Ihug users should see a big boost in access to global streaming media content when a new cacheing node from Akamai is switched on in the next few days.
Ihug is the first New Zealand ISP to be approached by Akamai to host a cacheing installation on the basis of the global traffic generated by its users.
The US-based Akamai has contracts with major providers of rich Internet content such as CNN.com, Broadcast.com and Apple to rebroadcast streaming and other content via a worldwide network. The concept is to allow Internet users to get such content from a server as near to them as possible. Ihug users will now be getting it direct from Ihug's network room.
Akamai has yet to make a profit but Apple, Cisco and Microsoft all took strategic stakes before its hugely successful IPO last year and the scale and performance of its network mean it is almost without competitors.
There is already one Akamai server in New Zealand, hosted by Clear Net. But that installation was the result of an introduction made last year by Paul Johnston, then managing director of Apple New Zealand, a Clear Net customer, after he returned from Macworld Expo New York, where Apple CEO Steve Jobs first put Akamai in the headlines.
Ihug director Tim Wood admits he was surprised when his company was approached recently by Akamai
"They said our traffic for the Ihug domain had reached a certain threshold - .04% on a global scale, I think - that prompted them to contact us and say that they were coming down to install a whole lot of cacheing boxes.
"It's going to save us a lot of money in bandwidth - and it shows that while we might not have the largest customer base in the country, our customers definitely use the Internet. That's why they make such good broadband prospects."
With international circuits continuing to be the bottleneck for the various local broadband offerings, the Akamai installation constitutes a significant boost for Ihug's Ultra service. The terrestrial version of Ultra is currently only available in Auckland, but the Ihug is expected to take it nationwide before the end of the year.
"It'll be a big bonus for the Ultra customers to get Broadcast.com stuff straight off the server," says Wood. "It doesn't offer so much to the direct-to-home [satellite] customers at this stage, but we can probably look at co-housing up in Napa if we want to. The stuff off the Sky Tower is going to honk. It's just one of our baby steps in bringing content closer to the broadband market."
As the high-speed players stake their ground, Ihug has also asked Walker Wireless to change elements of its current print advertising campaign.
"We weren't that happy with them using 'Ultra-fast Internet' in their caption," says Wood. "I believe we've trademarked Ultra for Internet use - so out of all the captions they could have used …'
Wood says his company approached Walker chief Paul Ryan, who agreed to pull the ads in question.