Why Zimbabwe doesn’t have Google Global Cache yet

L.S.M Kabweza Avatar
Google Global Cache

Google Global CacheWhen we spoke to the Zimbabwe Internet Service Providers Association (ZISPA) chairman Troy Prinsloo some several weeks ago for the domain registration article, he mentioned that last year Google approached ZISPA with a proposal to have a Google Global Cache (GGC) in Zimbabwe. ZISPA’s response to Google, he said, was ‘no thank you’.

Google cache servers allow YouTube, Maps, Search and content from other Google services to be cached and provided to internet users from local Google servers. In other words when an Internet user in Zimbabwe visits a Google website the content is then stored locally. Now, when another person requests that same content, they get it from the local servers. This results in lower internet response times for ISP customers, international bandwidth savings for the ISPs and more content consumption (translating to more ads served and therefore more revenue) for Google.

So why did ZISPA say no? The answer we’re getting from ZISPA is that we don’t really need GGC.

Asked why they rejected the proposal, Prinsloo told us the following:

Google offered to place a server within our networks to cache YouTube content. We felt that there was not much value in this proposal as ISPs already cache frequently visited sites. The logical place to put such a server would have been ZINX but as it has no Internet connectivity this wouldn’t work.

ZINX refers to Zimbabwe Internet Exchange, a physical networking infrastructure through which local ISPs exchange Internet traffic between their networks. Membership to ZINX is voluntary and the last we heard was that most ISPs are peering through ZINX. Another important thing to note is that the peering is settlement-free, meaning that no ISP pays for traffic exchanged; each ISP gets revenue from its own customers.

We’re explaining this bit on ZINX so we can put into context what one senior executive at an ISP told us when we asked about the rejection of the GGC proposal:

The argument is over international BW (bandwidth).  A cache needs good international BW. So who provides? Telone? Liquid? Powertel? Then we the ISPs must pay them. At what rate? What if their BW is too contended? What if I don’t like their price? I get good pricing already. 

Also big ISPs would benefit less (since they’d do most downloading) and small ISPs would get a bigger benefit. We already cache a lot on our own.

Google’s Julie Taylor, communications manager for Sub-Saharan Africa wouldn’t comment on the GGC rejection by ZISPA, only saying that “Google is always interested in working with operators to reduce their costs of delivering Google traffic, and to improve performance for their customers. This applies as much in Zimbabwe as across Africa.”

So, there are significant savings on international bandwidth, and significant improvement on Google content load speeds for customers, but ZISPA still feels there’s “not much value in this”. We can’t help think the ‘value’ referred to here just means more profits for the ISPs. It clearly doesn’t refer to value for the customers, or the Zim Internet ecosystem as a whole. And the individual ISPs, the big ones; they feel they’ll end up paying the bulk of the GCC bandwidth costs and that they already do their own caching anyway.

In the meantime, most internet users locally don’t even bother viewing YouTube videos. Viewing heavy content like maps is frustratingly slow. Forget that we have to pay through the nose for international bandwidth that could otherwise be local.

Hey Google, the solution might not lie with ZISPA here. The ISPs don’t control international bandwidth in Zimbabwe. Here, that power lies with what we call Internet Access Providers (IAPs). That’ll be Econet, TelOne and PowerTel. They all have huge international fibre pipes that will handle GGC just fine. Econet needs the demonstration of goodwill and positive PR that’ll likely come from this. The other two are state owned operators and had their international pipes given to them at a very low cost. The three are probably waiting for your proposal as we speak. Give them a call!



  1. Lovemore Goredema

    zispa is stupid and backward

  2. Tongayi

    if this benefits consumers, maybe the channel to take should be consultations with potraz

    1. L.S.M. Kabweza

      I don’t think this is a matter that needs ‘regulators’


    Archaic,in the dark ages are  some of our esteemed tech leaders sad very sad

  4. Guest

    Dude you do realise that the is not local peering between IAPs?! Unless you host these servers on every IAP I would think twice. IAPs are the ones backward not the ISPs.

  5. Tendy Fish

    i doubt if this ZISPA guy  who said “No” ever uses youtube or anything like that!!!

    1. Anonymous

      He does, definitely doesn’t pay for it!

  6. Three Men On A Boat

    Here is a question. If some of the ISPs are not charging for local bandwidth right, and they have GGC, wouldn’t that mean they make less money off my using bandwidth?

    1. Joe


      1. Three Men On A Boat

        If you were the ISP, would you give that up?

    2. L.S.M. Kabweza

      free local bandwidth model has been disrupted already by the IAPs doing mobile broadband.
      like the ZOL CEO commented on this article, free local bandwidth will probably be discontinued by these ISPs.

      More local bandwidth being consumed is generally good for the users especially because of lower internet costs and faster responses (and more love for whoever is their ISP). The ISPs that have been offering totally free bandwidth can maybe start charging for it but keep it lower that international since it’s cheaper to deliver.

      1. Three Men On A Boat

        Which is effectively a price increase isn’t it? Because you are suddenly paying for something you used for free before.

        1. L.S.M. Kabweza

          As a customer, given the 2 options:
          Option 1) Pay 11 cents/MB for international traffic and get local free. Get most of my content from international servers and therefore almost always pay the 11 cents. And because it’s so damn expensive, use the internet in moderation. (less money for ISP)

          Option 2) Pay 11 cents/MB for international traffic and 2 cents/MB for local. Have half of my usage international and the other half local (YouTube, Search, Maps, Picasa). And because local is so damn affordable, use more YouTube and Maps. (more money for ISP)

          I’d choose 2. u?

          1. Three Men On A Boat

            I would choose 2 on those charges. But they want to maintain or increase revenue levels so it is not going to be 2 cents for local. It will be at best half or three quarters the cost of International bandwidth.

        2. Tafmak3000

          Or perhaps it is the end of a promotion! Is the glass half full or half empty!

      2. Gentle

        May U please shed light on how “free local bandwidth has been disrupted by IAPs doing mobile broadband”?

        1. L.S.M. Kabweza

          ISPs are asking: What’s the point?

  7. Joe

    Peering is the major issue here – ZINX doesn’t have international links, so unless GGC are paying for it’s server to download and cache all this content, who pays for it?

    Regards IAPs, like someone said they have no peering between themselves. You mention Econet, but I’m sure you’ve noticed their traffic isn’t “local” anyway … almost all routed internationally.

    Way forward? For a helpful analysis of GGC impact on local traffic, see http://whiteafrican.com/tag/google-global-cache/

    1. L.S.M. Kabweza

      they have no peering between themselves

      that can be arranged, no?

      1. Three Men On A Boat

        who pays for it? do you want the initial cost as the customer?

        1. L.S.M. Kabweza

          You mean, who pays for the peering? 
          Peering (and the equipment required) is not an expensive affair. Ask ZISPA? 

          Just a couple of switches and some expertise to configure the peering routes. Nothing the IAPs don’t already have.

          1. Three Men On A Boat

            Not intent on getting caught up in too much detail but everything has to be paid for. Those expertise and so forth have all got to be paid for. Are we saying that the ISPs  should absorb the initial cost? Note that this does not result in increased revenue for themselves so why should they do it?

            1. L.S.M. Kabweza

              Are we saying that the ISPs  should absorb the initial cost? 

              It’s IAPs we’re talking about.

              Note that this does not result in increased revenue for themselves so why should they do it?

              Peering does result in increased revenue.

      2. Joe

        I think the one thing history has shown in Zimbabwe is that getting ISPs to go along together with common sense is almost impossible … and the problem is usually the smaller players.

        Would it be different with IAPs? I think the only time they can come together is if they have a common enemy, PORTRAZ 🙂

    2. KuraiMGT

      All should read the article on the above link……………it paints the picture of this story better. Thx

  8. Tafmak3000

    If the status quo stays the way it is big ISP’s will benefit because they will offer higher international bandwidth speeds to their clients
    which smaller ISP’s can’t. Now if sites are Cached locally, smaller
    ISP’s will be able to offer fast download speeds to international
    content that is cached locally  placing their service at par with bigger ISP’s. If I was a big ISP why would I give smaller competition a chance? Would you?

    Like Techzim pointed out this decision cant’s be given to the ISP’s to
    make, but because Google approached ZISPA which is in turn run by ISP’s
    they easily made the decision their own and snubed Google’s efforts. In
    the ISP’s defense they had a reason to snub the decision though because
    ultimately they had to carry the cost.  An autonomous ZISPA that is
    funded by the GOZ is a starting point, it should consist of
    representatives of ISP’s and 1st and 2nd Level consumers.

    1. Lovemore

      I work for an IAP and they WERE definately approached too. I think they also relalized the benefit was more for Google than them. What about Hotmail, Yahoo, Micro$oft ………. Let’s get real – the whole Internet can’t live in Zims.

      1. Tapiwa ✔

         That’s myopic; this benefits them because it reduces international bandwidth consumption (100 people viewing same youtube video means 100 requests to off-net youtube server, unless they can currently  can cache dynamic content. Even so, they can never hope to match Google in caching Google’s content optimally). It also benefits their users (quicker response times).

  9. KuraiMGT

    Why cant Google pay for its own caching service…..because its more traffic for them and more money. But as a country……..we are paying for international bandwidth through the nose because repeatedly pay for some stuff that would have been localised. So as a collective, a solution has to be found if consumers end up enjoying low prices, faster loading etc. The way it was dealt with is not satisfactory. Its all about profits, profits and no damn care for me the consumer

    1. Tafmak3000

      I think google has done more than enough by offering to provide and install the server to allow this! There absolutley is no justifiable reason why Google should go further and pay for the bandwidth! Also I ‘m not sure if there is model that exists that can bill you based on whether you are grabbing your content from a cache or the actual site, it would probably be complex, impractical and unpredictable! How would you budget for your internet if the charging is so variable!  As a consumer in this regard you are expecting a bit too much!

      Can Tech-zim clarify if the server caches all content or only google affiliated websites?

      An alternative is if perhaps ISP’s are required to reduce their charges for You Tube access/streaming, given that it is ALL cached.

      1. ngth

        If the GGC sat inside the ISPs shaper then you would only be charged for non cached content as it would never hit the shaper hence would never be logged (im talking about the ZOL, Yo structure of free local).

        However the problem is Google didnt approach the ISPs but ZISPA.  Even if the cache was installed at ZINX then how can the ISPs use it, I presume the system works in line so it is not possible for the ISPs to route off to the GCC and then back out of their own network, the simplest solution is for each ISP to have its own cache, but this is probably restrictively expensive for google.   ZOL/Yo do run their own proxy which does the same job to some extent, but I am pretty sure it sits outside their shaper, so you still get charged for it even though it is cached locally.  This means you dont get unpredictable bills (and they make a little extra from not needing to use their international for repeat requests).  These proxies to my knowledge cannot cache streaming content like youtube though, but I could be wrong.

        1. Tafmak3000

          Thus my point! Complicated and unpredictable!!!!

        2. Tafmak3000

          I’m no expect but are you sure these proxies don’t just function as gateways, not necessarily caching servers! Are there even capable of that functionality given their limited capacity?

          1. Joe

            Proxies do cache international content.

            1. ngth

              Yes but the proxies sit outside the shaper, so the customer is still billed for the content as it is seen international.

              The GGC would need to sit in the same place the proxy sits in order for the user to still be billed for using it, else the ISP is footing the initial request’s international traffic bill.  If the GGC sits at ZISPA there is no way the ISPs can get it to make requests on the customer’s bandwidth, so someone like ZISPA would have to foot all the GGC’s international bill, which isnt going to happen.

  10. Tafmak3000

    There should cache Wikipedia.com, Dictionary.com and Google books etc and offer it to Zimbabwean schools for free! A uniquely Zimbabwean solution to a Zimbabwean problem. Or perhaps a ZRP/High court docket, finger print inventory system that allows all the country’s police stations, hospitals,courts and the general public to share information on the go.  essentially a VPN that is hosted and maintained for free on the Google cache server, this will of cause be a condition that Google will have to meet to put their equipment in our country. an added + is that Google will fund the up keep of that server ie generators which ensures its up 24/7. I basically have this idea written on tons of pages. And it will be completely FREE. Who ever pulls that off deserves my utmost respect.  

    For example when some one is run over by a car and dies the police can access the database via a cheap solar powered nhava tablet and find out which hospital whithin a 20km-200km radius has the the space and facility to accept an adult body! They can then upload the docket and case file on the go to the main database which means a police station in Hwedza will know within a day if someone in Buhera died, which makes the death certificate ready to collect  in maybe 5 days. With a finger print database they can actually check the unidentified ID of the person who has died by swiping his (it’s a he) finger on a finger print saner that is linked to the Registrer General’s office. Voula they’ll be able to identify the body, and who that person is married to if they are married, or their children if they  are a father. They then access the Econet, Telecel and Telone, Netone databases against all registered phone numbers that way they can call the next of kin.

    Once this cycle has been achieved (next of kin notified), They then post the name of the person, and date/cause of death on ZRP public service announcement database where the general public can look to see if their missing loved ones are alive or found. Lost children street kids can also be found this way!

    IN MY OPINION THAT IS OPEN SOURCE. TECH people in zim should be doing this not trying  to recreate facebook and twitter, that is lazy and essentialy useless! Because i’d rather use the real facebook on any day! 

    1. Joe

      Uhm, you do know the Startup Challenge came and went, right? This is the sort of thing they were looking for, weren’t they? No need bleating about tech people saying they’re lazy and useless, when you seem to be spitting ideas out at the world instead of putting them into play. Nxa.

      1. Tafmak3000

        I heard it was profit oriented, Besides that’s not my specialty/calling/field. What I do I’m doing well enough thank you. Those however, who do this king of thing should do it well. Because when I do what I do the critics are harsh on me and it helps me improve. They CRITICIZE!!! and I prove them wrong, if I can’t prove them wrong then they are right so I learn from that or realize that I CAN’T. As far as I.T is concerned I’m a critic, that’s all I can do, that’s all I’ll do. CRITICIZE!!!!. And for a critic I’m quite impressed that I can actually spit ideas every once in a while. Any notion that says “don’t criticize if you can’t do” is cowardly. The fact of the matter is “don’t do if you don’t want criticism”. People criticize politicians every day but they haven’t had a single ballot cast with their name on it? Criticism is an essential agent of change and proponent of innovation!  People want to make silly and unnecessary mistakes and be un-accountable for them, Well not when I’m around.  

        Some of my comments are misinformed (how ever rare ;-), And almost all the time I make a mistake I’m proven wrong in no kind terms.  

        As I was saying, I still maintain that recreating facebook is LAZY and essentially USELESS i’d rather use the real facebook on any day! If you are out there in room 309 Roslin House developing Zimbook, YOU ARE LAZY and NOT CREATIVE, I won’t be one of your users.

        Before you say anything please visit http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/F…  Thank you!

        H-Metro uses a free-to-download Joomla template (There I said it).

        I’m just saying!

    2. ngth

      This is indeed an ideal system to have, and in an ideal world we would have it.  However no one is ever going to develop such a complex system for free (not to mention the huge privacy concerns which would make the system extremely complex and costly to implement).  Your only option is to engage government, donors or NGOs to fund such a project.  No Zimbabwean developer has the resources to develop such a system for free.  Not to mention the hardware and running costs, it is likely to be in the millions.
      Maybe after a local developer makes a success of one of their lazy ideas he will have enough time and spare money to develop such a project.  But expecting someone to write this for free is like expecting a painter after a hard days work to spend his night volenteering to repaint the whole of Harare CBD using his own paint he had to pay for on his own time he is not being paid for.  

  11. Napoleon

    I second ZISPA’s decision. It might be nice to the surffing community but bad for pubic control.. Before you know it Zimbo’s will pop up on YouTube having sex with thier girl friends.

    1. Tafmak3000

      You do know that it is currently possible right now hey, we don’t need local caching for that bit!

  12. Napoleon

    Or CALLING for MASS DEMOZ… get it 🙂

    1. Tafmak3000

      Dude they are at your door, they’re coming to get you!

  13. Dgoto

    Great article Kabweza – keep it up!

  14. Patience Mawire

    Napoleon got it right. Do the math – Utoobe brag that it has over 1 billion videos but in Zim we only have 14 million ppl and how many Internet users? So the chances of two of us watching the same video are quite slim. Google must know this, so why would they want this cache thing inside our networks? Thery are in information company and to them information is money. They didn’t get rich by doing things for free.

    It seems they want to take over the Internet. With thieir products they know what you search for (Google), what videos you watch (Tube), the contents of your email (Gmail), who your friends are and what you say to them (Google+), and so on.

    They know more things about you that your Mother, Wife or Girlfriend doesn’t.

    Scared yet ? I am !

    I don’t think ZISPA, ISPs, or IAPs saw a benefit to their users anyway. It probably wasn’t “rejected” as the article implies, just unworkable technically.

    1. Pikirijoe12

      You forgot Chrome (they know what you browse, what porn u like) and Android (they know who you call and where you are) !!!!!!!

  15. Jmasunga

    THE BIGGER PICTURE. I think google are victims of thier own success and must pay huge amounts for their bandwidth. Their solution – install GGC in all countries so that they don’t have to serve their content for every user.

    It’s not about OUR bandwith, It is about THEIRS and their costs. With all the sea cables, Africa now has excess bandwidth, so getting from a local cache is only a few milliseconds quicker than from them direct, except they only have to carry traffic once.

    It’s all about money, not the user experience.

  16. Vinni

    I was part of team that scoped and brought in a GGC node over 2 years ago into a sub saharan country. The issue is Google want to put the word free and that just does not exist unless they purchase their own transit. The GGC node should be deployed within an IXP members network with a fat pipe back to ZINX. The node should either peer separately or traffic engineered so traffic to/from it can be monitored separately. The holder of the node must then approach members and sell transit YES TRANSIT to the node at 10 – 20% of current transit pricing in country. Any ISP not willing to pay 20% of their standard transit bill per volume for identical volumes is not in the business to make money. Tiered port access fees can then be levied.

    From someone who has a working cost recovery model of GGC near Zim

  17. anthonysomerset

    just want to add – google recently set there local cache up here – its hosted in Zol/Liquid’s DC in Eastgate 6ms ping to Google FTW

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