Saudi Arabia's ISPs - Technical Setup of Internet

All Points of Presence (PoP) are managed by the Saudi Telecommunications Company (STC), which is the recently privatized "Phone Company".  They use modem banks equipped with 56Kbps V.90 Modems, which work pretty well. Access kingdomwide is through "360-xxxx" numbers which does a per minute charge back to your phone bill. This is over and above what you pay your ISP. Initially, there are 5,000 such lines available kingdomwide, divided evenly for all licensed ISPs, giving each one about 125 dial-in lines. More lines are planned for mid 1999. An article in Reuters dated 30 June 1999 has confirmed that STC is indeed installing 5,000 more ports by end of July 1999 to provide better service to the general public. This setup has the advantage of relieving the ISPs from handling the mess of phone lines, modems, ...etc. but causes some overhead, since (at least some) traffic has to pass twice to the ISP. In practice, at least so far, this doesn't seem to have affected the service negatively. Every ISP has his own proxy server, which is used by their customers. This one (probably?) feeds from the main proxy at the Internet Service Unit. When a user logs on to the internet, he has to enter his name in the format username@ISPDomain so that STC can pass the user name and password to the correct ISP for authentication. For those wanting to delve more into technical details, user authetication is done by using the standard Password Authentication Protocol (PAP). More details are available in the PC Magazine Middle East February 1999 article. Some more details are available at this page at the Internet Service Unit web site.

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