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The transit provider is often referred to as the 'uplink' or 'ISP' that provides connectivity to the internet to a business or consumer. These providers attempt to establish direct connectivity to as many end users as they can in an effort to have as fast a path as possible between the content users want and the end users that want it.
Since it is not realistic for a provider to have a direct connection to every single person on the planet, transit providers establish agreements with other transit providers to interconnect their networks.
If a transit provider pays for this connection, they are considered a Tier-2 network. If the carrier is able to establish peering sessions for these connections, they are considered a Tier-1 network.
Traditionally, it was desirable to stick to Tier-1 networks for connectivity. The thinking was that these were the largest networks and would result in the best performance, and there is certainly still some truth to that.
The trouble is that all Tier-1 networks are not operated equally. Once they reach a certain size, business factors such as profitability take precedence over measurables such as latency or throughput.
If a Tier-1 carrier deems it more cost effective to continue peering over a saturated link rather than invest the capital to increase the size of that interconnect point, they will simply do so, and the downstream users suffer as a result. The Tier-1 network has already established it's reputation from a marketing perspective and has no reason to optimize for performance rather than profitability.
This brings us to Tier-2 networks. Tier-2 networks are often operated by technology enthusiasts like you and I. These are the kind of folks that love optimizing every little element of their network for performance, monitoring it closely, and delivering a very high end product to the end user. They do not have the 'luxury' of name recognition to coast on like the Tier-1 carriers do.
Adtaq is proud to peer with a variety of established tier-2 providers who offer exceptional performance at a competitive price we can pass on to our customers.
To use an investment analogy, imagine a Tier-1 carrier to be a single stock. You purchase it because the company is known to be good, and you hope that it stays that way.
A Tier-2 would be a bit like an index fund; a collection of Tier-1s that the Tier-2 Engineering Team has deemed to be of high quality, blended together. This way, if any one Tier-1 has poor performance or an issue, there are other quality connectivity options for your customers.
At Adtaq, we have implemented a 'fund of funds' strategy; multiple Tier-2 providers who's management and engineering teams we have confidence in. We feel this provides the best performance for our customers while remaining agile enough to circumvent any upstream bottlenecks.