Latency is Today’s Internet currency– Insights of seven years of AfPIF participation

By Harald A. Summa, CEO, DE-CIX

The Internet is a fundamental driver of growth and social development and is able to improve healthcare, education and the delivery of other critical services in a country. Internet traffic is sent to submarine cables, to European Internet exchange points like London or Frankfurt and then back, leading to high latency thereby slowing the Internet. This hinders the development of applications and local infrastructure, like Voice over IP, E-Government services, hosting and data centers.

“When we came in as sponsors to the first AfPIF meeting several years ago, we were keen to meet the African ISP community and learn more about the African interconnection ecosystem. We have learned a lot over the years; about the existing structures, challenges and equally seen a lot of positive developments but there’s still room for improvement” Said Harald A. Summa- CEO, DE-CIX

Some of the African countries where we have seen a lot of developments include South Africa. There is increasingly good connectivity in major cities and urban centers of countries like Kenya, Nigeria, Angola, Ghana among others. However, in most countries, especially in the rural areas latency times are not anywhere near the european average of 20 to 40 milliseconds. In Africa, latency times are often higher than 300 milliseconds, and are considered normal within and between countries. Improving latency times is a very critical step in this journey.

Often, international content providers don’t bring their content into African countries due to difficult political or infrastructural situations and a lack of peering opportunities. There are more than 30 IXPs established all over Africa, but the majority is on a low data throughput. DE-CIX opened two Internet exchanges in Marseille and Palermo in 2015 to bring international content as close to Africa as possible. Palermo is the closest European point to Africa’s eastern coast with several submarine cables which significantly reduces latency times compared to sending traffic from London or Frankfurt.

“Our participation in AfPIF every year is to drive the development of peering and to share our knowledge of operating Internet exchange points for more than 20 years. Africa has the huge potential of having over one billion potential Internet users and they deserve better connectivity. To drive this, we assist with consultancy projects like Angonix, the Internet exchange point located in Luanda, Angola. We train engineers locally, share our BGP and peering knowledge and show ways of growing an Internet exchange point. AfPIF is the forum we use to meet the African ISP community and talk about challenges and opportunities – for a better Internet experience in Africa” Concluded Harald A. Summa

In order for peering to be the most efficient, it is important that the exchange of traffic is kept local. There has been some improvement over the years but it is not enough.