Who provides the Internet service to Internet Service Providers (ISPs)?

Internet Service Providers provide you with data connection but who provides the Internet to ISPs

Many of you may have had this question in mind! You get the data connection on your smartphones through your mobile service providers and on your Wi-Fi routers through your local Internet Service Provider commonly known as the ISP. But who provides them with the huge gigs of Internet so that they can give part of it to you for monthly fees.

First of all, you should know that the internet isn’t a thing, a place or a service as you might think. It is just a group of computers connecting to each other. And these computers are owned by big data companies.There are ISPs who specialise in providing wholesale connectivity between retail ISPs these are called Tier 1 providers. Here is a simple answer to the question about who provides the Internet to ISP companies.

1. Peering

Most of the big ISPs use this method. When ISPs peer they open their own networks to users of the other ISP. It’s done for free: no ISP pays the other. This is usually done between ISPs that are of (more or less) equal size, reside in the same region and can easily connect at an Internet exchange or in a data center they both use.

2. IP-transit

Most small data providers opt for IP-transit. As it is not possible, nor economically viable, to connect to every ISP in the world (there are thousands of them) IP-transit carriers provide connectivity to the rest of the world that ISPs cannot reach through their peering partners. As IP-transit involves carrying Internet traffic between continents and connecting to many other ISPs, it’s a paid service. The ISP pays for the volume of traffic carried by an IP-transit carrier.


So, what Network Tiers are there?

The huge networks who provide the Internet to ISPs are known as Tier 1 networks. Although there is no authority that defines tiers of networks participating in the Internet, the most common definition of a tier 1 network is one that can reach every other network on the Internet without purchasing IP transit or paying settlements.

By this definition, a tier 1 network is a transit-free network that peers with every other tier-1 network. But not all transit-free networks are tier 1 networks. It is possible to become transit-free by paying for peering or agreeing to settlements.

Common definitions of tier 2 and tier 3 networks:

Tier 2: A network that peers with some networks, but still purchases IP transit or pays settlements to reach at least some portion of the Internet.

Tier 3: A network that solely purchases transit from other networks to reach the Internet.
If you click through to Tier 1 networks from the Internet Backbone page you get to a list of the current Tier 1 networks:

AT&T from USA
Cogent Communications from USA
Centurylink (formerly Qwest and Savvis) from USA
Deutsche Telekom AG from Germany
GTT (formerly Tinet) from USA/Italy
Level 3 Communications from USA
Telecom Italia Sparkle from Italy
Telefonica Global Solutions from Spain
Verizon Business (formerly UUNET) from USA
TeliaSonera International Carrier from Sweden-Finlnd
NTT Communications from Japan
Tata Communications from India
Orange from France
XO Communications from USA
Zayo Group from USA

What is Peering?

When two mid-sized networks connect to each other through a process known as ‘peering’. Most traffic needs to go over at least 2 different top tier networks in order to reach its destination, and the networks are bridged with peering arrangements. The way this usually works is that each party to the agreement will commit to routing x amount of traffic for the other party on their network, and vice-versa. There is usually no money exchanged in these arrangements, unless one side is sending or receiving a lot more data than the other sides.

Large companies can also go out and arrange their own peering relationships. For example, Netflix has arranged its own peering and network infrastructure directly with multiple tier-1 networks so that its traffic is both cheaper and closer to end users on each of the popular US broadband ISP’s.

To put all the above mumbo jumbo in simple words. Tier 1 data companies are internet backbones that connect with each other. Smaller ISPs work with these internet backbones and then sell bandwidth to their users. No one really owns the internet as it comprises millions of servers everywhere. Very small network providers from remote countries buy Internet from the mid-sized ISPs through Internet gateways and than relay it to their users.

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