.IN Technical Service Provider Selection – Legal Dispute: Afilias Vs Neustar Vs Nixi (.IN Registry)

.IN Registry Technical Service Provider (TSP) – Request for Proposal (RFP):

.IN Registry calls for the technical service provider selection every 3 years once, it’s a regular process to chose the right technical service provider to ensure the smooth operations of .IN registry.  On the 30’th of January 2018, .IN Registry has e-published an RFP in eProcure portal and has received the bids of Neustar and Afilias.

RFP is expecting the technical support of running .IN extension and as well as 15 IDNs (Internationalized domain name ccTLDS) in Indic languages. NIXI is already working with ICANN to roll-out the 7 more Indic languages in coming months and the same is also part of the RFP scope.

About Afilias:

Afilias is indeed one of the very few trusted Domain (TLD) Registry Services organisations in the world and Afilias has been the technical service provider of .IN registry since 2005, almost 13 years. Afilias has clearly deployed the local infrastructure to support both .IN and as well as IDNs in Indian languages. Afilias own several top-level domains such as .INFO and offers the technical support to several TLDs such as .IN,.ME ..etc and 193 new GTLDs.   Recently Afilias has won the .AU technical service provider contract from the serving operator Neustar.  In Short, a trusted and technically competent organisation.

About NeuStar:

American technology organisation with wide interests in technology service offerings including registry services, Neustar is offering the technology services over 20+ years.  At moment Neustar is offering technical services to  233 new GTLDs.  Neustar does have the experience of running ccTLDs registries, per example .US registry is supported by Neustar. Neustar supported the .AU registry for several years until it’s lost the contract to Afilias.  Neustar also runs several IDNs registries, however no experience in running INDIC IDNs. In short, a trusted and technically competent organisation.

Both Neustar and Afilias are easy to prove the technical competency as they are big enough to offer such services, although IDNs support in Indic languages is the tricky part though.

Commercials Quoted:

Neustar has quoted 70 cents per domain name where as the Afilias has quoted 1.1 USD per domain name.

RFP Award:

.IN registry has awarded the contract to Neustar.

A lawsuit filed by Afilias:

Afilias has been managing the .IN registry since 2005 (almost 13+ years) but now almost lost the business to Neustar, as Neustar has emerged as the lowest bidder.

Afilias filed a plea in the Delhi High Court seeking a stay on the proceedings for awarding the contract and this plea certainly blocks the Neustar taking over its business until the verdict comes in favour of Neustar. Afilias has urged that Neustar’s should be declared not competent to bid for the project as it did not have capabilities to manage the Indic IDNs. Afilias has also requested the court to stop the Union of India / NIXI from awarding the contract to Neustar.

Potential Impacts and Opportunities:

Every change brings some potential impacts and as well as opportunities, especially a technical service provider change will have certain impacts on the overall .IN ecosystem.

Let us start with the assumption that the Honourable Delhi High court will dismiss this plea. In this scenario, the impact we can anticipate is certain technical configuration changes at the registars end, especially related to the API calls.  Afilias has to transition the technology to Neustar which is ideally a smooth process discounting the IDNs. IDNs are certainly less than 1%  of the total volumes of the zone file, it is also vital to note the technical expertise and the relevant API’s for IDN were developed and provided by CDAC to NIXI inturn to Affilias for .भारत domain names in Indian languages.

We have almost entered the era of Artificial Intelligence revolution, seriously Neustar cant offer the technical support required Indic IDN’s?  Bigger scale technical transition projects are happening in technology space every other day, to me in this scenario its no impact on the .IN registrants and .IN registars.  A very little or negligible impact likely to be predicted to IDNs, its worth the risk considering the cost benefits Neustar is offering.

Neustar has made a technical bid lower than Afilias, so I expect registry reducing the prices of the registrations slightly and passing the benefits to registrars and registrants. An optimist in me making me feel so for now:).

Let’s consider the other scenario of the honourable high court awarding in favour of Afilias, business as usual (BAU), no change to anyone.   Strained relations between NIXI and Afilias may lead to a potential impact on the overall extension, this is something certainly I am worried about it in this scenario.

Let’s consider the worst case scenario now, the Honourable high court will take years to solve the dispute, this is not uncommon in Indian judiciary system. In this scenario, Afilias is still a technical service provider for .IN and Indic IDNs. Business as usual, again the soft-factor of strained relations impact applicable.

P.s: Opinions expressed in this blog article are based on the information we have collected from various sources such as Nixi , Inregistry , Afilias and Neustar organisation websites. NTLDStats.com is the source for new GTLDs registry stats.  

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