Skip to Main Content
One relatively unexplored question about the Internet's physical structure concerns the geographical location of its components: routers, links, and autonomous systems (ASes). We study this question using two large inventories of Internet routers and links, collected by different methods and about two years apart. We first map each router to its geographical location using two different state-of-the-art tools. We then study the relationship between router location and population density; between geographic distance and link density; and between the size and geographic extent of ASes. Our findings are consistent across the two datasets and both mapping methods. First, as expected, router density per person varies widely over different economic regions; however, in economically homogeneous regions, router density shows a strong superlinear relationship to population density. Second, the probability that two routers are directly connected is strongly dependent on distance; our data is consistent with a model in which a majority (up to 75%-95%) of link formation is based on geographical distance (as in the Waxman (1988) topology generation method). Finally, we find that ASes show high variability in geographic size, which is correlated with other measures of AS size (degree and number of interfaces). Among small to medium ASes, ASes show wide variability in their geographic dispersal; however, all ASes exceeding a certain threshold in size are maximally dispersed geographically. These findings have many implications for the next generation of topology generators, which we envisage as producing router-level graphs annotated with attributes such as link latencies, AS identifiers, and geographical locations.