OTT and the Thai Digital Economy

According to the Thai Digital Entertainment Content Federation, the Thai content industry remains fragmented and undersubscribed. In terms of size, Thailand’s over-the-top (OTT) market is relatively small, representing 1% of the total APAC market in 2014, according to IDC. The potential of the Thai digital content nonetheless is considered bright. It is the second largest digital content producer on YouTube, only a close second to Japan, and is one of the largest markets in the region for social media platforms such as Line, Facebook and WhatsApp.

The Thai government has identified the content industry as one of the key sectors to enable innovative services for the growth of its digital economy. Against this backdrop, the recent Asia Internet Symposium (AIS) in Bangkok this month examined how and why the Thai content industry and users can leverage on the emerging OTT platform to unleash the potential of the Internet for socio-economic development.

OTT refers to upstream digital applications or services which ride on the open Internet without the direct involvement of network or Internet service providers. This typically includes content, application and service owners and providers such as Skype (VoIP), Google and Facebook.

The OTT revolution has already arrived with countless number of apps exploding every minute. According to an InMobi report, Asian economies were among the top app markets in the world last year when measured by per capita app downloads.

At the AIS, ISOC European Bureau Director Frederic Donck stated that industry observation by regulators reveal mechanisms to extend market dominance, whether through schemes like zero-rating, data caps or paid prioritisation are being carried out by carriers globally. He added that to ensure a level playing field, governments need to keep up with local and global industry developments, as free market alone does not guarantee fair competition, citing examples of collusion among telecom players in Europe.

Presently, there is a lack of uniformity in policies on over-the-top services. For instance, zero-rating is banned in several Europeans countries, but not in others like the US, where only paid prioritization is outlawed. There too lies the complexity in distinguishing between paid peering (considered acceptable) and paid prioritization (unfavourable practice): in the latter, priority transmission at congested nodes is guaranteed for paying content providers, which to advocates of Net neutrality goes against the core principle of an open Internet.

Some general guidelines and best practices can be drawn from more successful markets. The following for instance are being considered by the European Union:

Traffic management – this is considered part of an ISP’s normal operation, and its aim is to ensure that all users are able to access adequate service especially during peak times. It should (a) remain protocol or application neutral; (b) be transparent; (c) not be used as a tool for anti-competitive behavior; (d) not be used as a substitute for adding capacity to alleviate congestion.

Service –end-users should have the freedom to access and distribute information and content, run applications and use services of their choice. This means that blocking, slowing down, degrading or discriminating against specific content, applications or services is prohibited, except when there is court order, or when there is a need to maintain network integrity and security, combat spam, or minimise network congestion. Consequently, specialised services need to define and publicly disclose their quality of service and any dedicated capacity they have for their customers.

The Internet remains the most disruptive innovation today and it continues to revolutionise and shape the future of its users in meaningful ways. Participants at the AIS concluded that OTT development should be actively encouraged as an avenue for innovation among different sectors in Thailand. In education, for instance the Thai Cyber University’s OTT platform complements the current online learning system—it has reinvented the life-long learning platform and has gone beyond old pedagogic approaches.  Meanwhile, the Thai Animation and Computer Graphics Association (TACGA) and the Muay Thai Association worked together to develop a self-study application on the art of Muay Thai as a way of preserving and learning about the national sport.

Numerous examples suggest that OTTs are an effective platform for open innovation, and in providing an opportunity for everyone to become creators or co-innovators. Technology wise, OTT is at the cusp of its own evolution:  the next generation of Internet/Web communication and telecom technologies, WebRTC by IETF-W3C, RCS/joyn by GSMA and mobile Internet via SoLoMo, all soon to be commercially launched will radically change how we experience the Internet and OTT services. But OTT development also comes with basic requirements:

·      An open, neutral and best effort Internet

·      An Internet protocol (IP) based network

·      Open standards that enable a multimodal platform environment

·      Affordable broadband Internet access

The regulation of OTTs has been heavily debated in many advanced markets and these discussions are now capturing the attention of emerging markets  like India and Indonesia. We believe this will not be last word on OTT nor Net neutrality. Keeping the conversation alive and supporting an open Internet will be key for our future as innovators and users of this global network of networks.

Growing the Internet

The many faces of technology, lessons from Asia-Pacific

May and June were filled with very interesting ICT events in Asia Pacific many of which I was lucky enough to attend because I was either fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to speak or, because the event was supported by the Internet Society Asia-Pacific Bureau.

From the slick CommunicAsia megashow in Singapore where MNCs launch their latest products to the 2nd edition of the Aid & Response Summit in Bangkok where disaster and community resilience experts discussed improvements particularly through the use of mobiles, and finally to ICTD Singapore 2015 an information and communication technologies and development conference in Singapore where academics from around the world met to examine, critique and refine ICT used by individuals and the community in the service of human development.  What was interesting about the last event was the acceptance that there are multidisciplinary challenges associated with the engineering, application and adoption of ICTs in developing regions–or for development–with implications for design, policy and, practice.

Held over four days, the ICTD event at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore was packed with more than 100 presentations, panel discussions, demonstrations, workshop and networking opportunities. Sessions were held under the topics of education, disability, agriculture and small business, mobile banking and mobile phones, health and, e-government and politics.  They were all so interesting that it was difficult to select which one to listen to.

There were diverse studies in Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Malaysia and Myanmar.  Some of them include:

-Mobile technology for refugee resilience in urban and peri-urban Malaysia

-The promises and pitfalls of mobile money in Afghanistan: evidence from randomized control trial

-Sada Vehra: A framework for crowdsourcing Punjabi language content

-ICTs for agriculture knowledge management: Insights from DHRUVA, India

-Work-related use and positive livelihood outcomes among mobile phone users in Asia

A few takeaways from these events are that all human activity has now been touched by information and communication technology and everyone can shape the design of these technologies, and, information communication technology has the power to change lives for the better but only if people allow it—or want to empower themselves.

Building Trust Technology

THNOG and the role of a network operators group in the Thai Market

The 9th of March marked another important day in the history of the Thai Internet community with the founding of the country’s first network operators’ group, THNOG, or Thai Network Operators’ Group. Initially a group of 20 individual volunteers (network operators from private and public sector, network registry, network security group and universities), THNOG’s main goal is to promote technical excellence in the network engineering field through local capacity building. THNOG targets network operators, Internet service providers, content developer, network registry, and security professionals.

NOGs are one of the most important Internet resources and actors within the Internet ecosystem. They are informal group of individual network engineers usually affiliated with network operators, Internet exchange points, Internet registries, data centers, and regulators. To date, there are on record approximately between 40 NOGs worldwide, 15 of them in the Asia-Pacific region. We have also observed a significant resurgence of interest especially in developing countries within the APAC region to form new NOGs as well as revive dormant ones, for instance BDNOG, IDNOG and PHNOG

First and foremost, NOGs play a very critical role in ensuring the stability, operational health and robustness of the Internet infrastructure and its critical underlying assets. NOGs also address local technical capacity building needs and are considered frontline Internet champions. It is also important to note that vibrant and strong NOGs tend to be good proxies for identifing thriving Internet ecosystem in the long term. Members of NOGs openly cooperate and collaborate with one another by voluntarily sharing their experiences and knowledge. Therefore, NOGs are commonly known to provide a professional grouping for network engineers who can meet their peers in a social as well as professional context. More advanced NOGs, can sometimes influence good public policy development in the country through its role as a technical authority.

In the case of THNOG, its key objectives includes:

·      Addressing a sustainable and long term capacity building need for its community, including raising the profile of network engineers as a professional and career choice

·      Provide a common peering platform for members to collaborate in areas of common interest (research, best practices, tutorials, special initiatives, technical excellence, conferences)

·      To connect with other NOGs and leverage their experiences and best practices

In the case of THNOG, the importance of creating and ensuring an ample supply of talents in the country as well as contributing to the long term capacity building (life long learning) for the community has been highlighted as a critical mission. This is due to growing concerns among the Thai Internet community on the lack of experienced and qualified network engineers in the market, as a result of engineers moving to other industries offering a more lucrative remuneration and a less stressful work environment, such as banking and finance. In addition, a declining trend of new graduates in the field who choose to work in other fields not related to their discipline has also raised further concerns for the industry.

In conclusion, the growing interest in NOGs in the APAC region is a positive signal of the growing understanding of the critical role local NOGs can play in strategically spearheading the development of the Internet in their countries, as well as in strengthening the immediate community it serves and the broader group of stakeholders it potential can engage with.

Internet Exchange Points (IXPs)

Hurray for the Internet in Asia-Pacific!

New Thai IXP will improve Internet connectivity and sustainability

I recently attended a talk by Dr Kanchana Kanchanasut, Internet Hall of Fame inductee and Vice-President of the Thai Network Information Center Foundation. She spoke about IXPs (Internet Exchange Points) and the room was abuzz with news of the new Bangkok Internet Exchange Point (BKNIX), a neutral community IXP that will be operational in December 2014. The BKNIX is an example of partnership to increase connectivity made possible through the efforts of people like Randy Bush and
Philip Smith, and entities like Alcatel Lucent, NSRC, Netnod, Cisco, and the Internet Society. As I listened, my list of questions were steadily answered.

So what is an IXP and, why is it a good thing?
The physical Internet exchange is an ethernet switch in a neutral location where network operators freely interconnect their networks to exchange traffic. The IXP operator usually provides a switch and rack space, and network interconnect with the IXP fabric.

In order to understand why IXPs are good for us, it helps to understand what the world was like pre IXPs. Internet Service Providers (ISPs) that provide internet connectivity to their customers had at least one or two international connections to the rest of the Internet, and sent/received traffic from each other via international connections this meant expensive, high latency and congested lines.

If every ISPs in a country participates in the IXP, local traffic stays local, the network performs better, and quality of service (QoS) for local traffic improves.

Who joins an IXP?
Typically commercial ISPs, academic and international networks, internet infrastructure operators (eg. ccTLDs), content providers, mobile operators, broadcast and media providers, and government information networks.

Who has them?
There are over 56 IXPs in the Asia Pacific and they can be found in countries from Japan, Hong Kong, and Singapore to Bangladesh, The Philippines, and Vanuatu.

Why are they becoming increasingly relevant?
They are relevant for all countries for both economic and technical reasons. They help reduce costs, better monetizes assets, improve the local Internet economy, attracting content development.

By improving routing and transport, ISPs are better able to economically scale network capacity. With the growth of ultra -broadband Internet connections, there will be a need for an improved, stronger higher performing, sustainable network infrastructure, including a high- capacity routing platform.

Where do you find information about successful IXPs?
Check out our IXP Toolkit and you will find examples like the Nepal IX – launched in 2002 and where most ISPs connected within the first year. Bangladesh IX (BDIX), launched in 2004 also keeps many of the small and mid-sized providers in Dhaka connected.

Other examples include: