Pakistan Bandwidth Appetite

I had been meeting a lot of fellow friends in the industry in person lately for a number of reasons. One interesting number that I came out with was that of the total transit Internet bandwidth that Pakistan is currently subscribing to. Between PTCL, Transworld, Multinet (the companies) and SMW3, SMW4 and TW1 (the three cables -and a couple of transponders worth of satellite back up bandwidth) we are talking about an aggregated 2.5 Gigs of IP transit bandwidth (give and take an STM-1).

Not only the figure is respectable, the growth trend that my contacts described is excellent. Drivers for increased consumptions, as we discussed and nodded at, included new DSL services, VoIP traffics and the popularity of bandwidth hogging Internet services like Youtube.

A number of other potential bandwidth-suckers that are waiting around the corner include mass distribution alliances that are expected to talk place between bulk bandwidth suppliers mentioned above and the new distribution channels like Niyatel’s (and other similar outfits in Central Pakistan).

This trend is impressive. Additionally, it also presses the managements of the local industry to come forward and think broadly out of the box for some badly needed but missing standard industry practices like local peering and Internet Exchanges and local Data Centers. If the growth trends continue, it can soon become a major foreign exchange eater and the only way we can reign this in is through localization of traffic within Pakistan.

Telecard’s New Venture Attracts $17m

The News is reporting that Telecard has finalized a new venture focused on Value Added Services for which an International Consortium (members of which remain unnamed) will be investing around $17 million for a majority stake in the new venture. For a quick recap of recent mergers and acquisitions in the Pakistani Telecom market: Etisalat bought majority minority (Thanks Ashar) stakes in PTCL in 2005 for $2.6B, Singtel recently bought 30% of Warid Telecom for $758 million, Omantel bought Worldcall’s majority stakes for $156 million, and Qtel bought 75% of Burraq for $12.3 million. Full story is here.

Linux Competency Center in Pindi

IBM has set up a Linux Competency Center in the NIIT’s Rawalpindi Campus with lots and lots of support gear.

…As part of establishing the center, IBM has donated its range of enterprise systems (including pSeries Unix Servers, Intel Processor-based xSeries and BladeCenter servers, TotalStorage), Printers, PCs, CISCO equipment – all of the hardware running on Linux SuSE deployed by IBM Global Technology Services team. IBM will also provide free hardware and software services for the first year. In addition, IBM Middleware software will be used by NIIT in their curriculum for graduate and undergraduate students under IBM Academic Initiative program….

Managed Services

Managed services are thriving well in Pakistan. Ericsson has been reported to be given an extension of three years for the Managed Service that they had been providing to Warid Telecom in Pakistan. Warid’s network is multivendor and the managed service will cover this multivendor environment.

Managed services bode well for the local telecom environment as under these arrangements, a more professional entity takes charge of the engineering (and some times, even some non-engineering) functions of the telecom business house letting the original license holder customer take care on the core business of marketing and managing the local brand.

Generally in such deals, a large number of employees from the parent telecom company also get transfered to the company providing the Managed Services as regular or contract employees. Apart from become part of (normally) bigger and more structured companies, the practice also has the positive effects of enhancing the technical and administrative caliber of the local man power in general.

Paktel Revives Marketing

Paktel is reviving its marketing. In a show of ‘newage’ factor of the company, it has come up with a series of animated clips and talks about mobile manners. Such tangential approach, if sustained for a good amount of time, would generally work very effectively towards lifting Paktel’s recent past marketing pitches where they talked about ‘paisas’ and ‘seconds’ and being ‘the cheapest’.

The ads are fun to watch:

I wonder if these animations have been produced in Pakistan or have been ‘imported’.

PTCL DSL vs ISPs

Pakistan Telecommunication Authority has announced a determination that deals with the complaints of Internet Service Providers of Pakistan with respect to PTCL’s recently launched Broadband Pakistan DSL services.

The determination:

  1. has approved the ring-distance based charging by PTCL for metro circuits needed by DSL operators to carry their traffic from their DSLAMs back to their respective data centers but have asked PTCL to provide an SLA for the service which would be reviewed by the regulator
  2. has denied the ISPs requests to be provided Ethernet connectivity between Exchanges instead of the current non-scalable nXE1 solution available to them
  3. has approved the PTCL line-rent reduction from Rs 217/mo to Rs 150/mo direction future rate changes to be routed via the authority’s approval process
  4. has fallen short of asking PTCL not to counter-offer the existing subscribers of the DSL providers and has advised the parties at arriving at a agreement as to how the providers should handle the DSL churn between themselves
  5. has denied the ISPs’ plea to get access to the shiny new PTCL OFAN and has concluded that only the copper infrastructure of PTCL is up for sharing.
  6. has instructed PTCL to let the operators bring in their copper pair to the PTCL premises to make use of the outside copper plant of PTCL.  Currently, PTCL has highly restrictive practices of not allowing interconnection between operators with each other one or both of whom happen to be co-located at PTCL premises.

The determination is being actively discussed at TGP here.

A Newage Inspiration

We all know Internet killed geography long time ago. Just like TiVo took the live TV out from the clutches of time and Slingbox freed your TV from your living room, there is one company that thought about enabling any phone company on earth worth its name to let their ‘phone numbers’ set free anywhere on the Internet and make money along the way.

It is not always that a Pakistani origin new-age Internet company makes a wonderful product that not only proves to be a financial success but is also an excellent example of innovative thinking and visionary excellence.

Meet DIDX – DID Exchange, the star product of Super Technologies. Without exaggeration, an attempt to describe Super Technologies, its various products and its contribution to the telecommunication regulation politics in Pakistan will consume a full blog on its own. The company that started its journey from the (then) innovative idea of Internet faxing back in 1987, morphed into a VoIP service company with a Pakistani network, changed to a hosted VOIP platform and finally, the team hit the sweet spot (incidentally as a by-product) of becoming a marketplace for an unusual telecommunication resource that nobody had not spotted before in the same context.

So what is DIDX and what do they do?

One of the core forces behind DIDX is Rehan Ahmed Allahwala. Rehan works alongside his American mates who front the company worldwide in commercial and marketing domains. Rehan leads the team that works on new ideas and commercial gymnastics. Suzanne Bowen is the CEO of the company (and out of her interest in the Pakistani Telecommunication market which, as a by-product, has given him a partner like Rehan – she’s a lurker at TGP too!) The company has a number of developers working OUT of Pakistan. So while it would be technically wrong to call this a ‘totally Pakistani venture’ because of the mix of fine people from so many places, the strong Pakistani contents in their HR is a matter of pride for all of us back at home.

DIDX is about selling and buying an unusual, untapped asset that a lot of telecos are sitting upon – the E.164 numbers they give out to ‘their’ subscribers who take one (or more) service from them. Most of the time, the teleco focuses on the service it is providing and tends to overlook the ‘affinity’ that those numbers carry and the possibility of that affinity being marketed and traded – anywhere on the Internet.

DIDX is the opposite of traditional call-termination market places. In these call-termination market places, participants compete to terminate your call at the cheapest of the rates possible. At DIDX, participants compete to sell their ‘DID numbers’ to those who value them because of their ‘callers’ having a certain affinity or proximity with those numbers. DIDX participants generate revenue because either the number is used from their very own network (for which they get paid anyway by the caller) or from foreign networks (which, again, pay them the termination charges). The only hidden cost of the DIDX participant here is the Internet bandwidth that is utilized for each of the call that originates as a VOIP call from their SIP box to the wild Internet and end up at the original user’s MSN, Google Talk or FWD soft phone (it could be a hard one as well).

Explained in even simpler terms, DIDX enables any telephone company to procure some cheap Internet bandwidth, host a box on that bandwidth, and start selling their telephone numbers to worldwide buyers. Since these numbers would be used by individuals seeking to ‘receive’ calls from the old telephony world to their voiped-up digital universe, there is a very high over-subscription that is possible because not everyone would be using the service all the time. Selling a million odd numbers via DIDX, for example, for $10 ea could give a juicy business figure to a lot many telecommunication companies especially outside North America.

On the other side of the eco-system, DIDX suddenly enables voip islands, like Skype and MSN a steel bridge back to the 4 billion people on earth that still are stuck in the older telephony universe. It takes little time to appreciate the impact that DID has created on VoIP worldwide.

Ever since DIDX went out in the wild, its participants are growing. While the list is long, Skype, Google putting them up as their partners and (just today), Jeff Pulver the grand daddy of voice over IP announcing the partnership of FWD with them are rock solid proofs of the brilliance of the idea and the company behind it.

So best wishes for DIDX, Rehan and Suzanne, and we hope you keep innovating the voip space!