MWeb wants all SA Internet providers to enter into open bilateral peering relationships to allow the free exchange of Internet traffic, the Naspers-owned company said on Wednesday.
Peering is the business relationship whereby service providers reciprocally facilitate the flow of data between each other’s customers. “Open peering is the free exchange of Internet traffic between two ISPs and is an international norm,” MWeb says.
“Open peering is a very important part of creating an affordable, efficient Internet market in SA,” says MWeb CEO Rudi Jansen (pictured). “It will give users a better Internet experience and break the stranglehold that a few large players currently exert over the rest of the market.”
Jansen says open peering is the “logical next step to liberating the Internet market”.
“Peering is quite badly organised in SA,” he says. “We want to get peering going properly in this market.”
Jansen says the bigger players — including Telkom, Internet Solutions and MTN Business — are reluctant to peer freely with smaller providers, preferring instead to charge for interconnection. “There is some peering, but it’s not as big as it could be.”
The Internet Service Providers’ Association, and industry body, helped establish peering points in Gauteng (the Johannesburg Internet Exchange) and in the Western Cape (the Cape Town Internet Exchange) but not everyone peers through these facilities, Jansen says.
He says SA has a poorly developed peering infrastructure and that most of the big Internet access providers charge “exorbitant fees for traffic to transit to and from their networks”.
“This is a direct result of restrictive peering policies applied in the past,” Jansen says. “It has allowed Internet access providers to protect revenue streams at much higher rates than international norms. It is also why it is cheaper to route traffic abroad destined for SA, than it is to route that traffic locally. As a result of these policies, growth in the industry has been slow.”
MWeb says peering can be compared to the much talked-about interconnection rates for voice minutes. “High charges make the model attractive for operators, but restrict
competition and limit growth.”
Says Jansen: “The more open and fair the interconnection, the more growth the industry will see as a result of the increased competition.”
He says peering agreement discussions have already begun and MWeb plans to invite other service providers and operators to enter into peering relationships “as soon as possible”. — Staff reporter, TechCentral