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LINX plays vital role in history and future of UK Internet


The history of The London Internet Exchange (LINX) parallels the development of the Internet in the UK. Back in 1994 the World Wide Web was in its infancy and Internet exchange points were a novelty with only a handful in the entire world.

Even the idea that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) should co-operate and share infrastructure to their mutual benefit was novel. In this environment, representatives from the UK’s five domestic ISPs agreed to co-operate in the creation of The London Internet Exchange based on two guiding principles:

  • LINX should be neutral to its members.

  • LINX should be independent of any one provider.

Less than two months after the concept was agreed - and with a total absence of contracts, lawyers and paperwork - LINX became operative when the first Internet traffic was transmitted through its routers on 8 November 1994.

LINX has subsequently been a barometer reflecting the phenomenal growth in volume of Internet traffic in the UK as more people have gained access to more data from more sources than could have been imagined at the dawn of the Internet Age.

By the end of 1999 nearly one person in five in the UK had access to the Internet and the volume of traffic passing through LINX was peaking at 2.5 gigabits per second - more than 250 times its original total capacity. Growth has continued unabated and new peaks are being surpassed with increasing rapidity - rising from three Gbit/second in June 2000 to 10 Gbit/second at the end of September 2001.

In order to keep pace with such phenomenal growth LINX has pioneered the introduction of new technologies and new techniques.

LINX adopted one-gigabit Ethernet standards for the rapid transmission of Internet traffic ahead of even the large US exchanges and it is now at the forefront of preparations for the introduction of 10-gigabit Ethernet standards. The new Ethernet standards offer the potential to expand the carrying capacity of existing networks ten-fold with only minor modifications to the routing equipment.

As a result of its founding principle to be independent of any one co-location provider, LINX was also an industry leader when it diversified its operations around several sites and linked them with dedicated optical fibre cables. This is an essential element in a strategy to build a high level of resilience and redundancy into the LINX network - if one part of the network suffers a failure of any kind some traffic can be re-routed through other parts of the network.

Today the LINX membership numbers more than 120 leading Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and Content Delivery Service Providers from the UK, Ireland, USA, continental Europe and the Far East. Its facilities at eight London-based co-location ‘tele-hotels’ provide peering inter-connections between its members’ networks and carry up to 96 per cent of the UK’s Internet traffic.

As to the future, it is not difficult to predict that Internet traffic volumes will continue their rapid growth as more people surf the web and the Internet is utilised for an ever-increasing variety of services.

It is estimated that new third generation (3G) mobile telephones and the growing availability of broadband connectivity - offering new services such as video on demand - could lead to a ten-fold increase in LINX traffic within two years. Clearly, LINX will play an equally vital role in the future of the UK Internet as it has done in its history.

November 2001

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