Level 3 Communications invests €1m in Dublin network

9 Jun 2010

The world’s largest ‘carrier’s carrier’, Level 3 Communications, is to invest €1m annually in developing a Metropolitan Area Network in Dublin to connect at least five data centres to serve the growing cluster of internet giants that have set up in Europe’s internet capital.

Dublin reads like a who’s who of internet giants, from Facebook to Amazon, Google, Microsoft, LinkedIn, Zynga and eBay, who have all chosen to locate their European headquarters in the more than 1,000-year-old city.

The city is also home to a growing digital media and gaming cluster, as well as next-generation media services for fixed-line, terrestrial and satellite TV consumption.

All this activity has served as a draw for Level 3 Communications, a tier 1 provider of data communications to the world’s internet and telecoms giants, a ‘carrier’s carrier.’

James Heard, president of Level 3’s European Markets Group, told Siliconrepublic.com, that the company is in expansion mode in Ireland because it sees the country has having considerable promise in the burgeoning data communications space, particularly as far as video is concerned.

Video traffic gaining momentum

The annual Cisco Visual Networking Index (VNI) Forecast, 2009-2014, has forecast video traffic is set to overtake peer-to-peer as the top internet traffic contributor by the end of this year and the total global online video community will exceed 1 billion users by 2014. Global internet traffic will increase more than fourfold to 767 exabytes, or more than 3/4 of a Zettabyte, by 2014.

According to Heard, the Dublin operations of Level 3 are focusing on connecting the new metropolitan area network to at least five data centres active in and around the city and then connect to the Level 3 network – the largest backbone network of any internet provider in the world. Level 3 maintains more than 200Gbps of trans-Atlantic bandwidth via 10Gbps Ethernet circuits.

“In the last number of years, we have spent US$25bn on building and upgrading the network. Even prior to the dot.com bust 10 years ago, we had a vision that bandwidth would explode and our foresight is coming through. Our key mission in Dublin is ensuring the bandwidth is there for consumers to have access to the content.

“We are attracted to Dublin not only by the internet companies that have established headquarters here but also the financial organisations here and broadcast and media companies.”

Heard explained the €1m that the company will spend this year will be in a new headquarters in central Dublin that will house its content operations facility, as well as tier 1, tier 2 and tier 3 support for broadcast and media companies. Level 3 will also have a software development team that works with major European broadcasters to enable content delivery to consumers over broadband networks.

“We will also be investing in a project to connect all data centres in Dublin via fibre on a metro network to our trans-Atlantic system. This will involve us building our own fibre networks but also leasing fibre connectivity from other operators.

“We are seeing over 50pc of traffic being videos. From a Level 3 perspective, the upgrade in Dublin will give us infinitely more bandwidth on demand. Our strategy is to put bandwidth where the demand is.”

Ireland’s good position for growth

Despite the impact of the recession in Ireland, Heard believes it is one of the countries best positioned to grow into the future. “The way we look at things, it is not the landscape today that influences our choices, it is about what the future will look like and that will be driven by connecting consumers with content and we see a huge opportunity in Ireland and we’ll continue to invest here.

“We will invest €1m this year and expect to invest more capital year-on-year to facilitate growth. We see the rise of the cloud in the business world being a particularly important trend as will the need for connected storage. It’s our job to connect the data centre.”

Phil Daly, director of the Dublin operation which has its origins with Servecast, explained that in terms of content delivery, the Dublin operation plays a Europe-wide role in managing digital content traffic for a number of major names, including Sky and the BBC iPlayer.

“It’s all about quality of service and managing consumers’ expectations, whether they are watching that content on a smartphone, a PC, an iPad or a high-definition television. Eventually, all content, whether it’s TV, video games or video on demand, will be platform agnostic. But consumer expectations will get higher and higher and new standards in adaptive bit rate (ABR) to manage data will be vital,” Daly said.

“But as far as the digital consumer is concerned, the world’s their oyster.”

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years