11 Dec

Regulating for Inclusion workshop

Last week I visited Delhi and spent some time at the “Regulating for Inclusion” workshop. I usually do not attend non-NOG events but this one seemed interesting and was relatively easy to attend as was in Delhi.

Discussion on backhaul

There is quite a bit of talk as well as focus on the backhaul capacity but somehow discussion missed a very important element of the picture – Internet Exchange Points (IXP). Unless we have a vibrant number of exchanges and a broad sense to build & promote exchanges, we cannot really tap the Gig capacity of modern fibre to the home systems. In the absence of IXPs, we would end up in having a large part of interconnection in Mumbai, Chennai (and possibly Delhi, though Noida seems to be the case instead of Delhi). Imagine the amount of backhaul capacity we would need on the middle mile in these cases. Furthermore, traffic going out of region reduces the resiliency of the overall system in case of high-stress periods of natural disaster etc.

There are close to 65000 (IPv4) and 17000 (IPv6) autonomous networks in the world and broadly top 20 of them carry as much as 80%-90% of the retail eyeball traffic. Whether we like this concentration factor or not, that has been the case lately for now. So one has to ensure that we take care of this traffic efficiently. A large part of this traffic is repeated accessed/viewed content. This includes the traffic of Google (YouTube for a large part), Facebook, Netflix, etc on the content side and Content Delivery Caches (CDNs) of these respective content networks as well as commercial CDNs like Akamai, Cloudflare, Fastly, Limelight etc. So to design effective networks we have to keep these in mind and ensure architectures which promote more local peering and interconnection. It won’t only serve existing traffic of eyeball networks but will also promote local players who can then set up own PoPs as well as caches at such neutral interconnection points. Once at an event my good friend & teacher Martin Levy (Network Strategist at Cloudflare) compared the ratio of population Vs IXPs in Europe Vs India and as one can imagine results were pretty bad. It’s important that going forward we promote more IXPs in India in all the models whether it’s privately run or not for profits or Govt. supported IX like NIXI.

Apart from that, I learnt the fact that somehow Govt. misinterpreted the Supreme Court ruling in the 2G scam which mandated for auction of the spectrum only. Seems like that is not only the case with access spectrum but lately has been the case with backhaul spectrum used for the microwave. For millimetre wave where the beam in pencil-sized, one can go for the light regulation route as there in case of the US. Also one of panellist mentioned that as of now we have 40% of fibre-connected towers (rest via microwave backhaul). From my experience of looking at the towers in the city areas – I think way more than 40% are fibre-connected. One can always fibre it by looking at the building & telco pits nearby. Though it may not be 100% accurate way of judging because towers have 2-3 telcos and there may be one on fibre & other on microwave backhaul. As soon as we include non-urban sites in the picture number surely reduces down significantly.