MANILA (03/13/2000) - Local Internet access got a boost last month with the opening of a high-speed Internet gateway to the U.S. owned by the Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. (PLDT).
The new international link, called I-Gate, is expected to improve Internet access in the country, especially for network traffic going to the U.S. and to neighboring countries in Asia. I-Gate is a 45M bits per second (bps) fiber-optic pipe that connects the Philippine Internet Exchange (PhIX) to the Palo Alto Internet Exchange (PAIX) in the U.S.. The international link is fully-owned by PLDT.
"The Internet will continue its phenomenal growth for some time, and that will change the way we do business around the world," said Alfredo Panlilio, PLDT vice president for corporate customer services. He said establishing an infrastructure to support this rapid growth is timely, relevant, and valuable.
Experts present during the launch said that I-Gate would benefit local users once Internet service providers are already connected to the international link. With its available bandwidth, I-Gate can provide faster Internet access and allow local ISPs (Internet service providers) to connect to major Internet exchange points in other countries.
An exchange point is a hub where ISPs within a geographical location interconnect with each other and agree to route data traffic among themselves.
This speeds up data exchange among the ISPs and serves as backup access if the international link goes down.
Because I-Gate is interconnected with the PAIX, ISPs connected to I-Gate can also easily connect to 10 major ISPs in the U.S..
Aside from the Internet exchange interconnection, I-Gate also provides a direct link to seven countries in the Asia-Pacific region, said Nerisse Ramos, PLDT assistant vice president for the Business Solutions Products Center. These are Japan, Korea, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and Taiwan.
Because of the interconnection, Internet traffic going to any of these places won't have to go through a circuitous route. In the past, for example, e-mail going to Malaysia from Manila would have to go through the U.S. first before finally heading on to Malaysia.
"PhIX localized network traffic. I-Gate, on the other hand, regionalizes network traffic and even if the links to the U.S. were down, we could still communicate with these countries," Ramos said.
The I-Gate service is being offered to ISPs, educational institutions and private companies who require fast Internet connections.
Currently, eight local ISPs are connected to the PhIX. Not all of them, however, will immediately be able to use I-Gate. Ramos said ISPs need to subscribe to the I-Gate services, even if they are already connected to the PhIX. The subscription fee depends on several factors -- distance, bandwidth, and so on -- but she estimated that an E1 connection or 2Mbps would cost about US$30,000 to $34,000 per month. This fee covers both the I-Gate subscription and the PhIX connection.
Once subscribed, the customer's router is connected via domestic leased line to the Route Reflector at the I-Gate center. This Route Reflector takes care of routing domestic-bound data to the PhIX and data going to the global Internet to the Gateway router.
PLDT is offering two types of services, basic and premium. Ramos explained that the basic service targets smaller ISPs or tier-two ISPs (those currently without an international link). This is intended for those who want to start small and eventually grow when their business also grows.
The premium service is aimed at those who want to take advantage of the fast bandwidth and PLDT's network management capabilities, Ramos said.
Internet expert Bill Manning, who is involved in the redesign of the Domain NameSystem and was a participant of the Internet-II technology working group, said that the opening of a high-speed access line to the Internet will help the country attract more investors.
Manning, who flew to the country for the I-Gate launch, believes that Internet exchanges now serve as the backbone of the Internet. I-Gate, with peering rights to other Internet exchanges, will allow the Philippines to extend its reach in the international market, he said.
JR Contreras, general manager of I-Phil Communications, said that they would support any initiative that improves the local Internet industry. He said I-Gate is not a threat to local ISPs but since it complements services that they offer. "We might even buy bandwidth from them, who knows," Contreras said.
Bill Torres, president of Moscom Internet, agreed that I-Gate would benefit local users because of the improved bandwidth.
It is possible that local ISPs may decide to stop getting their international lines from foreign access providers, but they may have to study the costs first and the advantages they would get if they subscribe to I-Gate, he said.