In today’s world, it is almost impossible to find a business or a household without the Internet. Affordable internet has become a fundamental need for everyone. When it comes to delivering high-speed internet connectivity, many elements have to be pieced together. Data from data centres require a system of WAN (Wide Area Network) connections and ISPs (Internet Service Providers) to deliver internet with a decent bandwidth to the end user.
There are three tiers of ISPs—tier 1, tier 2, and tier 3. Tier 1 ISPs are the ones that connect large internet exchange points, sometimes spanning international borders. Tier 2 are the ISPs that connect the tier 1 ISPs with local ISPs. Tier 3 are the local ISPs that finally deliver connectivity to the end user in their homes or office buildings.
This is where the last mile exists—it is the last leg of this entire journey when data is delivered from the infrastructure to the end user device.
Last mile connectivity is the final but the most critical element in the network’s universe. Without this piece in place, internet access is impossible. Think of it as an e-commerce platform, but without its last mile—the staff who delivers the products at every doorstep— productivity, customer service, and customer experience will be affected.
Challenges of last mile connectivity
Despite being a crucial element, there are many challenges in getting the desired last mile connectivity. It is often the phase where the internet speed is compromised. To understand this better, let’s take the example of a tree. Imagine high-speed data being transferred through a tree trunk and then being distributed through the big and small branches. The quality and speed of leased line connectivity depend on the type of branch that delivers the final leg of the data. In the world of network solutions, the last mile is typically the most difficult leg to cover.
Many factors affect the efficient delivery of the last mile, including geolocation, telecom infrastructure, the ISP, the kind of line used—leased or ethernet, artificial congestion, net neutrality infringement, and censorship.
Another important factor that impacts last mile connectivity is the exchange points connecting various ISPs within the same tier. The internet exchange point is where the connection between different service provider tiers changes and the traffic from one service provider to another is adjusted.
All these issues can lead to network latency, which can cause various problems and disruptions at the user’s end based on the internet connectivity for the end user. Some of these disruptions can be slow download and upload speed, poor performance of applications, quality of services on voice and video calls, etc.
Many enterprises rely on high-speed bandwidth to solve this problem, which might not be enough. Going back to the example of the tree, a bigger branch might improve speed and reduce latency of the network by pushing out more data. But the overall distance that the data had to travel and the number of hops along the way play a critical role in determining the final throughput and does not help improve the ultimate QoS (Quality of Service).
The problem gets worse when it comes to shared internet services, where the speed committed by ISPs to the users does not depend on the overall traffic in the network. When the traffic reaches a certain limit, the network becomes extremely slow. Leased line last miles often do not have so many connectivity issues since these lines are exclusive of the users.
Data security concerns also complicate the last mile connectivity problem. It is important to deliver data to businesses through a secure connection. However, doing this through corporate servers can be challenging as various networks, including cloud storage, firewalls, etc., are involved.
Addressing the last mile connectivity challenges
Rising to the challenges in the last mile connectivity is complex as there are innumerable factors involved, such as convoluted legacy network architectures, infrastructural challenges, regulatory norms, etc. Network providers are adopting many technological advancements, infrastructure improvements, and innovations to solve the last mile connectivity issues. Let’s take a look at a few.
In the early days, internet applications would take data from the edge and deliver it to the cloud, most often situated on servers in far-off data centres. This made the data journey longer, impacting the throughput. In the future, this model will be simplified, with microdata centres at the last mile connectivity edge, which means smaller cloud servers will be created near the supported data and devices. The deployment of infrastructure edge computing at the end of both leased lines and wireless networks will bridge the silos of networking and computing and streamline the entire journey for speed and efficiency.
Another way the last mile connectivity issue is being tackled is by moving to wireless connectivity. However, this has its challenges in deploying transmission lines—the connectivity here depends on the height and the footprint (the reach of the wireless signal). Also, though expensive, having licensed bands will matter. It will, much like the leased lines, provide exclusive data availability and connectivity.
Network providers are also solving last mile connectivity issues by combining multiple last mile connections into an intelligent software-defined network and choosing the most optimal data path depending on availability, performance, and cost.
Today, where businesses are largely dependent on the digital medium, the last mile is paramount. Last mile connectivity problems can hurt the overall network performance. Disruption in last mile connectivity can cause operational issues, negatively impact business continuity, and affect customer experience. With technology innovations and infrastructure developments, network providers are continuously working to address last mile connectivity challenges by offering better and faster connectivity and taking internet connections to more and more locations.
Airtel provides strong and dedicated leased line connectivity for your company. Explore more about our offerings now!