This is about establishing local clearing of Internet traffic. A concept so basic to the Internet that unfortunately remains grossly neglected (or not acted upon due to misplaced fears and priorities by the parties involved).
Before you shouts the word PIE, please note that local clearing should generally have two traits
- it must happen inside the country
- avoiding (or minimizing) expensive for-ex costing international links
- at next-to-free bandwidth rates – using the SKA (sender keeps all) or cheaper local bandwidth models
Focus Karachi (2007) for example:
Three known names to average broadband/dialup users: Worldcall, Cybernet & Multinet. Despite some efforts of optimized routing, the majority of the traffic between these well-known ISPs is exchanged outside Pakistan. The first one is on Transworld (now becoming a mini PIE on its own due to a good amount of ISP customers on its network), the second is on PIE and the third on its own IPLC towards KL in Malaysia.
Short Term Problems:
- Uniform (high) Internet prices across the industry
- Unnecessary 20% to 35% for-ex spending on Int’l circuits that could be sold to the right customer at a premium
- No cheap ‘local bandwidth’ available to users
- No incentive for ‘remaining local’ to users or content publishers
- Network outages beyond Pakistan result in network outages inside Pakistan
Long Term Problems:
- No impetus for establishing local data center for Internet hosting needs (excluding vertical DS such as Banking etc)
- As more of the country embraces Internet, ‘short term problems’ identified above will get magnified.
- No mirrors of popular contents – even those willing to place their contents near the Pakistani Internet users are amazed at the absence of local IDCs.
- No real development of Urdu and other regional languages contents on the Internet. BBCUrdu to remain flag bearer of Urdu on Internet!
As time passes and Internet subscription of these players increases, they will have an automatic incentive to interconnect locally between themselves on private funds driven by savings-as-profits targets. This is considered a positive development and we are all for it.
However, the absence of a neutral NAP or IX discourage non-ISPs willing to get benefit from local cheap Internet bandwidth because the bigger players might want to preserve their respective ‘exchange-locally-charge-internationally’ status.
Neutral NAPs and IX need data centers and meet me rooms so it might sound like a catch22 at first. However it is not. With at least two to three facilities based optical fiber Internet service providers in all three major cities of Pakistan, a feed-the-goose thinking by the bigger players is the need of the day. Grow the base market and the business will grow in turn.
Karachi again: There is one TIV certified data center in Karachi now. It has a decent MeetMe Room. We have fiber providers in Karachi who can a) use it for themselves to come there at the MMR and b) offer dark core solely for this pull-them-to-IX effort to at least one of their sizable competition. And in here lies the catch. Do they have the heart big enough to do that? For towel-manufacturers head, this is a tall order.
Could someone think loudly on the same lines in Lahore? and Islamabad?
Comrades, help us all think aloud!
p.s I have nothing against towel-manufacturing industry. Just using it as a metaphor.