Current state of Peering

Ok, so there’s been a ton of hoopla around MWEB’s decision to refuse to pay for local transit. Few have openly supported them with many such as Telkom (SAIX)and MTN somewhat less than enthusiastic.

I thought it might be of interest to provide my perspective as a proponent of public peering.

Neology went live at JINX on the 18th of February – within 12 hours we had peered with 60% of the active peers at JINX. Within a couple of weeks the only JINX participants with whom we didn’t peer were MTN and Internet Solutions. Both these providers have somewhat more involved requirements and generally don’t peer without traffic equivalence [a similar ratio of inbound and outbound traffic] and hot potato handoff at all their points of presence. I personally feel they’re rather archaic in their thinking – but let us not get caught up in a discussion of the practices of  the dinosaurs.

Anyone not peering at JINX, CINX or privately needs to pay for some form of transit. Telkom often then becomes the de facto transit provider at it has a least some form of connectivity with basically all ISPs in South Africa. If you don’t get local transit you may need to route over international links to get to other destinations within SA.

So why did MWEB decide to disconnect from Telkom’s network? Quite simply, they have a large user base and a fair proportion of South African content and they feel that there should not be undue costs associated with serving either their customers or content. MWEB has acquired extensive international capacity – enough to reduce the per megabit cost to less than Telkom charges for local transit (a sad state of affairs).

Since MWEB no longer pays for local transit a number of are no longer locally available. As such traffic now routes internationally. Other than increasing latency dramatically the general impact should be minimal, provided all involved ISPs have sufficient international capacity. MTN, Vodacom and Internet Solutions have been highlighted here but there are a number of other ISPs who don’t have any connectivity other than via SAIX who will also be affected.

MWEB have taken a brave stance and it seems to have already had a positive impact:

  • Internet Solutions seems to be peering based on the IS Looking Glass
  • Vodacom (who are STILL not at JINX) are likely to peer soon. I’d guess this will be a private direct peering instead of an open peering situation at JINX.
  • By pushing more players to peer at JINX and CINX we can expect positive progress towards getting more players peered – in the past 4 weeks 3 new peers have come online!

What is intersting is how few new peers have actually come online in the past year vs what we’ve seen in the past few months – something I’m personally VERY happy to see.

I do expect that there will be some backlash from companies negatively affected due to the additional latency – MWEB may lose some customers but they are achieving their goal of reducing costs while actually doing something positive for the South African Internet economy.

For those that have an interest in a review of peering, its benefits and business models, I can only recommend one site: Dr Peering. I had the privilege of getting to know William at the recent AfPIF meeting in Kenya. He’s a dynamic speaker and his approach to peering is something I wish more of the local ISPs would internalise and execute on.

Here’s to hoping MWEB continues to push the envelope in a positive manner.

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