Clients on SEACOM’s fibre network recently complained that they were unable to access the Property24 and AutoTrader websites.
When asked why this was the case, SEACOM said it had de-peered Property24’s network, meaning that it was no longer possible to directly access the Property24 and AutoTrader websites from the SEACOM network.
However, it is not clear that the de-peering alone is what caused the sites to be inaccessible for SEACOM clients.
One client said that SEACOM told them that it was Property24 that was filtering and blocking traffic from the SEACOM network to their websites.
Property24 CEO JP Farinha told MyBroadband that the connectivity problems were caused when the NAPAfrica Internet exchange point in Cape Town changed IP address ranges, and their existing peering sessions with SEACOM were disconnected.
“This led to a re-negotiation of our peering arrangements, which is in progress. We are confident a fair solution will be reached,” Farinha stated.
SEACOM’s switch from open peering to selective peering
“In 2019, SEACOM implemented a selective peering policy that has minimum traffic volume requirements,” SEACOM told MyBroadband.
“Property24 and its associated websites, namely www.autotrader.co.za and www.property24.com, don’t meet these minimum requirements in that they do not generate the minimum amount of traffic required to peer with SEACOM.”
SEACOM stated that its selective peering policy is applied without bias based on clearly stated minimum requirements and that all potential peers are treated with the same scrutiny.
“Therefore, Property24 was de-peered in May 2020 and could continue to operate via paths offered by other networks that SEACOM peers with,” SEACOM said.
South African ISPs criticise selective peering policy
When SEACOM first announced its change from an open peering policy to selective peering last year, it received criticism from several industry players.
One industry source, who asked to remain anonymous, told MyBroadband that SEACOM is now behaving like Internet Solutions and Telkom in the old days.
Others stated that SEACOM’s decision to stop peering with smaller network operators is the latest in a series of decisions dating back to 2011, when the company decided to start competing in the retail space with its own customers.
SEACOM launched a suite of retail products in 2011 including IP VPN, Internet, IP transit, Ethernet, and IPL (International Private Line) offerings, which competed against its own wholesale clients.
This move was widely criticized at the time, with some industry players highlighting that it opened the door for anti-competitive behaviour.
SEACOM told MyBroadband at the time that its initial open peering arrangement allowed many networks to enjoy costless transit across its network.
“However, over the last few years, the increase in traffic through this arrangement has begun to put SEACOM customers at a disadvantage,” the company said.
“For SEACOM to continue to offer services of the highest quality the decision was taken to move to a selected peering policy.”
In addition, SEACOM said, the importance of international transit has decreased with the local availability of international content and services.
SEACOM added that it does not believe the changes will significantly impact the local telecoms space.
Working on a solution with Property24
SEACOM said that it is working with Property24 to resolve the interconnection problems between their respective networks.
“Operators that do not meet our minimum requirements no longer peer directly with SEACOM but continue to operate via paths offered by other networks that SEACOM peers with,” the network operator told MyBroadband.
“SEACOM and Property24 are currently in negotiations with the aim of finding a workable [solution]. We are confident a fair solution will soon be reached.”
Property24 and AutoTrader hosted on different networks
One curious issue is that the Property24 and AutoTrader websites are hosted on completely different networks.
While property24.com points to an IP address owned and operated by HomeFind24 with autonomous system number 328174, autotrader.co.za resolves to an address on the Amazon Web Services network.
Farinha explained that only the default record for autotrader.co.za is hosted on AWS. The actual site is hosted on a server in Cape Town which has an IP address within Property24’s 126.96.36.199/24 range.