This article is a repost of my blog which originally appears in Telecom Asia, with their kind permission.
Since the May-28 Senate hearing investigating the Philippines’ slow and expensive internet, local IP peering has gained traction and media has since caught on. This articleby a popular online news site garnered 4,000 shares on Facebook and 220 retweets on Twitter. What this says is that people are eager to understand the problem and know about possible solutions, no matter how highly technical they may be.
A few years ago, the National Telecommunications Commission had tried to issue an order mandating telcos and ISPs to peer via the Philippine Open Internet Exchange (PHOpenIX) being operated by the Department of Science and Technology’s (DOST) Advanced Science and Technology Institute (ASTI).
But the country’s incumbent telco and largest ISP PLDT opposed the order, arguing that ASTI may not have the capability to “maintain security and service quality.” Three years hence, the proposal has resurfaced at the recent Senate hearing. This time, second largest telco Globe issued an official statement supporting NTC’s proposal of mandatory peering.
Various studies suggest that peering should not be forced upon ISPs and has to remain voluntary. But there are cases like Italy where government intervened to make peering happen. Regardless of these debates, however, there seems to be an agreement on the benefits of peering to all players involved. And with quality improving and costs decreasing, customers ultimately stand to gain from the invisible handshake among ISPs that is peering.
Below I continue my conversation with Wilson Chua of Bitstop.ph, the first local ISP to peer through the PHOpenIX, the only publicly funded, neutral, and non-profit internet exchange point in the country.
TA: What benefits has Bitstop, as a small local ISP, gained from peering?
Bitstop has saved a lot of bandwidth on both directions of the traffic.
For our hosted clients, we have seen increasing bandwidth going out of our center into the PHOpenIX. This translates to savings of about 35% in outgoing international bandwidth.
For our internet clients, we have seen a huge spike in incoming traffic from YouTube and Google caches served from inside the PHOpenIX. This also translates to savings of about 45% in incoming international bandwidth.
TA: How has your customers benefited from Bitstop peering to PHOpenIX?
They have all benefitted from this with faster access times and more resiliency. However, since most of these network efficiencies occur behind the scene, they may not be aware of what or why this is happening.
Take the case of www.krisaquino.net (website of a local celebrity who’s also the sister of the Philippine president). This website couldn’t be reliably hosted in the Philippines without the support of the PHOpenIX. The website owners are just happy with the faster connection times, lower bounce rates and longer times on-site of their visitors. Their metrics are achievable because of peering. But they may not be aware of how PHOpenIX helps to make this happen.
TA: Are there any downsides to peering?
Peering will primarily negatively affect the big international circuit vendors. As peering increases, the amount of international traffic decreases. They will lose short-term international revenues. This sheds some light into why some telcos are hesitant to support local peering.
You see, every bandwidth that is routed to peering exchanges is bandwidth saved from having to transit the international links. See below the speeds listed from the website stats that each of the exchanges published publicly.
- Korea’ KINX saves about 562 gb EACH SECOND
- Japan’s JIX saves 250 gb EACH SECOND
- HongKong’s HKIX saves around 340 gb EACH SECOND
- Amsterdam’s AMIX saves a whopping 2,800 gb EACH SECOND
And these are the countries that have superfast internet speeds. Do you see the correlation between peering and Internet speeds? Faster local links, less congested international links?
Also when the PHOpenIX increases bandwidth usage to 100 gbps, the projected savings to the Philippines is 100,000 mbps * 100 USD = USD 10 million or about 450 million pesos a month. Let’s peg it at PHP 0.5 billion a month. This does not even count the collateral, downstream benefits to the rest of Philippine society yet.