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Turkish Internet (TR-NET): Policies for Organizational Framework and Funding

Turkish Internet (TR-NET): Policies for Organizational Framework and Funding

April 30, 1995

Attila Özgit <ozgit@metu.edu.tr>

Kürsat Çagiltay <kursat@metu.edu.tr>

Erdal Taner <erdal@metu.edu.tr>

Abstract

This paper describes recent networking activities in Turkey, along with some common problems of organization and funding that most of the developing countries are facing today. We believe that some of our experiences could be instructive for similar cases in other countries.

Wide Area Networks in Turkey were first organized in 1986. First international network connection was made to EARN through a 9600 bps leased line to France. Turkey's Internet connection was established in April 1993 by a 64 Kbps leased line to NSFnet (Washington, USA). Since then, activities of TR-NET project group in the last couple of years have placed Turkey to the list of fastest growing IP domains.

Turkey's international traffic through NSFnet has increased by more than four-fold within last 18 months. As TR-NET has become wide-spread with a tremendous rate of growth among various sectors (academic, government, private sector, etc.) in 1993 and 1994, a severe necessity of governmental support and constitutional framework is being observed. Having anticipated the need for central planning and implementation, the TR-NET executive committee has submitted a proposal to the government for becoming an official coordination point for establishing and diffusing computer networking infrastructure in the country. This new organization is about to be established and will be known as 'National Computer Networks Center (NCNC)'. The NCNC will have the responsibility of laying down strategic plans and controlling the implementation for developing the national computer networking infrastructure.

Since currently available funds of TR-NET are not sufficient to constitute a national backbone and to enhance the international connection, TR-NET administration is currently looking for some funding models to overcome these problems. Some alternative models for funding have been investigated and are still being evaluated.

One basic model approach is the privatization of access services through multiple service-providers. In this approach, the backbone will still be operated by the TR-NET organization, while user access to Internet will be provided by private service providing organizations (SPOs). In this model of organization, the country-wide backbone and international connections will be funded from two different sources: (i) funds allocated by the government, and (ii) the service charges that would be collected from service providing organizations (SPOs). It is also anticipated that some other variations of the above model could be constructed. In this paper, a hybrid model of funding and organization is discussed.


Contents


1 Introduction

Wide-area computer networks were first installed and then developed in Turkey by mid of 1980s as a result of an initiative from universities for being connected to EARN/BITNET. This network, known as 'Turkish Universities and Research Institutions Network' (TUVAKA), is financed and used by only academic and research institutions. By the beginning of 1990's, TUVAKA has begun to experience a set of administrative and technical problems due to various reasons. Along with basic funding limitations, these new problems are basically classified as: (i) insufficient international bandwidth, (ii) operational problems, and (iii) older and proprietary hardware and software technologies -- e.g., NJE protocols.

In order for solving some of these problems, during the years 1991 and 1992, a project was initiated by the Middle East Technical University (METU) and the Turkish Scientific and Technical Research Council (TUBITAK) for Turkey's Internet connection [2]. The first step was the connection to RIPE in October 1992 by using IP over X.25. Turkey has established her dedicated Internet connection to NSF by the beginning of 1993 [3]. Since then, Turkey's international network traffic has been exponentially growing. By the beginning of 1994, Turkey's EARN gateway connection from Ege University to Montpellier, France was diverted to Bonn, Germany with an increase in bandwidth (64Kbps), and the line protocol was changed to allow IP traffic.

In parallel to establishing Turkey's Internet connection in 1993, METU and TUBITAK have also formed an informal organization known as TR-NET, to promote the use of Internet technologies in various sectors of the country. As a result of these efforts of TR-NET, today, government, military, commercial, educational and research sectors are actively using these network facilities established and offered by TR-NET. Personal connections and utilization are also increasing.

Today, the proposal for a well-developed TR-NET organization to become the official center for national computer networks is about to be completed (i.e., to be accepted) by TUBITAK. The model for funding such a country-wide network is also being discussed by the TR-NET executive committee.

Section-2 of this paper includes a discussion of current networking infrastructure and basic issues on development of a national networking infrastructure for Turkey. In section-3, future development plans along with a list of actions to be taken are discussed. Section-4 discusses organizational issues and funding model for a national networking initiative. Finally, section-5 gives a summary of the paper and specifies those major steps to be taken next.

2 Current Status of Wide Area Networks in Turkey

Today, Turkey's public computer networking physical infrastructure basically comprises of two parts: (i) TR-NET infrastructure based on pure IP protocol, and (ii) Turkish Universities and Research Institutions Network (TUVAKA) infrastructure based on NJE and IP protocol.

TR-NET services are being centrally provided from Ankara, by METU and TUBITAK. Two SPOs, Istanbul Technical University (ITU) and Marmara Research Center (MAM), are extending TR-NET services to Istanbul region. However, users' demand for being connected to TR-NET is constantly increasing. Only in the first three months of 1995, there were nearly 600 personal applications.

Leased-line connections of TR-NET are shown in Figure-1. This basic infrastructure of TR-NET also overlaps with the infrastructure of TUVAKA that is also discussed in the following paragraphs.

Figure 1. Leased-Line Connections of TR-NET.

TR-NET offers other types of connections, such as, X.25 and dial-up. X.25 and dial-up connections are shown in Figure-2. Each line in the figure represents several connections from a specific sector (government, private, etc.).

Institutional and individual connections for using TR-NET services are discussed later in this section.

Figure 2. X.25 Connections of TR-NET

TUVAKA's (Turkish Universities and Research Institutions Network) current topology that has evolved during the years from 1986 to 1994, includes 29 of the 52 universities in the country. Those universities that were established last year are being connected to TUVAKA in 1995. Current topology (as of 03/95) is shown in Figure-3.

Figure 3. Topology of TUVAKA

Most of the institutional connections within the country are of 19.2-28.8 Kbps leased or X.25 lines. Personal or institutional connections using dial-up technologies mostly use 14.4 and 28.8 Kbps telephone lines. Backup speeds for leased lines, such as 9.6 or 2.4 Kbps are also used as required.

Following sub-sections discuss those issues that are considered to be the most important facts and/or problems of today's networking in Turkey.

2.1 Funding

Major funding for TR-NET's networking infrastructure (equipment, communication lines, and support staff) is provided by TUBITAK and METU from their annual budgets. TR-NET has begun to charge connections of institutions and individuals since the beginning of 1993. However, the unit prices for these connections and hence the total amount of funds obtained from this charging mechanism are not significant.

Universities' and research institutions' network connections are centrally funded by TUVAKA. Nevertheless, the total amounts of funds are not sufficient for setting up a well-developed infrastructure for academic institutions. Annual budget of TUVAKA is about 400,000 US Dollars that is mainly used for only paying PTT line costs of currently connected universities. There is no centrally available budget for investment (i.e., procurement of equipment, staff, other initiatives, etc.).

2.2 Organization

Turkey's first attempts for establishing an organizational framework for the management of wide area networks in the country had certain weaknesses. TUVAKA was formed in 1985 as an unofficial association by participating universities. Major drawbacks of this organization, mainly originating from the fact of being unofficial, were as follows:
  1. being a volunteer organization,
  2. lack of funds for investment on equipment,
  3. lack of funds for supporting sufficient international bandwidth,
  4. lack of widely deployed technical know-how,
  5. lack of central power to convince participating universities to change their hardware and software to more contemporary technologies.

Having anticipated the need for central planning and implementation, TR-NET organization has submitted a proposal to the government for becoming an official coordination point for establishing and diffusing computer networking infrastructure in the country. This new organization is about to be established and will be known as 'National Computer Networks Center' (NCNC) [4].

The NCNC will have the responsibility of laying down strategic plans and controlling the implementation for developing the national computer networking infrastructure.

Forming such a central official organization will bring the following benefits: (i) central, thus optimal fund management for national resources, (ii) standardization on technology and operation, (iii) planned investment on technology and know-how, and (iv) central technical and operational support for the planned country-wide backbone.

2.3 Bandwidth Utilization

Turkey's international traffic through NSFnet has increased by more than four-fold within 18 months from the date of Internet Connection to NSF. The traffic on the other international line from Izmir to Bonn has also increased, but exact figures are not known at this time. Country's international traffic pattern from Ankara to NSF is shown in Figure-4.

Figure 4. Turkey's International Traffic Pattern

The figure reveals the fact that in last 6 months (i.e., 10/94-03/95), traffic curve has been flattened. This is due the saturation of the available international bandwidth that is currently 64 Kbps. Total host count is nearly 3,000 and the total number of daily users are estimated to be around 10,000 to 15,000. The demand for network bandwidth is constantly increasing, and the delay characteristics are getting worse.

3 Future Plans

Currently, some definite short-term and long-term plans are being made by TR-NET executive committee for the future of networking infrastructure of Turkey [5]. These plans will be implemented after establishment of the National Computer Networks Center (NCNC). Short-term plans include upgrade of international line, and privatization of connection services. Medium- and Long-term plans include organizational issues, establishing a country-wide backbone, and improvement of user services. In the following sub-sections, a brief discussion of these plans is given.

3.1 Short-Term Plans

The most important short-term goal is the upgrade of the line that connects Turkey to NSFnet. This line is currently carrying traffic at 64 Kbps. It will be upgraded to a speed of 128 Kbps in April 1995. Speeds of 256 Kbps or more will be installed towards the end of 1995 depending on the availability of funds.

Total number of individuals (personal use) has increased from a few hundred to 1300 within 16 months. Only in the first three months of 1995, there were 580 personal applications to TR-NET for connection. With the current level of service provided by TR-NET, and the rate of growth on user demand, it is estimated that there will be 3000 individuals connected to TR-NET by the end of 1995. Providing good quality service to thousands of individuals is not an easy task to handle. In order for handling this problem properly, and for providing individuals and institutions (government or private sector enterprises) always with top quality service, another goal has been set. This other short-term goal is the privatization of connection services.

Privatization will help in provisioning and fast diffusion of networking services with a much better quality of service to the end-users.

TR-NET is currently planning to identify candidate Service Providing Organizations (SPOs) in three major cities, namely Istanbul, Ankara, and Izmir. These three major cities cover almost 25% of the whole population and most of the commerce, industry, and government sectors. Each SPO is expected to be capable of handling at least a few hundred users by providing sufficient level of computing and networking resources as well as skilled service staff.

3.2 Medium- and Long-Term Plans

One of the medium- and long-term goals of NCNC is to improve the organization for daily operations of the backbone. Currently, most of the services are being provided from Ankara. However, as a natural consequence of expanding current topology to planned future backbone topology, operations will cover Istanbul and Izmir as well.

Forming such a central organization (NCNC) for strategic planning and management of the country's backbone network and extending services to other major cities will bring the following global benefits to the attention of Turkey's networking community:

The country-wide backbone that is being planned for the third quarter of 1995 is depicted in Figure-5.

Figure 5. Planned Backbone

Establishment of such a backbone network including only the three major cities of the country basically requires associated funding for equipment and lines to be granted. Total operational budget for maintaining a triangle country-wide backbone and the international connection is estimated to be around 1,000,000 US Dollars per year. Since the currently allocated governmental funds of TR-NET are not sufficient for such a backbone, one viable alternative would be to make use of funds to be obtained from privatization of services.

The other important long-term plan is the improvement of both quality and quantity of user services through a privatization and competition process. It is foreseen that there will be a lead time for such private services to be stabilized in terms of quality and price. However, it is our belief that the lead time will be minimal, and stabilization of services will be completed before the end of 1995.

4 Organization and Funding Model

Today, there are more than 100 institutions and more than 1300 individual users accessing TR-NET facilities. In order for providing user community with satisfactory level of services, TR-NET executive committee has been considering a new organizational model. This new layered organizational model is depicted in Figure-6.

The most important part of this new organizational model is the introduction of service providing organizations (SPOs) layer between TR-NET backbone and the users. SPOs are qualified as private companies, specialized in networking and information technologies. They will provide the user community with information, consultancy and connectivity services as well as provisioning of required hardware and software components. SPOs are expected to market all their assets as value-added services on top of the basic backbone connectivity and information services of NCNC.

Figure 6. Organizational Model

The inner-most layer is the country-wide backbone. This backbone will be maintained by NCNC, and will initially cover three major cities, namely, Ankara, Istanbul, and Izmir. NCNC is planning to offer contracts to eligible SPOs for extending services to the user community. Organization of NCNC is described in the following sections.

Service providing organizations (SPO) comprise the next layer through which users are provided with connection services. SPOs will serve various numbers of individual users and organizations depending on their physical facilities.

The outer layer is composed of individual (single) users, user organizations, or organizations' networks that are to be connected to TR-NET backbone. These users located at the outer layer will be served by SPOs.

4.1 NCNC Organization

Basic requirements for establishing a central organization for planning, operating and diffusing wide area computer networks in the country are summarized as follows: In order for fulfilling above basic requirements, the proposed National Computer Networks Center (NCNC) is planned to be organized in three major functional departments reporting to an executive committee. There will also be an advisory committee for coordinating activities in general, among various sectors (education, research, commercial, government, etc.). Three functional departments of NCNC are: As it is apparent from above departmental classification, NCNC is involved with operation, maintenance and development of the backbone as well as technical and administrative relationships with SPOs.

NCNC is planned to exist and be organized around following list of major policies and responsibilities:

4.2 Funding Model

In order for setting up the initial infrastructure and fulfilling above responsibilities, NCNC would need two different budgets, one for initial investment and one for operations.

The overall funding model is planned to be based on successive implementation of a two-part funding model. The first part of the model aims at performing a transition from governmental subvention to self-funding. The second part of the model is purely a self-funding model that is planned to be the ultimate model for funding the country-wide network in Turkey.

Initial investment budget will be required for the first year to construct the country-wide backbone at moderate speeds and to upgrade international bandwidth. This budget is estimated to be nearly one million US dollars for a 256Kbps backbone and 256 Kbps international bandwidth. Table-1 shows major cost items for the initial investment budget. As it is seen from Table-1, this budget includes operational cost items, such as line costs for the backbone and the international connection. These cost items are to be incurring in the following years. However, during the following years - also known as the transition period -, parts of these costs will be collected from end-users through service providers (SPOs). Hence, the total amount of subvention from the government is expected to decrease during the transition period.

Table-1. NCNC Initial Investment Budget


Communication              335,000 
Equipment                          

Other Hardware and          50,000 
Software                           

Line Costs for             140,000 
Backbone                           

International Line         320,000 
Upgrade Cost                       

Maintenance of H/W          40,000 
and S/W                            

Personnel                  110,000 

Other                       25,000 

T O T A L                1,020,000 



The operational budget will be used starting from the second year, and will be a subset (items 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7) of the initial investment budget summarized in Table-1. Only 'research and development' is an additional item. This operational budget is shown in Table-2.

Table-2. NCNC Operational Budget


Line Costs for             140,000 
Backbone                           

International Line         320,000 
Upgrade                            

Maintenance of H/W          40,000 
and S/W                            

Personnel                  110,000 

Research and               100,000 
Development                        

Other                       25,000 

T O T A L                  735,000 



It is anticipated that the operational budget will require subvention from the government for the first two to three years, during which a smooth transition will be done from governmental funding to self-funding of TR-NET backbone. Self-funding of the network will be realized by privatization of user services through a service provider mechanism.

Today, there are nearly 3,000 registered hosts in 100 zones, and 277 (allocated as only C-Class) registered IP networks in '.tr' domain. It is roughly estimated that there are around 10,000 to 15,000 daily users accessing TR-NET facilities from within the country. Using these figures, one can roughly estimate that the average cost per user would be some amount between 65 to 100 USD/year, while average cost per IP domain would be between 2,500 and 3,000 USD/year. This would of course necessitate a balanced (nearly uniform) bandwidth allocation among users of different IP domains. As it has been discussed earlier sections, these estimated basic costs are to be reflected to the user community as value-added services through SPOs.

NCNC is currently trying to complete the pricing structure that is to be applicable to SPOs. Pricing structure is based on volume charging. Depending on the type of connection, users will be charged either in accordance with (i) number of bytes flowing through (e.g., non-dialup connection), or (ii) number of minutes lapsed since the beginning of the connection (e.g., dialup connection).

The fundamental idea here is to have a profit margin only for improving the core services for SPOs (for better backbone bandwidth and topology, improved international connectivity and bandwidth, better technical support, etc.). Once SPOs begin serving the user community, funds will be flowing from users to SPOs, then SPOs to NCNC. As these funds become significant, governmental support (subvention) will garadually be decreased in proportion with the collected amount of funds. A rough estimation (an educated guess) suggests that the model will become a self-funding one within three years after deployment.

NCNC is planning to use a research and development budget item for funding development efforts on related software and hardware. It is our belief that development of some hardware and/or software will be necessary for at least providing user community with a set of homogeneous services through supporting SPOs.

4.3 Service Providing Organizations (SPOs)

Service Providing Organizations (SPOs) will play a key role in diffusing computer networks and information technologies in the country. Their basic function is to provide users with connection services for the TR-NET backbone. At the beginning, total number of SPOs in the country is expected to be around 25. With this number of starting SPOs in 1995, average number of users per SPO will be around 400.

In addition to basic connectivity services, some SPOs will provide a set of advanced value-added services, such as, construction of Web servers, allocating computing resources, running name servers, mail servers, specialized bulletin board services, etc. NCNC is not in a position to estimate basic unit prices for such services. However, unit prices for basic connectivity to TR-NET backbone are to be set by NCNC.

SPOs will charge their users for the basic connectivity services by putting a profit margin on top of the basic unit prices set by NCNC. The basic pricing structure that NCNC will use for charging SPOs is a simple formula:

cost = b + ai ( xi - xi-1) + aj (xj - xi); where

b > 0; ai >= 0; aj > ai > ai-1 >... > a1.

xi = 0, m, n, ... , k ; m > n > ... > k.

xj > xi.

where xi is measured in terms of (i) number of bytes, or (ii) number of connection minutes; b is the fixed cost, and ai is the slope of the pricing curve. The pricing curve is shown in Figure-7.

Figure 7. Pricing Curve

In fact, cost is constructed as a discrete function, because there will be a few ranges of traffic volume to which different rates are applicable, that is the value of a changes for different ranges of xi values (e.g., a1 for x0 x x1, a2 for x1 x x2, and a3 for x2 x; and a1 a2 a3 ...). In addition to this, total cost will have an upper limit for certain types of connections.

The fixed cost, b, for any connection from a SPO to TR-NET backbone is determined in proportion with the cost of initial efforts spent by NCNC, and the fixed equipment cost (e.g., additional router port). Another component of b is the license fee to be paid to NCNC by the SPO. For an SPO to determine its basic unit charges, other organizational expenses could be considered as part of this fixed cost.

4.4 Services for the User Community

In the proposed model of organization, SPOs are exposed to competitive market conditions. They will be forced to carefully set their profit margins and corresponding level of service (e.g., quality and quantity of services offered to the users). Those SPOs keeping a good balance of unit prices versus overall performance, will survive and probably grow, and those that are not, will eventually disappear. This mechanism is expected to lead to an eventual self-stabilization of the market in the long-run though there will be certain level of service fluctuations (discrepancies) at the beginning.

The unit prices as well as quality and quantity of services offered by SPOs will determine their success in the marketplace. However, some of these quality and quantity parameters will be observed by the NCNC and verified against contractual commitments of SPOs, for the sake of user satisfaction. Some parameters are:

  1. Daily and weekly service duration,
  2. Number of users per telephone line,
  3. Variety of services,
  4. The level of keeping-up with the standard software supplied by NCNC,

Charging the users by SPOs may depend on the same charging model that NCNC uses. That is, the user pays a fixed amount for getting a connection, and additionally, pays another amount proportional to his/her usage. SPOs may optionally use other charging mechanisms as part of their promotion strategy.

Today, it seems that international access is more important for the user community than intra-country communication. However, as network-based national information services become more prominent, current users will be more dependent and concious on TR-NET backbone, as well as new users joining the network.

5 Summary

Turkey had a significant experience on operating large wide-area computer networks over the last 10 years. However, during this period, governmental funds for establishment, operation and maintenance of such country-wide networks were generally not sufficient.

An important asset for realizing the establishment and operation of a large scale backbone network is the accumulated technical know-how. This know-how accumulation, especially in last few years, is considered to be significant.

Today, in addition to universities and research institutions, there are more than 100 institutions and more than 1000 individual users accessing TR-NET facilities. Total number of users are estimated to be around 10,000. Current demand trend shows that the number of institutional and individual users will exponentially increase in the very near future.

Based on its significant experience in last three years, TR-NET organization is currently offering a model of organization and funding for network services in Turkey. The proposed model of organization places National Center for Computer Networks (NCNC) at the core of the model. NCNC is expected to operate TR-NET backbone and sell connection services to Service Providing Organizations (SPOs). SPOs will in turn reach to the user community and sell value-added services to them. The model does not propose a fully privatized structure, because central planning is considered to be very important for healthy development of computer networks in the country.

As a result of its national networking policy, TR-NET organization, and its candidate successor, NCNC aim at diffusing networking and information technologies among all sectors of the country. NCNC, while trying to achieve its goals, will consider those lessons that were learnt over the last ten years.

References

[1] Genç F.P, Özgit A, Önder S., 'Use of European Academic and Research Network (EARN) in Turkey', 5. Bilgisayar Kongresi, Istanbul, 1988.

[2] Özgit A., Yilmaz T., TÜBITAK EEE-AG DPT/64 Project Proposal, METU, Ankara, 1992.

[3] Özgit A., 'Internet: Availability and Usage in Turkey', Bilisim'93, Istanbul, 1993.

[4] Özgit A., and et.al., 'A Proposal for a National Policy on Computer Networks in Turkey', Biliþim'94, Istanbul, 1994.

[5] Özgit A., and et.al., 'Turkey's Networking Infrastructure: Past, Present, and the Future', Proceedings of JENC6, Tel-Aviv, Israel, May 1995.

Author Information

Attila Özgit is a faculty member of Computer Engineering Department and the Director of Computer Center of the Middle East Technical University (METUCC). He is a member of the executive committee of TR-NET. He holds a Ph.D. in Computer Engineering from Middle East Technical University. Dr. Özgit's research interests are: distributed systems, operating systems, and computer networks.

Kürsat Çagiltay is a graduate of Mathematics Department, Middle East Technical University. He holds an M.Sc. degree from Department of Computer Engineering of Middle East Technical University. Mr. Çaðýltay is the manager of Networking in METUCC (METU Computer Center). He is a member of the executive committee of TR-NET.

Erdal Taner is a graduate of Computer Engineering Department, Middle East Technical University. Mr. Taner is the manager of Information Services in METUCC (METU Computer Center). He is a member of the executive committee of TR-NET. Mr. Taner's professional interests are: computer networks and communication technologies.