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  1. #1

    Default SEACOM downtime (25 May 2012)

    SEACOM downtime (25 May 2012)

    Terrestrial cable break on SEACOM system causes slow international access to some customers; problems solved a few hours later, said SEACOM

  2. #2

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    Does it matter anymore with WACS and EASSy cables?

  3. #3

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    Quote Originally Posted by Adoxographist View Post
    Does it matter anymore with WACS and EASSy cables?
    Yes, it does matter. The reasons are complicated and obfuscated.

    In brief, SEACOM isn't owned by a consortium including SA network operators. They resell their bandwidth to whomever wants it. Being the first new cable to land in South Africa and break the monopoly Telkom had through the SAT-3/SAFE cable, they likely picked up a lot of new customers on contract for great deals on wholesale bandwidth.

    This paved the way for the internet landscape we have today in SA, where ADSL is cheaper than ever before, and uncapped accounts are actually an affordable option.

    Many ISPs will provision their customers international bandwidth on SEACOM as a result, with redundancy on systems such as EASSy and SAT3/SAFE. However, this is where the obfuscation comes in, as the bandwidth costs on EASSy and SAT3/SAFE may not be the most competitive, especially when these ISPs are already operating on such thin profit margins.

    Your international internet experience will be extremely limited as the operators walk the fine line between keeping their customers connected, and running at a loss. Big business customers will also get prioritised in these scenarios, for obvious reasons.

    Although WACS is "live" its impact has yet to be felt on a large scale.

    So in short, it certainly does matter when SEACOM goes down

  4. #4

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    Quote Originally Posted by James View Post
    However, this is where the obfuscation comes in, as the bandwidth costs on EASSy and SAT3/SAFE may not be the most competitive, especially when these ISPs are already operating on such thin profit margins.
    "Obfuscation" denotes the intentional concealment of meaning. Are you saying someone is trying to hide the fact that SAT3/SAFE is more expensive.

  5. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by HavocXphere View Post
    "Obfuscation" denotes the intentional concealment of meaning. Are you saying someone is trying to hide the fact that SAT3/SAFE is more expensive.
    As with many business contracts, the parties involved don't like to disclose the figures as part of their operating practices. Plus, the pricing doesn't seem as cut and dried as a the simple 'R29 per GB' end users are familiar with.

    I dug out an old article that will highlight how complicated the pricing models can be.

    SEACOM pricing – how much does it really cost « Telecoms « MyBroadband Tech and IT News

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    But with all the new cables shouldn't the international bandwidth be competitively priced thereby allowing ISP to buy bandwidth at reasonable rates from other companies?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Adoxographist View Post
    But with all the new cables shouldn't the international bandwidth be competitively priced thereby allowing ISP to buy bandwidth at reasonable rates from other companies?
    The simple answer is, yes, the new cables should hopefully prompt more competition in the international bandwidth space.

    When you consider all the factors though, it becomes complicated. Here's a few of my thoughts that come to mind.

    ISPs can't simply buy a quick top-up of international data on a moment's notice. There are usually contracts in place months to years in advance to ensure they have predictable operational costs, and can take advantage of discounts on long-term contracts.

    Likewise, SEACOM (or whichever cable operator) can't simply provision a huge chunk of bandwidth at the drop of a hat to accommodate a wholesale customer that just needs capacity as fall-back when a cable breaks. The cable operators will also have provisioned capacity for their contract customers. All of these things will go into a company's operational cost projections - the local ISPs work on thin margins for profit, juggling the bandwidth costs versus their projected network usage, and purchasing "backup" capacity for these situations. The actual nitty gritty of it all must be very complicated and some actuaries are rubbing their hands in glee as they crunch the numbers.

    In fact, SA bandwidth pricing (both ADSL and mobile data) is the most competitive it has been for years, and a lot of these ISPs will have bottomed out in terms of the pricing they can offer while still turning profit. There are numerous MyBroadband articles discussing that topic. Sure, things could potentially get cheaper if the cable operators start reducing prices, but that's a whole other complicated discussion.

    The cable operators have a lot to contend with as well. They have maintenance and operational costs, and they have lots of customers all along the cable system, and they must maintain business relationships with their carrier partners. SEACOM doesn't actually just plug in the London Internet Exchange - a lot of its transit takes place along carrier partner networks. If your data is heading off to/coming from Asia, it's probably being handed over in Mumbai, India. Just like to local internet landscape, all this peering and exchange doesn't' happen for free.

    You also have to look at the consortium owners of the cables, not just in SA, but all along the cable length. WACS for example (check out the Wikipedia page) has 14 landing points along its route, and is comprised of 14 companies who all have a stake in it.

    Imagine trying to reach a pricing consensus with all these companies involved, bearing in mind that they will not want to undermine their own businesses by re-selling bandwidth to competitors at a low cost which enables their competitors to compete against them on their own infrastructure.

    These are really just a few things I can think of off the top of my head, and I'm sure there are many more complicated matters involved in the pricing model of these undersea cables.

    I think one thing we can agree on is that Internet is SA is only going to improve, although we all like to grumble about it

    I also always bear in mind the everyday miracle of it all. Imagine your little bits and bytes of gaming data flying along these cables all over the world and back again in mere milliseconds. Sometimes things break, and the operators do their best to keep us all connected.

    Below is a map from Steve Song's Many Possibilities blog that projects Africa's connectivity in 2014. Bear in mind the capacities listed there are current maximum theoretical capacity, and the cable operators don't always operate them at full capacity; another factor in their pricing model


  8. #8

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    Thanks for the explanation. !!

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