MWEB cuts local transit links: The peering war begins

MWEB stunned the local ADSL market in March 2010 when they launched their affordable uncapped services, but at the time MWEB CEO Rudi Jansen said that this was only the beginning of their quest to ‘free the web’ in South Africa.

Jansen explained at the time that free and open peering was essential to help increase competition in the telecoms market which would then drive down the price of bandwidth in the country.

Since March MWEB has launched many new services, including uncapped wireless broadband connections and an uncapped bonded ADSL offering, and has started to push the envelope on free and open peering.

Last week Jansen said that they made a conscious decision that as from next month they will not pay for transit traffic.  “So if you don’t want to peer with us, that is it! We will not pay you one single cent anymore,” said Jansen.

Actions speak louder than words

MWEB is making good on their promise a little earlier than expected.  The company will sever its local transit with all telecoms operators and ISPs which do not peer with them directly this morning, with Telkom/SAIX to follow early next week.

This move has sent shockwaves through the local ISP market, prompting companies like Hetzner to pro-actively warn their clients that they may experience slow speeds to Hetzner’s hosted servers in SA when sitting on an MWEB connection.

These severed transit routes mean that MWEB will have no local links to or from big players like Vodacom and MTN, necessitating international routing to share traffic.

MWEB ISP CEO Derek Hershaw explained that MWEB will not ‘black hole’ any local ISP’s traffic. “We will simply be rerouting traffic away from congested and very expensive local transit links to our international bandwidth, which is significantly cheaper and not congested,” said Hershaw.

The severed transit routes and links will however not only affect outgoing MWEB traffic – hence from MWEB subscribers trying to access content on MTN or Vodacom’s networks – but also traffic from Vodacom and MTN subscribers trying to get onto the MWEB network.

This means that MTN and Vodacom subscribers who want to read News24, visit DStv Online or read the latest financial news on Fin24 will most likely be routed internationally by Vodacom and MTN.

This in turn will force providers to increase their international capacity to ensure good service levels – an exercise which can become very costly.

Peer for free, says MWEB

There is however another simpler and cheaper solution than routing traffic internationally:  Peering with MWEB for free. 

Hershaw reiterated that MWEB is very keen to peer with all ISPs free of charge at the Johannesburg Internet Exchange (JINX) and/or the Cape Town Internet Exchange (CINX), and this is what he hopes will happen.

“Hopefully we establish a principal where all ISPs peer on an open basis using the ‘hot potato’ principal – i.e. where you hand the traffic over at the closest point to where it is hosted,” said Hershaw.

Many ISPs are already peering with MWEB at JINX/CINX, including Vox Telecom, Neology and Cybersmart, and there will hence be no impact on them when MWEB cuts their transit links.

It is also understood that Internet Solutions is currently peering with MWEB in a proof-of-concept agreement, significantly limiting the impact of MWEB’s ‘no transit payment’ decision for both companies.

MWEB’s free and open peering push << Good or bad for the industry?  Please give your views

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MWEB cuts local transit links: The peering war begins