Officials want Telecom Cambodia to do key job already handled by independents.
The danger with centralisation is it creates a single point of failure.
TWO Internet exchange points (IXPs) are operating in Cambodia with the support of the majority of Internet service providers (ISPs), despite previous comments from the government that it wants state-owned Telecom Cambodia to monopolise the key connectivity service.
Industry insiders say the two firms already provide the neutral links necessary to allow the free exchange of information online and question the independence of Telecom Cambodia, which also operates as an ISP.
Without interconnectivity between the different Internet providers, users with one provider will not be able to access Web pages hosted by another firm through domestic channels, Mike Gaertner, chief operations manager at Sabay IXP, said.
Instead, traffic would need to be routed to an international exchange, but this would result in slower Internet speeds and a capital outflow of well over US$100,000 a month due to high international bandwith costs.
Government intervention was not necessary as attempts to provide interconnection in Cambodia through private links had been successful to date, Gaertner said.
“We have 31 operating ISPs and only five smaller ISPs are not interconnected; we do not see the need for a government initiative.”
However, Hy Borin, a system administrator with Wicam, a domestic ISP, said there has long been an industry rumour that Telecom Cambodia planned to establish an IXP supported by a government-sanctioned monopoly early next year.
“The issue is that Telecom Cambodia is also an internet service provider, in competition with other ISPs in Cambodia,” he said. “An exchange should be implemented by a neutral company.”
Without independence at the point of exchange, there would be concerns about potential favoritism with the quality levels of interconnectivity, he said, adding he was also concerned Telecom Cambodia would abuse its monopoly position and charge inflated rates for the service.
The two IXPs presently active in Cambodia – Sabay, which also operates the popular online game JXII, and Finder IXP– do not charge for the service at present.
Finder IXP owner Stephen Gibberd said he welcomed a potential government-run exchange as long as it did not operate as a monopoly.
“The danger with centralisation [of IXPs] is it creates a single point of failure,” he said, adding competition between multiple exchanges also kept rates low and downtime due to repairs minimal.
Cambodia’s information and computer technology (ICT) community voiced its support for privately run Internet exchanges at a Government-Private Sector Forum meeting in July. It requested the government “acknowledge the existences of neutral established domestic Internet exchanges such as Finder”, and called for it to “let the ISPs choose which domestic Internet exchange to connect to.
“Finder IXP, a local company, a neutral party in the eyes of the ISPs (precisely because Finder is not an ISP) has successfully connected 14 ISPs … translating into huge savings on international bandwith costs,” sector representatives said, according to the meeting agenda. They also noted Finder IXP ran the domestic exchange on a nonprofit basis.
Previously, various Cambodian Internet providers had unsuccessfully attempted to establish exchanges, Gibberd said. “It came down to the trust issue. ISPs see each other as competitors. It’s hard to convince every Internet provider to route all their traffic through one ISP.”
The firm intends to eventually offer hosting to turn a profit, but presently operates altruistically in concert with gaming company Sabay, which enables customers of connected ISPs to play JXII affordably, Gibberd said.
“Gaming is relatively new to Cambodia,” said Gaertner. “It requires lots of bandwith, which is expensive. Before our IXP in 2007, it was necessary to pay international rates to play our game.”