Skip to content

The state of bandwidth sharing

Published:

At 3air we are all about covering Africa with internet access and looking at the right solution, we can’t go past bandwidth sharing.

girl africa phone gopro

What is bandwidth sharing

In the broad notation it just means that you can let other people use your internet connection. The easiest way would be to just let them connect to your Wi-Fi and you are sharing your bandwidth with them.

So, everybody has done it at some point. Either you have your family over for dinner, allowing them to access your Wi-Fi router or your friends come to visit from another country, and you create a hotspot on your mobile phone for them to not endure the high roaming fees.

But the question is:

Is bandwidth sharing sustainable and can we scale it?

First of all, the bandwidth you are using right now is probably already on a shared connection. The ISPs business model is to buy a certain amount of bandwidth and then resell it multiple times to the end user. This sounds a bit like fraud but it’s fully legal and it makes sense most of the time and allows for cheaper bandwidth prices.

Buying bandwidth from the backbone could cost an ISP around $20 per Mbps. If you are having only a 10 Mbps line at home, that would cost an ISP $200 for the data that they need to buy alone. That is only the data cost up until the ISP’s infrastructure. So, you need to add the infrastructure costs and operational costs to it.

To get this price down, the ISPs could buy 1,000 Mbps and sell 1000 clients 10 Mbps each from it. That would bring the cost down to $2 per Mbps per end client. But as you can see this only works if not each of these 1000 client uses their bandwidth in full.

Using a shared bandwidth model drives the bandwidth usage towards 100% and that is not sustainable in the current ISP model. The ISP policy on shared connections clearly states you cannot share, resell or overuse your connection and there have been cases of denial of services if unfair usage of bandwidth was detected.

Even if that doesn’t happen, the uncontrolled sharing model is not sustainable at current prices of internet packages. There is just not enough bandwidth behind it.

The sustainable bandwidth sharing model

3air is in a unique position to manage such a case as we are working closely with ISPs and K3 by itself is an ISP, knowing the pain-points of reselling bandwidth.

We believe that further bandwidth sharing can bring potential benefits in getting access to the internet to more people and lowering the prices on the grounds of:

  • Cheaper infrastructure
  • Lower operational costs
  • Optimization in bandwidth usage

For such a model to be effective all major players need to be incentivized:

  • The ISP providing the core Internet bandwidth,
  • The operator of the “sharing point”
  • The end user

The 3air sharing model is designed to provide financial incentives to all of the core participants and adds one participant more, the “insurance provider” that takes over the part of the maintenance costs.

The first places this model will be implemented are shopping malls, restaurants and other places that can benefit from a stable, shared connection that can be payable or free and will allow for easy roaming points for 3air users.

The full model will be deeply integrated with the 3air platform and the 3air token and we will be presenting it more detail shortly.

Other issues of bandwidth sharing

Another big problem with uncontrolled bandwidth sharing is security and privacy. Just sharing your Wi-Fi spot is a big security hole for your home network. Another problem is if somebody commits a crime while using your network. ISPs will log this event under your username as you are the one holding a contract with them. This can have far reaching legal consequences for the person sharing his bandwidth. It is therefore important to think about this important legal aspect of bandwidth sharing while designing such a model.

3air is a decentralized telecom platform connecting people of Africa with broadband. Please visit 3air.io for more information.