[ppml] Policy Proposal 2003-15: IPv4 Allocation Policy for the Africa Portion of the ARIN Region

William Stucke William at zanet.co.za
Tue Sep 23 19:24:09 EDT 2003

Leo Bicknell asked some pertinent questions about "What's special about
Africa"? The answer lies in two related issues: COST and SCALE.

Let's first deal with the issue of cost - and no, it's not a trivial one,
nor is it an "excuse" by Africans for a "free ride".

By way of introduction, in most of the 53 countries in Africa, ISPs don't
have a choice of from whom they get service, nor how it is carried. They are
obliged to use the monopoly incumbent, or go to jail. Some of those monopoly
Telcos are VERY reluctant to assign IP addresses - e.g. Kenya.

> It doesn't matter if your from Africa or Podunk Iowa

I couldn't find a Podunk in Iowa (I gather that the term means "nowhere
town" in American?) but I did find Bonaparte, Iowa, population 465. If I was
an ISP in Bonaparte, Iowa, and I wanted a T1 line to the BWW (Big Wide World
[tm]), it would cost me $1,024 to $1,052 per month from one of two providers
(http://shopfort1.com). If I was an ISP in Africa and I got it from my
state-legislated monopoly Telco, it would cost me ~$55,000 per month for the
same dedicated T1 symmetrical bandwidth.

Shared satellite bandwidth is somewhat cheaper, but obviously of a much
poorer quality - although in many African countries it's all one can get.

Additionally, the cost of leased lines to one's customers, or to local
peering points, is generally several orders of magnitude higher than in the
North American continent.

On the income side, the picture is just as bleak. My company charges $14 per
month for an unlimited access dial-up connection, for example. That compares
rather well with a typical North American ISP, I suspect, especially
considering that my primary input cost is 55 times higher than in Podunk (or
75 times higher than in California) ;-)


By way of comparison with Bonaparte, Iowa, the population of African
countries varied from 80,000 (Seychelles) to 116,930,000 (Nigeria) in 2001.
A total of 817 million people shared 1.5 Gbps outgoing - the equivalent of
1000 T1s - in 2002.

Market sizes are not large. In fact they're tiny. There are only 1,600,000
dial-up subscribers, and hardly any cable or DSL subscribers, in the whole
of Africa. The reasons for this include extortionately high Telco costs (we
don't have ANY free local calls in any African country that I'm aware of),
very low average income - $1600 per capita per year in sub-Saharan Africa,
very low tele-density and low literacy rates. Not forgetting the incredibly
high cost of international bandwidth that we "enjoy".

On the tele-density issue, one of the most "connected" and "Internet-active"
countries in Africa, Kenya, only had a total of some 450,000 telephone lines
installed when I last heard. Ghana has 250,000. That's more than Bonaparte,
Iowa, but a lot less than a large town or small city in the USA!

A "really big ISP" (think AOL, Earthlink) in Africa has a few 100,000
dial-up subscribers, or a few hundred leased lines. There are only a handful
of these (I can think of three, off hand), which is why there are only 19
LIRs in sub-Saharan Africa. The overwhelming majority of African ISPs are
far, far, smaller. For them, 1,000 subscribers is a lot.

On the issue of scale, the 10 countries in Africa with the most outgoing
international bandwidth (2002) are (figures in Mbps): -

EGYPT			535
SENEGAL *		 60
KENYA*		 28
GABON	*		 16
NIGERIA *		 15

* = Sub-Saharan Africa

The remaining countries have less than 13 Mbps each, with Equatorial Guinea
at the bottom of the list with 64 kbps for half a million people.

I'd imagine that many of the people on this list have more bandwidth than
most of these entire countries for their ISP alone. How many North American
ISPs have multiple T3s?

It's not a linear relationship, but size of customer base and IP addresses
used are certainly related to bandwidth consumed.

The high cost (relative to income) of being an Internet subscriber in Africa
means that many ISPs have to share a very small market - which leads to few
IP addresses being used. The high cost of operating as an ISP in Africa
means that margins are small to non-existent, and that it's impossible to
expand as we'd like to.

What this means is that $2500 for an IP allocation from ARIN represents
quite a lot of money for an African ISP. Also, because the scale of an
African ISP is so very much smaller, it's also very difficult indeed to meet
the ARIN requirements in terms of using a /20 before being allocated
portable address space.

> That said, this proposal leaves a bad taste in
my mouth because it tells the ISP in Africa that needs a /22 that they
are "special enough" to get it, but the same sized ISP in some other
country is not.

I understand your point, but consider this: there's something else that
leaves a bad taste in my mouth. If I send an email to you in Bonaparte, say,
from anywhere in Africa, I pay the full cost of international transit - both
half circuits. If you send me an email from Bonaparte, I pay the full cost
of international transit - both half circuits. You don't pay a penny for the
international transit. You only pay your "local" connectivity costs of $750
for a T1 in California or $1000 in Bonaparte, Iowa. This represents an
enormous export of scarce foreign currency from the developing world to the
developed world. In fact, Africa pays the developed world some $400M per
year just to send African traffic from one African country to another, via
the USA, Europe and the Far East. (See "The Halfway Proposition"

A point that hasn't been raised yet: PEERING. AfrISPA has been instrumental
in helping a number of countries establish national peering points, with 11
so far installed in total in Africa (AfrISPA can't claim credit for all of
them, mark you). There is *NO* regional peering in place as yet, although
we're working on that too ;-)

It's not impossible to peer at an IXP if you don't have address space
independent from your upstream provider, but it sure is a whole heap
easier - especially if he's uncooperative. It's really difficult to peer
with an ISP in another country (that your upstream doesn't operate in) and
optimise your routing without portable address space.

> If we're going to change the allocation size I believe strongly it
should be a global change

I don't disagree with this point. Bear in mind, however, that part of the
justification of the 2003-15 proposal is to enable more LIRs in sub-Saharan
Africa, so that the infant AfriNIC will have more than 19 members to take
on. This is perhaps a (another) suitable justification for a
geographic-specific policy. ;-)

> - The playing field is level.

I submit that it's far from level, in comparing sub-Saharan Africa with the
North American continent.


William Stucke
ZAnet Internet Services (Pty) Ltd
Chairman - AfrISPA
+27 11 465 0700
William at zanet.co.za

Outgoing mail is certified Virus Free.
Checked by AVG anti-virus system (http://www.grisoft.com).
Version: 6.0.515 / Virus Database: 313 - Release Date: 2003/09/01

More information about the ARIN-PPML mailing list