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Meeting Report

From 22-23 September 2022, we held our first meeting in Uzbekistan. RIPE NCC Days Tashkent was attended by 136 people from seven countries. The meeting was co-hosted by the RIPE NCC and UZINFOCOM. It was organised as the first in a series of events focused on strengthening the Internet and networking communities in Central Asia. Major topics of discussion were challenges related to implementing content delivery networks and IPv6 deployment.

Day One: Implementation Challenges for CDNs and IPv6

The meeting was opened by Emil Gimranov, CEO of UZINFOCOM, and Hisham Ibrahim, RIPE NCC Chief Community Officer. Alex Semenyaka, RIPE NCC Community Development Officer, started the day with his analysis of the Internet in Uzbekistan. In the past few years, the country has seen remarkable growth in mobile networks and overall network performance. However, there has been little progress in the deployment of IPv6, and routing security is not well-developed, leading to a higher risk of DDoS attacks. Alex also pointed to content and services delivery as an area where more maturity would significantly improve download speeds, especially with more locally hosted content. 

The issue of content delivery networks (CDNs) led to a spirited discussion in a panel on developing the Internet in Uzbekistan. Alexander Chechulin of Kolesa LLP noted that the cost of hosting a data centre was very high in Uzbekistan, and issues such as network delays and disappearing traffic made content delivery even more difficult. Despite their efforts, Kolesa LLP lacked the necessary equipment and needed an external CDN. Elena Yakupova of VK added that Uzbek Internet users frequently downloaded video content from foreign websites, which put more strain on CDNs. One solution to increase download speed would be a cache of locally hosted content, but due to a lack of coordination between network operators, there was no such cache yet in the country. Alexander agreed with her point and shared that Kolesa had tried to work with UZTELECOM to install caching services but struggled as they were expected to provide both the labour and equipment. 

Akmal Arifdjanov of UZTELECOM agreed that CDN servers were very expensive and added that UZTELECOM had not anticipated the level of demand they had seen. He shared their recent work on expanding fibre coverage and development of 5G and broadband access. Following his presentation, many audience members took the chance to ask Akmal for more detail about the telecom’s current projects and plans. One questioned when UZTELECOM would no longer have a monopoly as a regulator, to which Akmal responded that another operator was preparing to take a regulatory role as well. Akmal also announced they were working to build a new data centre that would be easier for operators to access.

The next panel covered network interconnection in Central Asia, and it focused on the region’s challenges with transitioning to IPv6. Shavkat Sabirov of the Internet Association of Kazakhstan shared that one problem was the monopoly in the country’s Internet, with Kazakhtelecom providing the majority of network coverage, something Shavkat and fellow operators were working to change. Deploying IPv6 was another priority, as less than 10% of traffic was over IPv6, while their goal was to reach 50% by 2050. Rollanbek Bekbolatov of Kazakhtelecom responded that the telecom had not yet deployed IPv6 as they needed to replace their broadband equipment. To do this efficiently, they could use help from other operators and neighbouring regulators. Akmal Arifjadnov said UZTELECOM was also working on this but agreed it was a slow and expensive process to replace old equipment. Massimilano Stucchi of the Internet Society joined in to emphasise that, regardless of the expense, it was necessary to develop IPv6 capabilities as soon as possible. He also encouraged local operators to consider more peering in the region through IXPs.

Next up, Gael Hernandes of Catchpoint explained his organisation’s network monitoring infrastructure, and Zarina Abzalova of Eastera LLC shared Eastera’s experience collaborating with the RIPE NCC to create a regional DNS server in Tajikistan. She encouraged operators in the room to connect to Tajikistan when building regional interconnection, which other panel members agreed to consider. The day concluded with Halil Ibrahim of the Internet Society’s Kyrgyzstan Chapter sharing some success stories from the organisation’s efforts to bring Internet access to remote villages in the country and to train the villagers there on how to use the Internet.

Day Two: Tools for Monitoring and Security, IPv6 Again in the Spotlight

The second day of the meeting kicked off with several presentations on useful tools for monitoring the Internet. Sokhibjon Orzikulov of UZINFOCOM shared how to use Xinux Opensource Operation System, and RIPE NCC staff Alex Semenyaka, Oleg Muravskiy and Ksenia Troshchenkova presented about how to use RIPE Atlas, RIS and RIPEstat. The audience was encouraged to participate in these services, as there were not many active RIPE Atlas probes in the country and no RIS peers.

The first afternoon panel discussion brought IPv6 once again into focus, especially the difficult stage of deployment. Yaroslav Zverkov of BAIKAL-IX shared how the RIPE NCC had helped them introduce IPv6. The major challenge was that clients did not have the right resources to support the protocol or an understanding of why it was important. BAIKAL-IX was working to build a community of technical specialists who could address these issues. Shavkat Sabirov of the Internet Association of Kazakhstan said that while Kazakhstan had been successful in initiating its IPv6 transition thanks to government support, users’ devices were not all prepared to support the protocol. He said a slower transition was necessary for providers to keep up. In response, several audience members asked how they could push for successful IPv6 deployment and what the RIPE NCC could do to help. Moderators Vahan Hovsepyan and Alex Semenyaka from the RIPE NCC encouraged attendees to prepare their own networks for IPv6 deployment while reaching out to their country’s regulators about the need for IPv6 capabilities. Vahan encouraged attendees to be active in the RIPE community to share their needs and get support.

There were several talks on security tools. Oleg Muravskiy from the RIPE NCC explained how RPKI works, while Massimiliano Stucchi of the Internet Society presented on Mutually Agreed Norms for Routing Security (MANRS). Azizbek Kadirov of UZINFOCOM explained how DNSSEC improves routing security and shared their work to implement it in Uzbekistan. Alena Muravska presented on the importance of maintaining accurately registered IP address records and how to manage these in the RIPE Registry. The meeting’s last talk was given by Valentin Kurinka of the School of Operators, who explained how his company helped build a community for smaller operators and offered them training.

Hisham Ibrahim of the RIPE NCC and Emil Gimranov of UZINFOCOM closed the meeting, thanking attendees and meeting sponsors. The meeting was a successful forum for Internet stakeholders to address the major issues standing in the way of Internet development in Uzbekistan and Central Asia. One clear conclusion was the need to implement IPv6 and better CDNs and to open up greater communication between regulators and operators on how to do so. Attendees were encouraged to reach out to the RIPE NCC on these matters for support in building a community and preparing for these transitions.