Internet-based services are at risk of suffering service degradation as internet traffic reach an all-time high and network service providers run their networks 'hotter' to avoid infrastructure spending, global analyst firm Ovum has warned.

Ovum said internet service providers (ISPs) are increasing traffic throughput in networks without upgrading equipment, citing delay of short-term investment projects to help stifle losses due to recession.

The analyst firm explained that ISPs typically run networks to 40 per cent to 50 per cent capacity, but due to increasing network traffic brought by the "video tsunami," network utilisation is driven up.

"They are comfortable that core routers can run without incident at 60 per cent to 70 per cent loading, but once average loading reaches 80 per cent capacity upgrades are needed to ensure high availability," said John Mazur, principal analyst for network infrastructure, Ovum.

Mazur is uncertain if running IP networks hotter will cause total disruption of services, since the effect of utilising networks to higher capacities remains to be seen. "Router software is equipped to route around failures, but no one really knows the impact on end-users. We could find out soon, however, if the current trend continues," he explained.

Ovum advices firms not to trust their mission critical applications to 'best effort' internet, and should only opt for higher quality services. "Our advice is to watch just how hot ISPs can go and monitor the impact on internet performance - and to not put too much faith in the internet, as past performance is no guarantee of future results," Mazur remarked.