What is a backbone network? - Neos Networks

What is a backbone network?

A backbone network is the central core of large computer networks that connects smaller networks. Learn all about backbone networks and how they ensure network performance for service providers and end users.

What is a backbone network?

A backbone network, also known as a core network, is the central infrastructure in larger computer networks that interconnects local subnetworks. They’re usually high capacity, low latency connections designed to transmit high data volumes as efficiently as possible.

For example, a backbone network can connect different local area networks (LANs) in one building or across many buildings in a business park or university campus. Large enterprises with geographically dispersed sites might create a backbone network to connect their sites in a wide area network (WAN).

Similarly, backbone networks connect different cities, regions or countries. For instance, internet service providers (ISPs) and data centres use backbone networks to provide high capacity connectivity between dispersed locations.

How does a backbone network work?

A backbone network works like a central highway, providing fast, reliable traffic flow to local road networks. It typically uses high capacity optical connectivity with fibre optic cables, routers, switches and other networking equipment to transmit high volumes of data as efficiently as possible.

In addition, wireless satellite or microwave links, or a hybrid core network of wired and wired connections, can be used to reach remote areas where laying cables is impractical.

While core networks vary, they use standard technologies like Internet Protocol (IP), Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) and Dense Wavelength Division Multiplexing (DWDM) to ensure seamless communication between subnetworks.

Backbone network vs access network

Backbone and access networks are distinct components of computer networks with different functions. In national or global networks, the two are interconnected as follows:

  1. A backbone network is the high capacity core that connects different regions, data centres and ISPs to the internet and cloud services.
  2. A distribution network, which may include backhaul, connects the backbone network to an access network, distributing traffic to regional or local metropolitan area networks (MAN), streets or buildings.
  3. An access network, also known as the “last mile”, connects end users or subscribers to the distribution network, providing access to the internet and cloud services.
Example of a backbone network, showing how it's connected to a distribution network and an access network

In short, a backbone network is the core networking highway that ensures the reliability and performance of large-scale networks, including the internet.

Backbone network functions

In addition to providing high capacity connections between local networks, backbone networks perform several crucial functions, including but not limited to:

  • Aggregation: Backbone networks aggregate data traffic from various sources, including MANs, LANs, WANs and access networks.
  • Routing and switching: Routers and switches efficiently forward data packets across different parts of the network.
  • Redundancy: Core networks are typically designed with backup routes and failover mechanisms to maximise reliability.
  • Authentication and security: Backbone networks use encryption, firewalls and other measures to prevent unauthorised access, data breaches or other cyberattacks
  • Traffic management: As core networks are centralised, they allow you to optimise the data flow, ensuring Quality of Service (QoS) to prioritise critical types of traffic.

Typically, backbone networks can accommodate much higher capacities than the local networks they serve. They’re usually designed to scale as you grow to meet the ever-increasing demand for data.

Types of backbone networks

Backbone networks vary in technology and scale, from local core networks to the internet backbone, which connects network service providers worldwide. However, most core networks have one of the following basic network topologies:

  • Serial backbone: A simple point-to-point connection links two or more connectivity devices, such as connecting a hub to a subnetwork.
  • Distributed backbone: Numerous connectivity devices link to various central hubs, switches, or routers in a layered hierarchy, which is typically used for most large core networks.
  • Collapsed backbone: All connectivity devices link back to a central location in a star topology, which is easy to manage but has a single point of failure.
  • Parallel backbone: Connectivity devices link to a central location but with duplicate connections providing redundancy and resilience.

Backbone network solutions

To sum up, backbone networks are vital components of large-scale networks, ensuring network performance for both service providers and end users. Core networks give you:

  • Seamless connectivity to grow your network
  • Redundancy and resilience to ensure customer experience
  • Flexibility and scalability to meet growing demand

At Neos Networks, we provide backbone networks and backhaul services for businesses across the UK. Optical connectivity is the fabric of any large backbone network, and we offer a range of optical wavelength services to suit your business’s needs with:

  • High availability: Up to 99.95% uptime across our UK-wide network
  • Ultrafast connections: Choose between 10Gbps, 100Gbps and 400Gbps
  • Flexibility: Connectivity options to suit your business and customers nationwide

We’ve already helped several service providers achieve their ambitious growth plans, including:

  • Jisc: Enabling their mission-critical national backbone for education and research facilities across the UK
  • CityFibre: Deploying a Dark Fibre backbone network for their UK fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) services on the south coast
  • Gigabit Networks: Providing exchange backhaul to supercharge their connectivity in the ‘Golden Triangle’ of Nottingham, Leicester and Derby

To see how we could boost your connectivity across the UK, download our network map. We’ll be happy to help you supercharge your network.

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