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On the road again: Diary of an itinerant Internet transit sales guy

Bob, the sales guy.

Ditched my #@!%$! cell in Stockholm. Verizon CDMA does not work in Europe! Upside: I now have a shiny, new World Edition Blackberry GSM/CDMA. I call it Trixie.

Road Tip: Just say NO! to mouth-searing kimchi or Indian curry for breakfast. No matter how polite you’re trying to be.

With barely enough time to recharge Trixie after calls in Denver, Albuquerque, Stockholm and Bonn, I hopped a jet for Tokyo, Hong Kong and Kuala Lumpur. (Trixie and I barely made it out of KL alive. Cab driver must have been conserving gas; tried to piggyback car in front.) Beginning to feel like Marco Polo on ‘roids, but I gotta check out LA and DC before catching a shuttle back home to Boston (close enough).

Trixie is overloaded with commentary, observations, insider scoops, and . . . new NSP sales and marketing contacts! (Hey, I’m a sales guy.) Time to download and see what comes out . . .

Eastern Europe seems to be the new hot spot on the continent. Lots of Internet transit NSPs are staking claims. Mostly Europeans and the usual large-scale suspects, but a few US providers are breaking in.

Action out of Africa.
Early NSP missionary work (infrastructure, key relationships, etc.) is starting to make converts, mostly along the tips of the continent. South Africa and the balmy Mediterranean shore are lapping up most of the attention.

Road Tip: Need to track a package from anywhere to anywhere? Don’t use anyone but FedEx. (They didn’t pay me to say this.)

Middle East incumbent NSPs (grandfathered from the good old government-run land line days) are eager to establish Internet transit hub for traffic between Europe and Asia. They’re investing heavily in technology and talent.

Construction cranes dot the dunes of Dubai.

Last year’s Taiwan fiber outages caused by the Boxing Day (I grew up in England) earthquake of 2006 shook up the IP transit market. Back-up routing out of Asia is now all the rage and new undersea cables are planned. Russian comrades pushing a land-based fiber path across Asia can’t take orders fast enough. Margins are enviable.

Road Tip: Re Asian hotel Internet connections. VoIP operational only in Japan.

Localization, localization, localization.
Watch it grow — if you can watch that fast. Seems like just a year or two ago (a half-life in Internet years) most Internet content came from the US. Now, language-based contours are increasing exponentially. It’s like the Wild West (or East) out there!

My finely-tuned sales guy antenna is vibrating: Japan now generates 50% of its own content, China 24%, and 5% for Malaysia! Spain and Latin America have their own action. Then there’s Poland. Who needs Google and MySpace? They’ve got their own.

Nightlife in Tokyo’s Roppongi district.

Now that Asia’s generating so much of its own content, major home-grown NSPs expect to have very different (read: smaller) relationships with the current Tier-1 NSPs. If China Telecom’s relationship with Sprint should, shall we say, dwindle, Sprint could be knocked down a peg or two in Renesys’ Global Customer Base index.

Scuttlebutt, afterthoughts, noise.

Want to make a profit? Then forget about selling Internet transit to Wal-Mart . . . I mean, Google.

Take a walk on the wild wide, otherwise known as Internet transit peering. Relationships are often sealed with the equivalent of a handshake in a back room. Not so with their not-so-distant relatives in the more orthodox voice market. They negotiate contracts! On paper! At the likes of Intelsat GTM in Washington, DC each spring. I’m not saying that people don’t peer closely at their peering ratios; they do. And make important decisions based on them, too. It’s just kind of like, oh, living together instead of getting married.

Internet transit pricing varies. Duh. Here’s why: it depends on local competition of course, but also on just plain geography. It’s priciest in Australia and the Middle East. One exec told me that they changed plans to locate their Asian office in Sydney, and decided to go with Hong Kong — based solely on projected cost of Internet transit in Sydney! Sure didn’t seem cheap to me last time I was in Hong Kong. Sydney pricing must be surreal.

Can’t help but notice this correlation: NSP growth equals (or surpasses) how much they’ve outsourced. Reminds me of the light and nimble British Navy taking pot shots at a lumbering Spanish Armada. Large NSPs lug around large organizations. They don’t respond to change and opportunities as quickly as leaner organizations that outsourced everything but their crack sales staff after the dot com crash. Disclaimer: Exclude from preceding characterization all nimble, responsive NSPs who subscribe to Renesys Market Intelligence. They’re doing great. (Hey, I’m a sales guy.)

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