BASS uncovers Anomalous PLDT Routing
A-Ar Andrew Concepcion was the first to notice this. While testing the BASS (Bandwidth and Signal Strength) analyzer, Andrew noticed that he got unexpectedly low bandwidth speeds. BASS measures the bandwidth that a user actually receives on his mobile phone. This was strange. It did not make sense to get low speeds. We were expecting higher speeds since he was using PLDT to fetch a file at DOST servers in PHOpenix.
Note: PLDT is directly linked to the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) via high speed fiber optic facilities to the DOST’s Philippine Open Internet Exchange (PHOpenIX)”. Conceptually, this is what was supposed to be happening:
- BASS requests a file from mirror.pregi.net
- PLDT sends the request over to PHOpenIX
- PHOpenix will notify the file server
- File Server (mirror.pregi.net) will answer the reques t and send the file.
The request should take around 20 to 30 milliseconds.
However, our investigation showed that PLDT was not using this direct link. PLDT was anomalously re-routing this traffic overseas to the US and then back to the Philippines. This action added 1200% more delay against the original (30 vs 399)
Why is this finding important?
This ‘smoking gun’ proves that the slow internet is NOT due to “user-abuse” as is often claimed by carriers. Neither is it due to lack of cell sites/towers. At least in this instance, this is solid proof that PLDT is at fault for “inserting” delays to its own network.
If PLDT had used the direct fiber link, their end users would have faster and more reliable internet. It is also a lot CHEAPER for PLDT to do so. Not surprisingly, BASS results as of April 18, 2017 shows that Globe outperforms PLDT:
But….why would PLDT use a longer more expensive route?
Why would PLDT want to use a longer route that adds more delay to its users? Why not use its direct link with PHOpenIX. This PHOpenIX peering link is cheaper, faster and helps decongest PLDT’s internet gateway. It does not make economic and PR sense. It also diminishes PLDT’s shareholder value.
PHOpenIX’s Bayani Benjamin R. Lara had this to say: “The BGP session between DOST and PLDT is up ever since the MOA signing, and they are advertising their routes to it. Perhaps not all of their routes? Or a policy route config on some router somewhere in their network prefers transit rather than peering routes”.
Jesus Romero, a well respected industry veteran shares: “The PhOpenIx connection is only available to connect to Government servers hosted by PLDT and accessed from other networks. Am not sure if it works vice versa”. He adds further: “If you want to access the PLDT (and subsidiary) networks, you need to be connected to PHIX which is a paid exchange”
Other possible reasons might include:
- The route configuration was done by a newbie.
- The route configuration was done by a master who just had a bad day.
- There is someone out to embarrass / “Sabo” PLDT top brass.
- It’s a “business decision”.
PLDT’s statement on its website:
“The PLDT Group fully supports DOST and its landmark Philippine OPEN IX initiative, and its vision to operate an internet exchange that will interconnect local internet and data and service providers,” said PLDT EVP and ePLDT President and CEO Ernesto Alberto.”
Having known Mr Eric Alberto to be a straight shooter, I’m sure that this “routing anomaly” will be resolved soon. I am proud of the volunteers behind BASS. This discovery came within the first 15 days of BASS deployment. Imagine the possibilities #ParaSaBayan
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