By Rebecca Wanjiku
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 DC’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 (AF-IX), 35 percent of the IXPs charge port fees (monthly/annual), which are 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. These 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 policies tend to be reviewed as the IXP grows and members have a better understanding of the benefits of peering.
AF-IX was formed in 2013, to provide an enabling environment for IXP operators and to help IXPs maximize 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 packages 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.