Gulf region routing / connectivity

Posted by in Technology

It’s been a while since my last post, as usual. I’m currently sat in my room at my parents’ place in Doha, Qatar, escaping the low temperature this evening of 30ºc (today it was +/-45c). Whenever I’m here I’m always struck at how important the internet is in every-day life, in part here because there is no doorstep postal delivery, so everything must be done online or in-store. The other thing that is striking is how much culture is imported from the rest of the world, especially the west. Most people drive cars from the US, Germany, France, Italy, Great Britain, Japan and South Korea, and they eat at establishments from those same places. People watch western TV shows and sporting events and they shop at Carrefour!

Why is all of that related to routing/connectivity in this region? Well it’s of interest because all of the content is stored in the west or the east, living on servers in data centres in Amsterdam, London, Ashburn et al. This means that packets of data travel long-distance to reach eyeballs in the region, when somebody visits the BBC news website the request will travel to Great Britain and back. None of this is surprising, in this particular example because the BBC is the British Broadcasting Corporation.

All of that makes me wonder what is connectivity like between countries in the region? My father occasionally jumps on a plane for a short hop over to the UAE for business meetings in Dubai, according to the Great circle mapper this is a distance of 238 miles: http://www.gcmap.com/mapui?P=DOH-DXB, what route would packets of data take should my father Skype his colleagues in Dubai instead?

I’ve decided to look into who the local ISP Ooredoo is connected to within the region and who it must backhaul to through another region, this is by no means a hugely scientific endeavour, but gives us an idea of routing/connectivity within the Gulf region. I have a Raspberry PI that lives here, so I could really have done this test whenever. I guess being here makes you think about it even more.

My strategy here is as follows:

Step 1: List the countries I’m going to trace to – all GCC countries

Step 2: Locate every AS within the GCC countries – I’ve used Hurricane Electric’s world report to do this: http://bgp.he.net/report/world

Step 3: Perform a traceroute to an IP from each AS discovered – I’m using MTR e.g. mtr -rwc 10 176.203.110.81

Step 4: Take a look at the results!

Notes: I’m selecting 1 IPv4 address from each commercial ISP which is active within the global routing table, I’m including an ISP if it appears (from its website) to sell fixed or mobile broadband to consumers. I’m also including Internet Exchanges.

Here are the results, broken down by country, click the AS for the trace:

Bahrain:

AS59605 – Zain Group – Wholesale
AS5416 – Batelco
AS39273 – AS number for LightSpeed Communication in Bahrain
AS35457 – ETISALCOM BAHRAIN COMPANY W.L.L
AS31452 – MTC-Vodafone Bahrain
AS51375 – VIVA Bahrain BSC Closed
AS35568 – Nuetel Communications
AS35443 – Kalaam Telecom Bahrain B.S.C.
AS35019 – Bahrain Internet Exchange
AS39015 – Mena Broadband AS

Kuwait:

AS3225 – Gulfnet Kuwait
AS6412 – KEMS
AS21050 – Fast Telecommunications Company W.L.L.
AS25122 – Gulfsat Communications Co.
AS47589 – Kuwait Telecommunication Company (Under Association)
AS47442 – Mada Communications
AS29357 – WATANIYA TELECOM

Oman:

AS8529 – General Telecommunication Organization
AS50010 – Omani Qatari Telecommunications Company SAOC

Qatar:

AS48728 – Vodafone Qatar Q.S.C.

Saudi Arabia:

AS39386 – SaudiNet, Saudi Telecom Company
AS35819 – Etihad Etisalat Company (Mobily)
AS35753 – ITC AS number
AS34397 – Cyberia Riyadh
AS47794 – Etihad Atheeb Telecom Company

UAE:

AS8966 – Etisalat – Emirates Telecommunications Corporation
AS15802 – Emirates Integrated Telecommunications Company PJSC (EITC-DU)

From those results I can see a reasonably clear divide between places that are `near` and those that are `far`. Most of Bahrain & Kuwait and all of Oman is close by, with traffic flowing on a reasonable path between countries. All of Saudi Arabia and the UAE travel further away before coming back, with Saudi travelling all the way to Europe and back. One that strikes me as a little odd is that of Wataniya telecom from Kuwait, actually now called Ooredoo Kuwait. Despite it being owned by the ISP I’m currently using traffic passes through London, before hopping over to Paris and down to Marseille before transiting back to Kuwait. You would think the ISP would connect its networks together when they’re hardly very far apart!

It strikes me as strange that these networks are so physically close together in terms of physical distance, but they aren’t connected together close by, they pay an international carrier to carry their traffic between each other, rather than connecting directly. Hopefully with places like the UAE-IX in-region connections will increase, maybe if I return to the region in future there will be a lots of connectivity between networks, lessening the need for fat international pipes.

Let me know if there are any ISPs I’ve missed out.