Wednesday, February 04, 2009

User-generated video in South Africa

There are two major upcoming events in South Africa that will, both directly and indirectly, drive uptake of services like YouTube. Those events are:
  1. The upcoming South African general election
  2. The 2010 FIFA World Cup
The general election
A natural candidate [excuse the pun] for election advertisements, documentaries on parties and candidates, and other related propaganda. This will be more effective if one of the mobile operators does streaming for their users, perhaps in collaboration with YouTube.

The soccer world cup
Unless FIFA does something crazy with the streaming rights, this will be a tough one to get right. The SABC have all of the broadcast rights, and will probably moan at anything unusual or technically creative. As above, partnership with one of the mobile operators will be most important. Especially considering how many people have mobiles vs computers. Of course, since many of those mobile phones are really old, perhaps some aatv-style filtering will be necessary...ahem.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Speculations on Google's peering timing

Take the following two events:
  • Google should start peering locally "soon". [Events seem to have overtaken the original plans for implementation by the end of January, so perhaps mid-February?]
  • SEACOM is coming online "in June".
These might seem unremarkable events individually but when viewed together they provoke interesting questions. At the root of all of these questions has to be some speculation regarding the timing of Google's technical entry into this market (ignoring their sales operation) prompted by this observation:
Local Google peering is very close to, but before, the SEACOM launch.

Some obvious simple questions, with possible answers:
  • Q: Are Google using SAT-3 or SEACOM?
    • A: Google is likely to be using SAT-3.
      • It's unlikely that SEACOM have any segments finished and ready for operations yet.
      • However Google probably don't need a full path from South Africa to London; the 'express path' to Kenya would help operations both in Kenya and in South Africa, so any costs involved in bringing content to Kenya or South Africa could be amortized over both operations.
      • Google would also like some redundancy in their paths, especially considering the Egypt-to-France portion will be the responsibility of Egypt Telecom.

  • Q: Does Google have a big pipe?
    • A: Probably not.
      • 10 Gbps IRUs are available on SEACOM, but SAT-3's total capacity is 120 Gbps. Even 1 Gbps is a large chunk of the available capacity.
      • Pricing on SAT-3 circuits is also very high, although it'll be under pressure because of the imminent SEACOM launch.
      • However, if Google have negotiated a long-term deal with Telkom, they may have secured better pricing.
      • Presuming they buy a circuit on SEACOM, one assumes it will be a 10 Gbps IRU.

  • Q: Why hasn't Google peered in South Africa before this?
    • A: It was too expensive for the possible benefit to Google.
      • ISPs must secure bandwidth to provide service to their customers. Those customers want connection to Google, so ISPs wanting to keep customers happy bought the bandwidth.
      • Google started local [service / sales] operations a while back (witness the recent Yellow Pages / Entelligence / Google spat) and are ramping up their presence in the country. Further usage of YouTube, Google Earth & Google Maps, GMail and other bandwidth-intensive services would help drive traffic (and hence advertising earnings), and usage of Google Docs would help steal marketshare from Microsoft in a developing market that Microsoft itself recognises is vulnerable (hence Microsoft's pre-paid Office offering).
      • Google can afford to run the service at a high marginal cost for a while, until SEACOM comes online.
      • Also, it seems the development of the GGC has only recently come to fruition.

  • Q: Why hasn't Google waited until June (e.g. for better pricing)?
    • A: Competitive advantage.
      • Come June, every Tom, Dick, Harry, Yahoo! and Microsoft will be presumably be buying large circuits to tie in local datacenters or extend peering.
      • Moving first allows better publicity (even via word of mouth as opposed to above-the-line advertising) and can be used by their sales team as a competitive advantage.
Anything else?