My Thoughts on Technology and Jamaica: Jamaican Telecom Providers ISP on IXP Not Peering –What is Peering, Why is Peering Important and Why Jamaican Telecom Providers are not Peering

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Monday, June 15, 2015

Jamaican Telecom Providers ISP on IXP Not Peering –What is Peering, Why is Peering Important and Why Jamaican Telecom Providers are not Peering

It is now six (6) months since the launch of the IXP (Internet Exchange Point) in Papine, St. Andrew on Thursday January 1st 2015.


Despite this have not yet started to benefit from it, as surprisingly, the Telecom Providers have not begun to make Cross-Network Hand-overs of Internet Traffic otherwise known as Peering possible as reported in the article “Telecoms connected to local Internet exchange, but not yet sharing data”, published Sunday June 7, 2015, by Mcpherse Thompson, The Jamaica Gleaner.    

So what exactly is the IXP?

Primer on the IXP Internet Exchange Point – Low Latency and Faster Internet

Originally installed in September 2014, the IXP went live on Thursday January 1st 2015.

The aim of the IXP is to eliminate the need for Local ISP (Internet Service Providers) e.g. LIME Jamaica, Digicel, FLOW or eGov, routing traffic requests to Servers hosting Websites or Cloud based Services abroad. This is done via by providing Server space for International and Local companies to mirror their Websites and Cloud based Services here in Jamaica using a Jamaican domain name e.g. “.com.jm, .org.jm, .edu.jm”.

For example, if someone in Jamaica is accessing Hotmail.com or outlook.com on a smartphone or a computer, normally your traffic request is routed via your ISP, such as FLOW, to the ISP’s International Gateway Switch. That International Gateway Switch, really a very large MGW (Media Gateway) inside of a Router, handles both Voice Calls and Data Traffic.

Please note that Voice and Data are really just Data within the switch, with each being prioritized and assigned traffic in multiplexed Logical Channels.

That traffic request along with millions of other requests is multiplexed and routed via undersea Fiber Optic cables as described in Kelroy’s blog article entitled “Undersea Cables keep the Caribbean connected to the World Wide Web” to another International Gateway Switch in Florida, possibly owned by AT&T.

That International Gateway Switch in Florida then takes the traffic request coming from Jamaica and hand it off via a series of Gateway Switches in each LATA (Local Access Transport Area) within the US of A until it reaches Microsoft's Servers where the accounts for Hotmail.com or outlook.com are hosted.

The request is fulfilled and the information fetched is then sent back in the reverse direction, finally terminating on the device used by the individual on their smartphone or a computer accessing Hotmail.com or outlook.com. Several such request and fetch cycles may be executed before a Website or Cloud based Service is fully displayed on your browser or accessed by the program making the request.

With the IXP, this length of time taken to execute these request and fetch cycles routed from Jamaicans on the Internet is eliminated, as International and Local companies can host a local mirror of their Websites and Cloud based Services here in Jamaica. Thus the need to route Internet traffic abroad to these Servers hosting these Websites or Cloud based Services is removed.

This reduction is time reduces the overall latency or total time from a request is made and the information requested is fetched from the Website or Cloud based Service. Even access to some Websites and Cloud based Services e.g. Microsoft One Drive may soon be hosted at either Digicel or FLOW Tier Three Cloud Server as explained in my Geezam blog article entitled “Digicel’s Cloud Backup Services – A deep Analysis” as the number of paying Jamaican customers increases.

Jamaican Domain name Web Services –Peering needed for Server Farms to come

In so doing, Telecom Provider save on paying termination tariffs for traffic originating in Jamaica to terminate on Servers for Local and International Websites and Cloud based Services as those services are already duplicated on a Server located at the IXP. Best of all, it should make getting a Jamaican domain name i.e. “.com.jm, .org.jm, .edu.jm” a lot easier than the current process.

Aside from Website Administrators, Jamaican customer should notice that Internet traffic is faster when accessing certain Websites and Cloud based Services that have already set up their own Servers to connect to the IXP. Currently all four (4) Telecom Providers in Jamaicans have connected to the IXP located in Papine, Kingston:

1.      eGov
2.      Telecom Provider Digicel
3.      Telecom Provider LIME
4.      Triple Play Provider FLOW

However, this is contingent on Local and International owners of Websites and Cloud based Services hosting a mirrored copy of their website here in Jamaica on the IXP.  Also, the Telecom Providers listed, who also happen to be ISP's, must also engage in Cross-Network Hand-overs of Internet Traffic or Peering in order for Jamaican to reap the full benefit of the IXP.

This currently what they are not doing. Without Peering, the business of setting up Server Farms in Jamaica will not take off; Peering will make it worth doing business in Jamaica.

So what exactly is Cross-Network Hand-overs of Internet Traffic for an IXP? And how does it benefit the Telecom Providers and Jamaica?

Telecom Providers ISP on IXP Not Peering –What is Peering Explained

Cross-Network Hand-overs of Internet Traffic, also called Peering, is where ISP or Content Providers connected via an ISP exchange Internet Traffic.

This is effectively the same thing as a Cross-Network Hand-overs  between a GSM (Global System Mobile) Voice Networks, CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) Networks or a mixture of both via their respective MGW (Media Gateway) acting as the intermediary. This makes Cross-Network Calling possible i.e. a Digicel subscriber being able to call a LIME subscriber, as the MGW handles the handover of traffic between the two (2) Telecom Providers.

In the case of a Internet Traffic, Cross-Network Hand-over or Peering occur when a request is made by an individual on the Internet via one Telecom Provider's ISP for a Website or Cloud based Service e.g. Cloud Server, Website Hosting Server, IM (Instant Messaging) Server that exist exclusively on another ISP.

Why Peering is needed – Double-Travel to access files on Local Server increases Latency

A good example of this is someone in Jamaica accessing Digicel Space, a Cloud Storage service as described in my blog article entitled “Digicel Space Cloud Drive with 1GB Free – Cloud Services as the Twitter Flies in Jamaica in 2015 the Year of the Sheep” while accessing the Internet via FLOW.

Because the request is Digicel Space in my example is uniquely hosted on Digicel's Tier III Cloud Server located here in Jamaica, Peering has to occur via the IXP in order for proper routing of the request to take place. But as the Telecom Providers are currently not peering, that request has to be routed abroad to where Digicel Space Website is hosted on a “.com” website in the US of A, most likely Digicel Jamaica.

This example might seem a bit illogical, being as Digicel has a Tier III Cloud Server which they could host the Login Page for their Digicel Space Services. But because Digicel already has a website that has a considerable amount of traffic and the Tier III Cloud Server is in Jamaica, rather than build a whole new website, they just simply create another page on their Digicel Jamaica website hosted abroad.

They then added scripting to route any Internet traffic request for files stored on Digicel Space Cloud Drive to its physical location on their Tier III Cloud Server. Thus the request from the FLOW customer has to go over the International Gateway based in Florida and then routed by various Gateway Servers from Telecom Providers in the different LATA's in the US of A until it reaches the Cloud Server that the Digicel Website is hosted.

That request is actioned and the traffic is generated coming back to Jamaica in the reverse direction, finally terminating on the IXP and eventually on the Tier III Cloud Server.

Oh my God!

For this reason, anyone hosting Websites and Cloud based Services in a personal Windows or Linux Server at their Home e.g. a Radio Station similar to the one suggested in my Geezam blog article entitled “The Music Industry and the Cloud – Streaming Radio Nirvana”, using FLOW, will be frustrated by a lack of traffic. This is because such back-and-forth makes Internet requests frustratingly slow as the increased distances for requests to travel increases time for signals to travel otherwise called Latency.

For Websites and Cloud based Services to truly spring up in Jamaica, Peering has to be enabled between the Telecom Providers. This makes life a little better for Website entrepreneurs, effectively Content Providers connected to the various ISP's, as it keeps Latency to manageable level, less than say 10ns.

Peering would make it easier to get Local Internet Traffic requests from individuals on other Local ISP's and have requests for traffic routed directly from the IXP directly on their Website and Cloud based Service hosted on their Servers.

Reason why the Telecom Providers are not Peering - Lack of original Content Providers and a fear of Hackers and Terrorists

Good to note that this isn't a competition issue, as the current setup is costing them money.

Rather, the most likely reason why peering isn't ongoing is because there are no Content Providers in Jamaica with their own Servers or anyone legally registered with the GOJ (Government of Jamaica) providing a unique Jamaican service using Servers with a Jamaican domain name i.e. “.com.jm, .org.jm, .edu.jm”.

Thus they are open to peering but have to be selective about providing the facility, as Content Providers willing to set up Websites and Cloud based Services have to be legitimate businesses registered with the Company Registrar of Jamaica in order for peering to be offered.

After all, if you are an ISP and an unregistered company sets up a Cloud Service that is streaming bootleg music and Videos for Free, the ISP might end up facing legal action from the original owner of the copyright.

This would be counter to the original purpose of the ISP, which is to allow Jamaicans with original content to set up Websites and Cloud based Services to sell their content, thereby protecting their right to make money from their content, as the OUR (Office of Utilities Regulation) rightly points out!

Also, enableing peering would open up the possibility of an unregistered company run by computer hackers to set up a Website to process sales of a fictitious product but use that website to steal Credit Card numbers. That too would make the ISP liable to legal action, this time from International Banks and financial institutions, especially if the Website set up by the hackers has known links to terrorists organizations.

For now, the Telecom Providers are merely giving lip service to queries by the Jamaica Gleaner about the real reason why no peering has been enabled. Despite their words, it’s clearly due to a lack of registered businesses approaching them with their interconnectivity plans to process Local Internet Traffic Requests for legitimate services being offered by their Websites and Cloud based Services.



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