizens of Indonesia or help four million people in the Amazon Rainforest connect to the Internet, improving their access to health services, education and information. 

Onwards and upwards

To further support the expansion of the World Wide Web, can the Internet be better, faster, more reliable? Of course! 

To fully realise the business potential of digital connectivity and broaden access to information, new technology will come, including faster fibre, 5G networks, increasing number of hyperscale data centres… But we shouldn’t forget about the positive social impact that the technology can bring, including bridging the digital divide and overcoming digital poverty in some of the world’s poorer regions. 

So even though there is no doubt that the Internet has changed the world dramatically, let’s consider that it’s still early days of the digital economy and let's try to achieve even more in the future. 

About the author

Steven Vermeulen

Steven Vermeulen, is Executive Vice President in charge of the Telecom & Data Business Group and continues to supervise the North America area. He is from Belgium, based in Toronto, Canada. Steven Vermeulen joined Nexans in January 2016 after serving as Vice President & Managing Director Engineered Solutions within the Composite Division of Owens Corning, where he also held various positions in the United States and in Europe.

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