September 6th, 2006

Forget about FTTH


I spend quite a bit of time with Veni Markovski and his wife Elana here in Johannesburg. Veni shared a very interesting story about Internet situation in Bulgaria. There are hundreds of ISPs in Bulgari. Most of the ISPs are small, serving a few block or two. The service plan is 100mbps or 1Gbps broadband for ~US$20.

Yes, read that again: 100mbps or 1Gbps. This is very impressive considered most of them are using dialup 6 years ago. And no, they are not using Fiber to the Home. It is all UTP cables.

The ISP started to move away from dialup in 2002 when the incumbent change to a time-based charging instead of a 2cent per call fee. This makes Internet access via dialup very expensive. The nature evolution is to go to wireless, particularly 802.11b/g like most developing countries. Unfortunately (or fortunately) 2.4Ghz is a licensed band (for TV broadcasting, owned by Rupert Murdoch). So wifi wasnt an option and they went on to do UTP. So right now, they have 60 km of fiber in the country (along the highways) and hundreds of kms of UTP cable in the metro!

How does can it work when UTP requires a repeater every 100m? Well, Veni joked they forgot to read the manual and put a switch every 500m instead. And yes, it works great. For Power, well Power over UTP :-)

Incidently, Veni is really an interesting man, beside his jokes. Veni is an Internet pioneer in Bulgaria and currently on the board of ICANN as well as president of the ISOC Bulgaria.

I was surprised to learn that the current President of Bulgaria, Georgi Parvanov, was a member of ISOC Bulgaria (as well as several Ministers etc). Georgi & Veni grow up together. Georgi was elected in 2002, partly thanks to Internet movement in Bulgaria against the previous President/ex-King. I suppose that makes Georgi one of the few “Internet President”, like Korea President Roh Moo-hyun.

And also his wife, Elana…turns out our path crossed more than we thought. Elana used to work with and we suddenly realized we have a lot of friends in common :-)

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