Backbone maps: Mapping the Internet

Internet backbone map

[Post updated February 2017 with new maps and sources]

This week in ITGS we did a Networks refresher, covering topics such as LANs, IP addresses, DNS, ISPs, and the Internet backbone (this is chapter 4 in the textbook). The resources below show various parts of the Internet backbone graphically, letting you really see how information travels from your computer to web servers (and back) when you visit a web site.

Global Internet backbone maps

Mapping the world’s backbones is difficult because there are so many cables, owned by many different telecommunications companies. TeleGeography’s global backbone map and Greg’s cable map are both very good attempts though. The maps below are just images – click for interactive versions. Greg’s Cable Map also makes the raw data and KML available for you to download.

Internet cable maps
Global Internet backbone map (Source: Telegeography) (click to open interactive map)
Internet cable maps
Global cable map (Source: Greg’s cable map) (click to open interactive map)

Telegeography also has a gallery of telecommunications maps with a variety of formats and data sets.

Regional backbone maps

If that isn’t enough, TeleGeography also have a range of regional maps, including submarine Internet cables and country statistics. Here is the map for Latin America. Again, click the image for an interactive version:

Maps of Latin America
Communication map of Latin America (Source: Telegeography)


Maps of Europe and the Middle East

Telegeography’s wide range of maps includes Europe and the Middle East:

Internet map Middle East
Middle East internet map (Source: Telegeography)

African Internet backbone maps

There has been a lot of Internet backbone development taking place in Africa recently. These maps from show the latest ACE cable laid off the coast of West Africa. This cable alone can carry over 5000 gigabits of data. Future backbone cables will have capacities measured in terabits. In fact, the proposed cable crossing the South Atlantic to Brazil will be capable of transferring 12.8 terabits!

Africa fibre optic cable map
African underseas cables (Source: Many Possibilities)
Africa backbone map
Telecommunications map of Africa 2017 (Source: Telegeography)
African Internet cable maps
African Internet cables – present and planned (Source: Network Startup Resource Center)

Other Internet maps

Finally, although it does not show backbone connections, this beautiful visualisation of Internet connection density by Chris Harrison really speaks a thousand words. It’s amazing to see areas so dense that many country outlines are clearly visible (even Hawaii can be seen). However in other areas there are large swathes of black. This definitely brings to mind issues related to equality of access and the digital divide.
Internet density map
World connection density map (Source: Chris Harrison)


    • Good question. I don’t know, to be honest. Not a huge amount, I think – because satellites offer relatively low bandwidth connections and are rather expensive. It would be interesting to see how (or if) satellite connectivity could help connect remote communities though (reducing the digital divide).

      • I think it is more expensive in the long run to use satellite for remote areas than to extend the already existing cables in their direction unless of cause you expect the users to be mobile which is hardly the case if so VSAT would be the option.

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