NZNOG 2015: Networking the Pacific is not as simple as it seems

By on 30 Jan 2015

Category: Tech matters

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Yesterday morning, Jon Brewer for NSRC presented at NZNOG on the Pacific networking scene.

He did a really good job of showing how the Pacific floor is covered by a mesh of fibre connecting the developed economies, but they have bypassed many of the smaller island economies.

There are sound economic reasons why this happens: if you tear off a lambda of light to feed an island state you pass by, you cannot sell that lambda end-to-end to well paying banks and private industry: its never cheap or free, to connect the bypassed economies into the network. So, unless there is some cross-subsidy or other reason (like needing landfall to re-generate signal) its expensive come what may.

Interestingly, there is now a provider (O3B) which is exploring a constellation of medium-earth-orbit satellites for digital communications, and in theory, these can offer lower round-trip-time (RTT) than some of the fibre paths. But in practice, this is not yet proving fully viable for deployment.  Price is also influencing which technologies are used, and the fibres which are available are often being bypassed to use (far) cheaper satellite communications

Jon has done mapping of the RTT to the well known locations you can get cloud services, and compares them to the ‘best’ RTT you could expect from a fibre run. The variance in path delay for many of the pacific economies is stark: five or six times more delay, due to sub-optimal paths being taken. This has a huge impact on the quality, and price of high-speed Internet offerings in these locations.

The history of the deployment of the cables was shown as a Google Earth animation and it’s well worth downloading his presentation (when it’s online) to see the history of the fibre deployments.

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