Engineer peering

The Italian Internet Peering Landscape by Mauro Magrassi of MIX – the Milan Internet Exchange #peeringweek

Forewords: The Italian Landscape

Basic facts about Italy and its Internet Landscape:

a. Italy has a strong incumbent, one of the strongest in Europe. It has been amongst the first in splitting domestic and global/foreign business into two separate branches, where the international one is Sparkle, one of the Renesys baker’s dozen, if not a Tier-1.

b. most of the business is concentrated around Milano as this city is the sixth european telecommunication services market according to Telegeography.  Nearly all internet traffic is backhauled there in a ‘Docklands-like’ location known as Via Caldera, a business campus located on the west side of the city close to the highway ring.

c. following Telecom Italia approach, nearly all the big national players (carriers and ISPs) have been always trying to attack adjacent markets, like colo, system integration and so on. As a result of this carrier neutral co-locators have always found an extremely hostile environment there, and are almost unknown. Even in Milano there is just one of them. Basically anybody which has a national network have developed his own data centre.

d. Italy is not a language or cultural hub for the neighboring countries, but the country’s position is key in the Mediterranean telecommunication scenario.  Italy provides submarine cables destined for continental Europe an attractive landing and terrestrial network interconnection at least 1,000 kilometres earlier than anybody else. The Telecom Italia strategy focused on dominating the business with little or no interest in growing its global size. The company’s attempts to maintain high margins had the consequence of keeping all the landing stations locked for a long time. But Italian shores can be connected to North Africa and the Balkans with cables which do not require signal regeneration, so the potential is still there.

e. the country has large digital divide areas due to his geography and digging fibers can be sometimes tricky (Roman ruins are everywhere) but on the other hand has huge numbers of smartphones, mobile subscribers, and smart tv sets. WISPs are growing across the country outside large towns and where the copper infrastructure is unable to provide high speed broadband.

History: How peering developed in the Country throughout the Eras

Unsurprisingly most of the interconnection and peering has been carried out within the Caldera Campus in Milano. MIX, Milano Internet Exchange, the main Italian exchange was created there in the mid Nineties by independent ISPs, out of the ashes of some Academic network early attempts.

MIX evolved from a volunteer effort to an enterprise-association status in 2000, while Telecom Italia competitors traded the acquisition by TI of the second largest dial-up provider with an open peering policy obligation for Telecom Italia domestic network on MIX, and with national players only, for a six years term, then extended up to 2012. Several regional/local IXP were born in the meanwhile (Rome Namex, Turin Top-ix, Padova Vsix among them).

Incumbent Depeering Manoeuvres 2012-2013

The termination of the open peering policy for Telecom Italia with respect to the other national ISPs on the Exchanges was announced in 2012. The 6 years obligation was kept in place by Telecom Italia as a business decision but after another six years they decided the time was come to change this.

After a long period of speculations and rumors the depeering took place starting June 2013. As a result of this the Telecom Italia domestic network is still connected by means of private peering with some of the other largest national networks, whereas most of the small player traffic and large OTT services are routed through Sparkle.

This implies that some Italian national traffic is routed abroad as Sparkle has not been particularly successful in selling transit to national small-medium players and nearly nobody has agreed  to buy a paid for peering service from Telecom Italia’s Domestic network.

Ultra high speed broadband is still not developed in Italy so the latency increases caused by the international routing that may impact on end users traffic are there, but hard to detect.

Current Status: IXP collaboration, Peering Manifesto

Reaction to this has related mainly in the application of moral pressure from the smaller ISPs towards the Incumbent. The pitch is that the ICT industry already suffers from high data transport services costs, high colocation fees due to lack of competition in the hosting and data center market and also Internet transit costs reflect this outside Caldera.

Internet Exchanges have agreed to strengthen their collaboration by jointly producing a peering Manifesto explaining the benefits of Peering and the Value of Internet Exchanges for the Digital Economy.  A huge debate arises due to the increasing risks of eavesdropping on traffic if the connection between end users and Public Administration servers actually leaves the country. There are also concerns about the reduced level of control if traffic is exchanged in a strict hierarchical way like it was 20 years ago where the traffic between Telecom Italia and its competitors was traveling the Ocean, being exchanged at 60th Hudson NYC…

Other peering week posts you might like to read include:

UK internet history – The Early Days of LONAP by Raza Rizvi
INEX’s IXP Manager – Tools to help manage an Internet Exchange by Barry O’Donovan
Regional Peering in the UK by James Blessing
Co-operation makes internet exchanges future proof by Pauline Hartsuiker
Experience of launching an IXP in North America by Ben Hedges
The evolution of an IXP network engineer by Rob Lister
Why does Scotland need an Internet Exchange? by Charlie Boisseau

Trefor Davies

By Trefor Davies

Liver of life, father of four, CTO of, writer, poet,

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