MWEB cuts ties over peering

Cape Town - MWEB threw down the gauntlet to local internet providers when the company announced that it would no longer have transit links with MTN, Vodacom and Telkom.

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

Peering is the arrangement of traffic exchange between internet server providers (ISPs). Larger service providers with their own backbone networks agree to allow traffic from other large ISPs, in exchange for traffic on their backbone networks.

"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 MWEB ISP CEO Derek Hershaw.

MWEB CEO Rudi Jansen hinted that the company was intent on changing the internet market in SA when they launched uncapped broadband in March.

"Peering and the IPC cost is the biggest killer of the internet in this market. If those costs are reduced, we'll see costs come down even further," he told News24 at the time.

Cost

Companies like Hetzner, a second tier internet provider, warned clients that they may experience slower speeds to Hetzner's servers hosted in SA when using an MWEB connection.

Hershaw said MWEB hoped that ISPs would peer for free, and reduce the cost of access to subscribers.

"Hopefully we establish a principal where all ISPs peer on an open basis using the 'hot potato' principle - where you hand the traffic over at the closest point to where it is hosted," he said.

Jansen was more direct.

"So if you don't want to peer with us, that is it! We will not pay you one single cent anymore.

"The government needs to get involved and invest in infrastructure. The issue is not international anymore. (International) prices are 40% cheaper than local lines. That's scary," he said.

MWEB's move has taken experts by surprise.

'Huge shifts'

"I didn't expect this, but it means that consumers will now expect data to be cheaper and faster," World Wide Worx CEO and internet analyst Arthur Goldstuck told News24.

He said MWEB's move was a game changer for the South African market, and would have implications for other ISPs.

"Consumers can expect initiatives where ISPs will look for the best deal and we will see huge shifts in the market."

No matter how the market shapes up, it is clear that MWEB has identified itself as a key player, and as more international bandwidth becomes available in SA, users should expect providers to reduce costs.

"MWEB has never stayed the same, from month to month it changes, that's how the internet game changes. We're definitely repositioning MWEB - we are now a first tier ISP, we're bringing significant international bandwidth, we've built local bandwidth. We are a telco (telecommunications company), we aren't just an ISP anymore," Jansen said.

News24 is part of 24.com, a subsidiary of Media24, which is in the Naspers stable. MWEB is a subsidiary of Naspers.


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