Iraq’s Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has the history of not reading the writing on the wall. As the Isis militants advance leaving the trail of massacre, Maliki has bravely picked the mother of all soft targets – the Internet. Doug Madory of Renesys has graphically narrated how the Iraqi government refers “network maintenance” to Internet shutdown. Modern Iraqis, both Shiite and Sunnis, have, however, switched over to mesh network and communicate through an application named FireChat. FireChat was originally developed as a way for people to communicate in areas with poor mobile phone reception, such as underground trains.
Bangladesh Submarine Cable Company Limited, (BSCCL) has signed an MoU with BSNL as a first step to export IP Transit bandwidth to the northeastern states of India across the eastern land borders of Bangladesh. Initially BSNL will procure 10 Gbps bandwidth from Bangladesh and a three-year agreement will be signed very soon. This February, the Bangladesh government decided to export the unused internet bandwidth, following a request from India in July last year seeking 40Gbps bandwidth for eight eastern Indian states. The BSCCL had earlier projected a monthly earning of around Tk4.83 crore ($643,000) from the export of 40Gbps bandwidth; but the MoU for only 10Gbps bandwidth brought down the estimated monthly earnings to only Tk1.
Health of Internet depends on the diversity of route and bandwidth providers in a country. Less than a month ago Renesys has diagnosed the health of Myanmar “as being at severe risk of Internet disconnection” along with Syria, Turkmenistan, Ethiopia, Uzbekistan, Yemen and others. Not anymore! At 19:26 UTC on 8 March 2014, we observed Telenor Global Services activate the first international Internet connection out of Myanmar that didn’t rely on the services of incumbent MPT. At present, Telenor Global Services (AS15932) is only announcing a single prefix from Myanmar, namely, 103.
A submarine cable snaps in every three days while a terrestrial cable gets severed in every 30 minutes somewhere in the world. The global economy counts annual loss of US$26.5 billion due to such disruptions, estimates Ciena. Therefore, route-diversity is the fundamental prerequisite of uninterrupted Internet. Early last year we reported the activation of cross-border terrestrial links between Bangladesh and India.
Since 2010, we at LIRNEasia have been engaged with problems of international backhaul. Renesys, an authoritative voice in this space, has a nice summary of developments in 2013. Here is their conclusion, influenced no doubt by the incredible damage done to US players in this space by the indiscriminate snooping of NSA. Increasingly, simply having inexpensive connectivity in our interconnected world is not enough. As enterprises become more sophisticated consumers of Internet transit, they seek connectivity alternatives that will keep their own customers happy.
Saddam seems to be only physically absent in the post-Saddam Iraq. The Ministry of Communication, instead of an independent regulator, calls the shot in governing the country’s telecom sector. Recently it erratically imposed a tax on the ISPs who procure Internet bandwidth from foreign carriers. The ISPs have immediately loaded that tax on retail prices. Bowing to public anger, the government withdrew the tax.
Myanmar has never been so shaky about getting disconnected before. It has happened after SEA-ME-WE3, Myanmar’s only submarine cable, was snapped at 13 kilometers south of the Irrawaddy Delta’s shore last week. “Works are being carried out to repair the fault as quick as possible in coordination with [a] Singapore-based underwater repair and maintenance team. It is expected to take about one month,” warned Myanmar Posts and Telecommunications (MPT), reports Irrawaddy. Douglas Maduray of Renesys Corp.
It has been business as usual in Istanbul, the largest gateway of Eurasian telecoms traffic. Turkey, unlike Egypt, has not killed the goose that lays golden eggs in terms of telecoms revenue and reputation, despite civil unrest. Jim Cowie, the CTO of Renesys Corporation, has written in his company’s blog: We examined the reachability of social networking sites from our measurement infrastructure within Turkey, and found nothing unusual. We examined the 72-hour history of measurements from inside Turkey to these sites, and found no change in normal behavior. In short: Turkey’s Internet does not appear to have changed significantly in reaction to the current protest events.
It seems to be the high time to compare the state of telecoms between North Korea and Cuba. Cuba’s average salary is US$20 a month and it costs $4.5 per hour to surf the net, which is also heavily filtered – said a report of BBC. It means, the Cuban net users burn 25% of their average national wage in an hour. Cuba has activated her first submarine cable early this year, according to Renesys.
Two weeks back we cautioned about India’s diminishing role as an unavoidable stopover in Eurasian telecoms connectivity. Now India’s Reliance has joined the Bay of Bengal Gateway (BBG) consortium to build an 8,000 kilometer submarine cable system to link Singapore and Penang with Oman via India and Sri Lanka. It has planned to commence carrying commercial traffic by end of 2014. Other members of the consortium are: Telekom Malaysia, Vodafone, Omantel, Etisalat and Dialog Axiata. It is lot more than just another submarine cable.
Renesys report how Egypt went dark. They have worked out a way to tell which countries are easiest to cut off from the Internet and which are harder. How many phone calls does it take to kill the internet? It seems like an odd question to ask about a network once thought to be strong enough to withstand a nuclear attack. However, first-strike mushroom clouds aren’t the biggest threat to the internet anymore.
LIRNEasia and its people have been intimately involved in the spurts and starts of the policy discussion on Bangladesh’s international connectivity. We were early in pointing to the need for an additional cable, pointing to the multiple vulnerabilities created by the single undersea cable controlled by the government-owned BTCL and the non-ring architecture of the dry link from Dhaka to Cox’s Bazar. Now, with 3-4 of the terrestrial cables coming online, we have a natural experiment running in what addressing redundancy means. Renesys has shown the results for those with backup and those without. Neat.