China’s in-country latencies and the role of ISPs


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It is a well-known fact that China’s internet landscape is the largest in the world. With over 700 million internet users (and with 695 million of those mobile internet users), it comes as no surprise that the Chinese internet landscape is a key target market for businesses across Europe.

China’s unique internet landscape is commonly known by the world. The Great Firewall of China, the region’s internet filtering system, is recognised throughout the world. China’s Cybersecurity Law also came into force on 1st June. It strengthens the regulatory environment and impacting what data can and cannot be held outside the region. The Great Firewall blocks certain types of content. For countries outside of the Firewall, it has a significant impact on web performance. As a result, many businesses in Europe that launch a website in the region will often find that their websites take more than 30 seconds to load!

But what is less well known is that it isn’t just the Great Firewall that causes internet performance issues. In fact, there are three factors that cause latency for European brands’ websites.

What causes latency in China?

The first factor that impacts European brands web performance is the sheer distance from Europe to China.

It comes as no surprise that the 4,000 odd miles between Europe and China plays a role in causing delays to web performance. Usually, distance is the factor that impacts performance the most. The number of exchanges between the origin server and the end-user adds to website loading time.

The second factor that causes latencies is the Great Firewall, China’s unique internet filtering system.

But the Great Firewall even causes delays to websites delivered from Hong Kong into China. In fact, the Firewall’s filtering process slows websites down by up to 40%.

The third is China’s internet infrastructure which causes latency.

In China, there are only a few Internet Service Providers (ISPs). Such as China Telecom, China Mobile and China Unicom to name a few. These state-owned ISPs are solely responsible for handling the traffic of 700 million internet users (which is also likely to impact web performance in the region). And for traffic to pass between these ISPs, traffic peering is required, and this is where the problem lies.

Peering is the interconnection of networks between ISPs. Perring allows data exchange to take place (peering is essentially what allows internet users to connect to almost every public network). But ISPs pay one another to peer. In China, not only is it expensive to peer, but the interconnection points are also heavily congested. This means that data from one part of the country may not be able to make it to another part of the region.

The limited number of peering points also has a huge impact on reaching China’s internet users. Obviously, not all internet users are in the major cities of Beijing and Shanghai. With over 600 cities in China, a huge proportion of potential customers reside in tier 2 and tier 3 markets. Which again means that data might not make it to all parts of the country. And also means that as a business, you can miss a huge proportion of your customer base.

Because China’s internet infrastructure has limited peering points, fragmented network topology and poor connectivity. Simply setting up data centers in China’s major cities is not enough to ensure high performance, as it doesn’t help with delivery across the whole region. For European businesses looking to successfully launch websites in China, you have to tackle in-country latencies in a more targeted fashion. That is why many businesses turn to content delivery networks.

How CDN (content delivery network) can help you entering into China Market

A content delivery network is able to overcome the delays caused by distance, the Great Firewall and the complex internet landscape. This is because a CDN providers have points of presence (PoP) and infrastructure throughout mainland China. Thus they are able to cache data inside the Great Firewall. where within each PoP can help accelerate the speed at which content is delivered to the end user. And how do they do this exactly? When an end user requests a web page, the data is only ever being loaded from a nearby server. Data loads much faster as it travels much shorter distance. Not only does this help overcome the issues with peering and congested interconnection points, it also helps reduce latency caused by the firewall.

With more European businesses looking to target China, picking the right CDN is crucial for success. You need to ensure that your CDN provider has expertise of the Chinese market. They need to have physical presence in the region and is au fait with the rules, regulations and licensing (and has relationships with all of China’s key networks).

Tackling China is a lot to take on – but if you follow the right path it is achievable. If you’re interested in hearing more tips, you can read more about ‘The most commonly asked questions around China CDNs’ as well as finding out ‘Can your CDN provider really tackle China?’

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