SEACOM has implemented a new peering policy which prevents many South African Internet service providers (ISPs) from peering directly with the company.
SEACOM said it has reviewed its open peering policy and it has decided to change to selective peering with immediate effect.
This means that many local ISPs will no longer be able to freely and openly share traffic directly with SEACOM.
These ISPs received the following message from the company:
“SEACOM has identified your network as one of those which we will not be peering with.”
“The peering session with your network will be removed within 7 days from the date of this notice.”
Free and open peering
The free exchange of internet traffic between service providers – known as free and open peering – has revolutionised broadband access in South Africa.
Before widespread open peering, smaller ISPs had to pay companies like Telkom and Internet Solutions for transit to interconnect with other networks.
This additional transit cost, which was typically charged on a per-Mbps basis, was a big hurdle in launching fast and affordable broadband access in South Africa.
This changed after former MWEB CEO Rudi Jansen said in October 2010 that the days of paying for local transit were over.
“We have made a decision that we will not pay anybody for transit traffic any more. If you don’t want to peer with us, that is it. We will not pay you one single cent any more,” Jansen said.
This started a free and open peering revolution where service providers followed MWEB’s lead to share traffic freely.
Even Internet Solutions, which used to resist free and open peering, recently said it would become “more open and actively engage in peering”.
Industry players comment
Some industry players were surprised by SEACOM’s announcement, as it seems to go back to the days of restrictive peering policies.
One industry source, who asked to remain anonymous, told MyBroadband that SEACOM is now behaving like Internet Solutions and Telkom in the old days.
“It is my opinion that they are trying to force people into IP Transit with them via peering bait and switch,” he said.
An ISP owner told MyBroadband that SEACOM’s decision could be due to its growing product range.
“I imagine they face interesting conundrums given that they are now a submarine cable system, an IP transit provider, a business ISP, and a residential ISP,” he said.
SEACOM told MyBroadband 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.
Transformation in local telecoms
SEACOM said that since its launch in 2009, it has been instrumental in driving price transformation within the local South African market and breaking many of the pricing regimes that previously existed.
“SEACOM has been a key partner in enabling large OTT and cloud providers to establish local presences within South Africa,” it said.
This further reduced the need for international transit and has improved service quality in South Africa.
“For these reasons, SEACOM believes the decision will have no bearing on the service quality or pricing of local Internet services either to ISPs or consumers in South Africa,” SEACOM said.