African Union Project Helps Set Up IXPs in Six African countries

Six African countries have set up Internet Exchange Points (IXPs), after two years of the Arfican Union’s African Internet Exchange System (AXIS) project, managed by the Internet Society.

Under the project, the Internet Society was to provide technical training to AU member countries. The initial engagement involved building a local stakeholder driven process to start the dialogue for countries without IXPs with an end goal of establishing a national IXP based on global best practices. The second part involved  initiating a regional process to support the growth of existing national IXPs and ISPs to become Regional IXPs (RIXPs) and Regional Internet carriers (RICs) respectively. Technical training was held in 28 countries, attracting more than 500 participants.

“This is the first major initiative in Africa that has utilised the multi-stakeholder approach towards the implementation of IXPs. Governments have played a facilitative role towards the establishment of IXPs in five countries launched in 2014 and are actively involved in the 3 preparing to be launched in 2015. As a result, there has been more IXPs launched in the last 12 months than in the 5 years before,” said Michuki Mwangi, Internet Society’s Senior Development Manager for Africa.

The new IXPs are in Namibia, Burundi, Swaziland, Gambia, Gabon and Seychelles  . Africa currently has 33 IXPs and according to Packet Clearing House (PCH), Africa’s domestic bandwidth production grew by 145 percent, from 113Gigabits in April last year to 277 Gigabits in April this year.

The engagement in countries involved bringing together government representatives, ISPs, content, research and education network operators, amongst others likely to be peering at the exchange. The countries also received, technical trainings that involved assessment of technical preparedness for networks expected to participate, discussion on benefits of setting up an IXP and benefits of getting Internet resources IP addresses and Autonomous System Numbers (ASNs) from AFRINIC.

“The five workshops at the regional level achieved their goal, which was to enhance interconnectivity within the region, encourage local content development and data localization by promoting investments in data hosting infrastructures and data centers as well as through cost-saving peering and content distribution mechanisms,” said the final report forwarded to the AU.

In terms of availability of technical experts in the area of IXPs, Africa is still considered lower than other regions, which means AXIS training has produced a high number of experts.

“The number of people trained and countries covered in the project was more than in the entire history of Africa and IXPs,” said Michuki Mwangi “Through the project we have developed a pool of subject matter experts in the African region. In addition, the process has enabled us to attach regional and international experts, to continue supporting the respective countries through their efforts to establish the IXP.”

 

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Africa records major increase in domestic bandwidth production

African Internet Exchange Points have recorded a big increase in domestic bandwidth production, as a result of growth in sharing of Google cache, e-government services, local hosting infrastructure and services.

According to Packet Clearing House (PCH), Africa’s domestic bandwidth production grew by 145 percent, from 113Gigabits in April last year to 277 Gigabits in April this year. The number of IXPs also grew from 25 last year to 37 this year, a 48 percent increase.

“There is a general observation of significant traffic increase at IXPs where members have mutually agreed to share Google Cache and other CDN cache traffic; there is also considerable traffic being generated from e-government services, growth of local hosting services supported by the availability of local hosting infrastructure,” said Michuki Mwangi,

One of the fastest growing IXPs in Sub-Sahara Africa is NAPAfrica,. It has three locations in South Africa; Johannesburg  (Est. 2012), Cape Town (Est. 2012) and Durban (Est. 2014). NAP Africa Johannesburg records 20Gbps peak traffic, Cape Town has 5Gbps, while Durban has 100Mbps peaks traffic. Two NAPAfrica IXPs have recorded significant growth within a very short period. On the other hand, the INX operated by the South Africa ISP Association (ISPA) and also hosted in data centers in Johannesburg (JINX est. 1996), Cape Town (CINX est. 2009) and Durban (DINX est. 2012) have equally high traffic at JINX (14Gbps peak) and CINX (3.8Gbps peak) by the regions levels. However, it is of interest to observe that NAPAfrica’s two facilities have achieved higher traffic levels over a shorter time compared to the INX in similar locations.

“NAPAfrica is an IXP located in one of the few carrier neutral data center facilities in Africa operated by Teraco. As a result, NAPAfrica is in a prime location to attract membership from a diverse range of businesses collocated inside the carrier neutral facility. I believe that, the carrier neutral data-center factor has played a significant role in the impressive growth seen at NAPAfrica over a short period,” added Mwangi.

Considering that most carrier neutral CD’s are often served by major operators. It is likely that NAPAfrica’s growth is buoyed by its ability to easily connect and cross connect providers within the data centre and at high speed, without the need for procuring additional links with infrastructure operators.

According to preliminary data from research being conducted by Africa IXP Association, 35 percent of the IXPs charge port fees (monthly/annual) which is considered a global best practice to ensure sustainability of the IXP operation. This position is enforced by the fact that 35% of the IXPs that do not charge are planning to implement fees in the future. If this would be considered it would be safe to say that soon, at least 70% of all the IXPs in region would be self-sustainable and capable of establishing themselves as regional hubs.

The survey also highlighted that majority of the IXPs (55%) have small networks and content friendly peering policies. This policies appear to be in line with the current level of development where most of the IXP members are small networks and are looking to attract content providers. Fifteen percent of the IXPs have bilateral peering which is friendly to large networks, that prefer to have the choice of whom they interconnect with at the IXP. The remaining 30% of the respondent IXPs have less favorable peering policies that enforce peering for all IXP participants. The mandatory peering policies are often favored by startup IXPs to develop the peering culture. These policy tend to be reviewed as the IXP grows and members have a better understanding of the benefits of peering.

AFIX was formed in 2013, to provide an enabling environment for IXP operators and to help IXPs maximise their value, to improve connectivity within the region and increase Internet’s value for all.

Even though the research shows growth and stability in terms of power back up and security in the IXP facilities, many IXPs are struggling to grow the number of networks peering and the capacity exchanged locally.

“To grow their capacity, the African IXP operators need to consider expanding the target market of the IXP membership to include a diverse range of non-traditional members such as banks, government networks, media, academia, research and education networks,” said Mwangi.

With the massive investments in ICT infrastructure, Mwangi says IXPs need to develop strategic partnerships with terrestrial infrastructure and submarine cable operators to provide suitable  ackages for connectivity to the IXP facility. This will serve as an incentive to connect the new diverse range of (local and cross-border) businesses to the IXP and with higher capacity.

Mwangi concluded that the notable growth in traffic exchanged at IXPs is a clear indication of the regions potential and future growth potential is dependent on the stakeholders ability to nature and leverage on the relationships formed within the IXP’s ecosystem.

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Africa Peering Event to be held in Morocco

This year’s African Peering and Interconnection Forum (AfPIF), organized by the Internet Society will be held 3-5 September 2013 in Casablanca, Morocco.  The forum will focus on Policy Aspects of IXPs, Content, and Cross-Border Interconnections in Africa.

The three-day program will bring together key stakeholders, including Internet service and content providers, IXP operators, research and education networks, government network managers, regulators and policymakers to share experiences and advance peering and interconnection arrangements.

AfPIF facilitates discussions on African Internet infrastructure challenges, including terrestrial capacity issues, national and regional Internet Exchange Point (IXP) development, local content development, measures to lower connectivity costs, and international peering.

The Ministry of Industry, Trade, and New Technologies of Morocco has accorded High Patronage on this event.

The theme of AfPIF 2013 is “Policy Implementation and the Regional Content Factor”. The forum will address region-to-region policy, tapping into terrestrial cable potential and traffic management needs, as well as content issues that are critical components of transit deficits.

“Nearly all peering and interconnection agreements are forged at regional and global peering forums such as AfPIF. We are pleased to offer this important event for the fourth consecutive year and provide an opportunity for the business and operational community to work together to augment Internet infrastructure and services in Africa,” said Dawit Bekele, Internet Society Regional Bureau Director for Africa.

We wish all participants fruitful deliberations as they push forward the African technologies and come up with solutions to the current challenges.

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Africa Peering and Interconnection Forum-remote participation

Just in case you were wondering what peering and interconnection is all about, its the climax of that debate on local content and reduction of internet costs.
To understand the debate well, you need to be clued in basic tech jargon otherwise you might get lost in there. But its interesting to listen, if you are an IT manager and did not make it to the meeting.
As indicated below, there are various ways you can participate whether you have low or high bandwidth, there are many options and the twitter hashtag is #afpif.
Here is a message posted by Michuki Mwangi on how you can participate remotely.
“Courtesy of AfriNIC and NITA, we are pleased to inform you that remote
participation for the AfPIF-2 meeting starting on 8 – 9 August, 2011
from 0900 UTC/GMT will be available on the following;

+ MP3 Live Audio stream in English from;

– http://streaming.afrinic.net:8000/ Click on afpif-2

or directly

– http://streaming.afrinic.net:8000/afpif-2

+ Web (Flash video) Video Stream from;

– http://www.livestream.com/peeringforum

+ Jabber Conference Room

– A web based Jabber room is available at http://jabber.afpif.org
** Template to use the web based jabber room is available at
http://meeting.afrinic.net/afrinic-14/index.php/participate-online/setting

** The Server should be “jabber.afpif.org

– For those with jabber clients the server is
conference@meeting.jabber.afpif.org

+ Tweeter

– Search for the afpif hash tag #afpif

+ The Agenda is published and available at;
http://www.isoc.org/isoc/conferences/afpif/2011/agenda.shtml

Should you have any problems, please feel free to let us know by email
to mwangi@isoc.org and morris@isoc.org.

Our sincere appreciation to AfriNIC and NITA for their support in
provision of this services.

We look forward to your remote participation.”