How Peering Helps Deliver the Internet in the Indian Ocean

For most people, islands in the Indian Ocean invoke the idea of luxury holidays on tropical beaches – the last place we would want to be interrupted by a business email. But many people like to get online occasionally when on holiday and, of course, for the people who live and work on these islands, being able to use the Internet and connect to the web and cloud for work, education or leisure is just as important as it is for anyone in Europe or the rest of the world.

International cable connections

When it comes to Internet connectivity, the Indian Ocean islands of La Réunion, Madagascar and Mauritius are not as remote as they appear on the map. In fact, when looking at a submarine cable map, we can see that all three islands are connected to each other by two subsea cables – LION and METISS – and there are a number of others that connect them to other countries along the East African coast or to the international hubs of South Africa, and across the ocean to India for access to transit connectivity and interconnection with large networks. In order to connect to Marseille and then on to other European destinations, the islands must use the EASSy cable from Madagascar (running from South African to Sudan) before connecting to another Europe-bound cable. The number of hops in this connectivity journey will improve when Madagascar gains a direct subsea path to Marseille, via the Africa-1 cable, expected to be operational in 2021.

Focus on La Réunion and Madagascar

Located between Madagascar and Mauritius, La Réunion is a French overseas department and one of the 18 regions of France. This means it shares the same status as mainland France, is one of the outermost regions of the European Union and part of the eurozone. Its currency is the euro and its first language is French. With a population of 866,506 (as of January 2019) in an area of 2,507 sq. km (968 sq. miles), the island is densely populated with one-fifth of the population living in the capital, Saint-Denis.

At 587,000 km², Madagascar is the largest island in the Indian Ocean, and fourth largest island in the world. It has such a rich biodiversity – with many species that are not found anywhere else – that it ranks as one of the 17 countries that are considered to be megadiverse. Today, its human population stands at over 26 million, with Malagasy and French as the official languages.

Island Internet Growth

The estimated number of Internet users in La Réunion is 480,000, and in Madagascar 2.6 million, which is 53.9 percent and 9.8 percent of each island’s population respectively. La Réunion is served by four major ISPs and Madagascar by five. As two of La Réunion’s ISPs, Zeop Reunicable and Parabole Reunion, also two of Madagascar’s ISPs, Telma and Gulfsat Madagascar, and the leading ISP on Mauritius, Mauritius Telecom, are Peering members at France’s leading Internet Peering Service Provider, France-IX, we can take a closer look at the numbers behind this usage.

Figures from France-IX show that Zeop, Parabole and Telma are experiencing a dramatic increase in Internet traffic. We can see this from the total subscribed capacity of these three networks, which in 2015 totalled 4 Gbps (only Zeop and Telma were Peering members at that time). If we look at the figures for 2018/19, we see an increase to 44 Gbps, which indicates a capacity increase of 925 percent. So, what has been driving this incredible growth in the islands’ Internet traffic, and what strategies have local ISPs been using to help them keep up with it?

Unique Internet Ecosystems

La Réunion and Madagascar each have unique Internet ecosystems. La Réunion’s Internet market is highly competitive compared to the rest of France, with a choice of six service providers for a population of only 860,000 – a density of operators unique to the island. This high market penetration doesn’t mean an end to growth, however, as the rapid deployment of fibre-optic technology shows. When it comes to fibre to the home (FTTH), La Réunion is way ahead of France with approximately 75 percent of Réunionese homes now connectable. In locations where there are two or three co-existing fibre networks, of which Zeop is one, the high level of competition has helped the fast deployment of fibre over the whole island. Similarly, on Madagascar, figures from Telma show that Internet traffic has exploded since 2015 with the deployment of 4G and fibre optic, doubling in just two years to just over 60,000 Terabytes.

Driving this growth is a strong desire for streaming video and social media use – particularly from France due to the French-speaking populations. All three networks featured in this article, Parabole, Zeop and Telma, cite Netflix, Google, Youtube, and Facebook as being top destinations for users. For Telma in Madagascar, SSL and Bit Torrent also feature highly and Zeop puts Akamai is in its top four content providers. But both La Réunion and Madagascar face the challenge of how to obtain this consumer content from around the world when isolated in the Indian ocean. Let’s look closer at each of our contributors.

Focus on Zeop

Zeop is a fibre optic and mobile operator founded in 2008 and a pioneer in the optical fibre deployment on La Réunion island. Martin Vigneau, Deputy General Manager, explains the network’s vision, challenges and approach to solving them:

“Our vision is to make La Réunion into a “smart island” with a communication zone that will help develop the economy and positively impact the other islands of the Indian ocean zone by encouraging exchanges with Africa, India and Australia. We hope La Réunion will have an important role to play in this evolution.

“Currently, 50 percent of Zeop’s traffic is due to the main content providers such as Netflix, Facebook, and Google. YouTube is widely used here and has been deployed on Zeop Internet-TV boxes with 90 percent of our customers using the app at least once a day. We also have many game leagues. Most are hosted on local servers, improving latency, which is good for the several gaming events held on the island, such as Geekali, which had 30, 000 visitors last year. La Réunion has a big geek community despite our geographical remoteness, but as far as e-commerce is concerned, we are lagging behind as our remote location means that deliveries are highly expensive. Amazon does not ship to the island, for example, and there are no local warehouses.

“We have various strategies for keeping up with increasing demand for Internet access. We work with CDN partners to deploy cache servers to have as much content as possible available locally and we have increased our capacity at our point-of-presence (PoP) within metropolitan France – at the France-IX Internet exchange point in Paris. Looking further ahead, we have started working with nearer PoPs within the Indian ocean zone in South Africa, where we believe the next global content hub will be located, and we have an investment in the METISS cable, as we aim to be a real actor in undersea capacity. We hope to be partners of future cables in the East of the zone and get contents from Asia as well.”

Focus on Parabole Réunion

Founded in 1998 as a digital TV broadcaster, Parabole Réunion started offering ISP services in 2016. Telecom and Network Manager, Richard Tchissambou, describes the network’s particular challenges and solutions to the explosive growth that it’s experiencing:

“The average annual growth of our IP traffic is currently 25 percent, which is very much driven by a demand for video content. YouTube is one of the main destinations for our users and its quality is a key indicator of how well our service is performing. We keep up with this increasing demand by proactively sizing our international connections accordingly, while adapting our local infrastructure with cache servers, placing the content geographically closer to the end-users, and so reducing latency and helping us make bandwidth savings.

“Our challenge is to maintain a high-quality service while providing access to content from all over the world. Subsea cables allow us to be close to our chosen content servers – we could have chosen to connect to locations in South Africa or Kenya for example, but we chose Europe to meet our customers’ expectations as they ask for a lot of European content, which is logical considering our status as a French overseas territory. We currently rely on two cables: a main route with the best latency, and a secondary one for back-up, which makes our XDSL offering very reliable.”

Focus on Telma

In Madagascar, the socio-economic context is different and only 9.8 percent of the population are Internet users (as of 2017). Telma – the first telecom operator in the Indian Ocean – is experiencing an average growth of 80 percent per year: thanks to redundancy projects, interruptions to its optical backbone are barely perceptible. Joël Randrianasolo, Deputy CEO/Group CTO at Telma, explains how the network keeps up with this exploding demand:

“As part of our national fibre optic plan, we started switching ADSL customers in the capital, Antananarivo, to fibre in 2017. So far, over 4,000 individual and enterprise customers have migrated and by the end of 2019, we expect all customers in the capital to have made the switch. Customers in the cities of Toamasina, Toliara, Sambava and Morondava are also currently being migrated and the project is expected to last until 2020. In addition, 4G is being deployed across our mobile network, which now covers 84 major towns.

“Our strategy for delivering a stronger and competitive Internet service is ongoing modernisation of the core IP backbone to support All-IP traffic and deployment of CDNs and cache servers to bring content closer to users. We also undertake ongoing monitoring with proactive follow-up regarding the use of the links in order to anticipate any necessary capacity upgrades.”

The France-IX connection

All three networks have chosen to become peering members at the France-IX Internet Exchange in Paris.

For Parabole Réunion, membership of France-IX is a way to improve the performance of its Internet services for a number of reasons: through access to the many major international content providers hosted at France-IX; by reducing latency – as the fastest and shortest route to other peering members is an IXP peering connection; and because being able to access the content from other peering members such as AWS, Akamai, Google, Facebook, YouTube (and many more) means improved speed and quality of service.

“We joined France-IX because we realised the IXP platform has a member community that includes all the Internet ecosystem players we wanted to interconnect with,” explains Richard Tchissambou. “In terms of traffic, today 70% of our international traffic goes through France-IX and our gains in terms of latency are significant. Thanks to our France-IX membership, our customers enjoy a better quality of service and improved access to important content that is usually difficult to reach. These benefits impact positively on our ability to retain our existing customers and gain new subscribers”.

For Zeop, the benefits of France-IX membership include direct connectivity with Internet ecosystem actors who do not usually do private peering or have restricted policies (especially the biggest ones, such as Google). Martin Vigneau explains:

“For our customers, it’s all about better quality. France-IX opens up new possibilities for us and allows us to increase our direct routes by peering with its community. In addition, the IXP allows us to control costs and have a balance between transit and peering. As we are quite small, it’s difficult for us to have affordable transit prices (it’s around 30 to 50 cents in transit cost to reach Paris with our current providers).”

Lastly, Joël Randrianasolo at Telma summarises the benefits of France-IX membership:

“We gain a reduction in the amount of traffic that must go by expensive transit providers and so reduce our costs and we also get an improvement in latency time.”

All three networks are gaining positive results from peering at France-IX – new joiners are always welcome!

Ten Years Of Supporting Africa’s Tech Community

In 2010, Liquid Telecom was approached to support the first Africa Peering and Interconnection Forum (AfPIF). It was a great opportunity to start conversations on how to share content locally and offer better user experience. We’ve continued to support Africa’s tech ecosystem ever since – the Liquid Telecom team has attended every Afpif event and we’ve been a platinum sponsor since 2012.

One of the big issues back in 2010 was the amount of content that was hosted abroad – meaning higher transit costs, which can lead to higher connectivity costs to the end user. The goal was to increase the level of content exchanged locally to 80%. This meant we had to invest in more data centres and cloud providers, as well as educate the users on the importance of hosting locally.

Experts at the early AfPIF events predicted a more interconnected Africa and that by 2020, 80% of all Internet traffic downloaded in Africa will be sourced from a data centre or exchange point in Africa.

For Liquid Telecom that advice has come true and we achieved the milestone in 2019, but it has not happened for all countries in Africa which we are yet to reach. 

Four or five larger African owned multi country backhaul networks have emerged, all peering with each other at strategic hub locations to exchange traffic locally and keep African data in Africa. At Afpif meetings we learnt as an industry that if we peered locally with each other that we would flourish faster than those that staunchly refused to peer. 

We also learnt that by doing this, our costs of transporting data to and from Europe would reduce significantly, and even that content giants would begin to pay to bring their content to Africa – instead of Africa paying to get to them. The entry of the global Internet giants into Africa – who have decentralised the infrastructure of their platforms and moved from centralised data centres to a distributed model of multiple data centres and caching nodes connected by robust transport networks – will play a big role in achieving that 80% figure.

But what is next for Africa’s Internet?

Certainly, the African Internet ecosystem looks set to enlarge as more countries take progressive steps to open up their telecoms market and improve connectivity.  Liquid Telecom just announced the construction of fibre to Juba in South Sudan, reducing the small number of countries that still have no backbone fibre optic network to their capital cities.  And there are positive signs that the liberalisation of telecoms in Ethiopia, a country of over 100 million people, looks to be happening right now.

The Africa free trade agreement has been ratified and finally signed by Nigeria leaving only one country, Eritrea, being not part of the world’s largest trading area. African Union predicts that intra African trading will increase from current 16% by a factor of 60% by 2022. Intra African trade sets to drive more investment in road, rail and ICT infrastructure to facilitate the growth, and the usage on the digital infrastructure sets to increase, further stimulating the trade by selling of digital assets and services across borders.

But it’s not all good news. We have seen backward-looking regulations passing in some countries to limit or regulate popular Internet applications such as social media. Internet shutdowns in Africa have become more prevalent and serve to harm the economies of those countries involved. With more digital transformation and cross border interconnection, it maybe only a matter of time before the impact of a national Internet shutdown will affect users of digital services in neighboring countries. 

Global politics also comes into play and a trade war between US and China, now being aimed at a vendor who has been successful in Africa and instrumental in helping governments and MNOs roll out African fibre and 3G/4G services, can’t be good for Africa either.

But overall, we expect to see strong growth in additional infrastructure and more interconnection. This means more access, more applications, more cloud being consumed and more digitisation of business and government services, leading to more completely new digital services being consumed by a rising African youth population. Not to mention the potential explosion of connected IoT devices.

By 2030, there will be multiple ways for Internet traffic to travel from Cape to Cairo within Africa, and multiple fibre routes across the region. All countries in Africa will be connected to fibre and interconnected, and much investment will have been made in last mile access. Many countries will have carrier neutral data centres, but it is likely that the biggest concentration of data centres and cloud computing will be in those countries that have larger digital economies and safe regulatory environments for data storage. Interconnection will enable the smaller countries to access Africa’s Cloud.

From a technology perspective some key developments are happening behind-the-scenes. Afrinic is the last regional Internet registry to have remaining IPV4 addresses and we are now looking at a nearly empty store. The African Internet of the future will therefore be advancing rapidly towards IPV6. 

There have also been some key developments in IP packet routing and segment routing that are enabling us to route traffic based on where it has come from as well as where it is going to. We at Liquid Telecom were one of the first globally to deploy segment routing as well as one of the first in Africa to deploy IPV6 to the last mile customer endpoint – and it was great to receive an award recognising that in London at the end of 2018. We are also looking to the future and getting involved with standards development, especially where segment routing and IPv6 converge, in order to ensure the standards of tomorrow cater for the needs of Africa and its customers.

These technology enhancements will pass on benefits to our customers. Increasingly our larger backbone users are wanting to migrate towards IP based services from traditional IPLC leased lines, but still want control and flexibility of the exact routing and path taken. By 2030, not only will there be multiple terrestrial paths for Internet traffic to travel from Cape to Cairo or from east to west, they will also likely be carrying transit traffic direct from Asia to the Americas. Network providers will adopt new routing technologies to deliver more choice to their customers about where their traffic comes from and how it reaches its destination across the multitude of paths available on the continent – so that they can mitigate their risks and enjoy an Internet experience tailored to their requirements.


Image credit: Internet Society / Nyani Quarmyne / Panos Pictures

Mauritius to host 10th Africa Peering and Interconnection Forum

Annual event serves as a platform to expand and develop the Internet in Africa

Port Louis, Mauritius – 13 August 2019 – Mauritius will host the 10th anniversary edition of the Africa Peering and Interconnection Forum (AfPIF) at the Intercontinental Hotel, Balaclava, from 20-22 August 2019, which is being organised by the Internet Society and African IXP Association (AFIX) in collaboration with Rogers Capital.

AfPIF 2019 will connect and bring key infrastructure, service, and content providers together with policymakers in order to identify and discuss ways to improve network interconnection, lower the cost of connectivity, and increase locally available content, for the benefit of Internet users across the region.

AfPIF is an annual event that serves as a platform to develop the African Internet, and was created to address the fact that most of Africa’s local Internet traffic is exchanged outside the continent. At the same time, Africa imported over 99% of the Internet traffic consumed, which created an “Internet Transit Deficit”. Exchanging traffic locally through Internet Exchange Points (IXP), reduces Internet access costs and network delays and increases content access speeds.

“AfPIF has contributed considerably in changing the Interconnection environment in Africa over the last 10 years. Locally traffic exchanged traffic has increased from less than 1 GB to close to 800 GB today,” explained Dawit Bekele, Africa Regional Bureau Director for the Internet Society. “This is a remarkable The achievement thanks to the strong community established around AfPIF and I am sure that this year’s event will contribute to an even more interconnected African Internet,” he added.

This is the first time that the event is being held in Mauritius and the Indian Ocean Islands region, which is seeking to develop its role as an innovation hub for the region. The Minister of Technology, Communication and Innovation, Hon. Yogida Sawmynaden is due to speak at the event and Rogers Capital will act as the local host.

“We are pleased to host AFPIF 2019 in Mauritius especially with the special privilege that this year’s event will coincide with the celebration of its 10 years of existence. As a diversified and sophisticated business hub for the region, we believe Mauritius may help open new business perspectives for the AfPIF delegates. We are looking forward to welcoming the delegates in August 2019 and to providing our support for the development of Internet Infrastructure in Africa,” said Dev Hurkoo, Managing Director, Rogers Capital-Technology.

Over 250 participants from across the African continent are expected to attend the event, with leading technology providers Liquid Telecom, Seacom and Huawei as Platinum sponsors and AFRINIC, Emtel Business, Linx, Microsoft and Rogers Capital as Gold sponsors. A full list of sponsors can be found at: https://www.afpif.org/afpif-10/.

Concluding on the opportunities ahead, Kyle Spencer, Co-Coordinator of the African IXP Association said “our target is to localize 80% of Africa’s Internet traffic by 2020, and I believe we’re well on our way. Packet Clearing House reports that Africa currently sees the highest growth of domestic bandwidth production in the world, registering a 92% increase from 410 Gbps to 786 Gbps within the last 12 months — and our internal industry benchmarking data corroborates this. It’s an exciting time for Africa, and we look forward to building on this momentum in Mauritius.”

About the Internet Society

Founded by Internet pioneers, the Internet Society (ISOC) is a non-profit organization dedicated to ensuring the open development, evolution and use of the Internet. Working through a global community of chapters and members, the Internet Society collaborates with a broad range of groups to promote the technologies that keep the Internet safe and secure, and advocates for policies that enable universal access. The Internet Society is also the organizational home of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF).

About AF-IX

The African IXP Association (AFIX) is a group of Internet exchange point operators from across Africa, brought together by a shared need to coordinate and exchange knowledge. It aims to foster an enabling environment for IXP operators, improve connectivity within the continent, and increase the Internet’s value for all. AFIX was established in 2012, joined the Internet exchange Federation (IX-F) in 2014, and now organizes the annual African Peering and Interconnection Forum (AfPIF).

About Rogers Capital

Rogers Capital is a well-established FinTech company in Mauritius and is a subsidiary of Rogers Group, one of the largest conglomerate listed on the SEM 10 on the Stock Exchange of Mauritius. Rogers Capital is a leading Mauritian provider of fiduciary, technology and financial services. Its Technology arm is a leading Infocom solutions provider in Mauritius & the Indian Ocean region with a multi skilled workforce of 125 ICT Professionals and with an ISO/IEC 27001 certified Data Centre.

For more information please contact: 
Betel Hailu – hailu@isoc.org

This post first appeared on the Internet Society’s website.

Rogers Capital Welcomes AfPIF-10 to Mauritius!

Rogers Capital has welcomed Africa’s tech community to Mauritius, promising an eventful and educational AfPIF-10, set for August 20th to 22nd 2019.

According to Dev Hurkoo, Managing Director, Rogers Capital, the chance to host AfPIF, which will also mark the event’s 10th year anniversary, has allowed the company and Mauritius as a whole, to showcase its ability to build capabilities, share knowledge, discuss new policies, and creating awareness around the role each ICT stakeholder plays in ensuring that Africa as a whole benefits from the latest developments and policies.

The island of Mauritius boasts of a business friendly legislative environment. For example, Mauritius has signed Double Taxation Agreements (DTAs) with 46 countries globally, including 15 African countries.

“Major international ICT players, including Oracle, Microsoft, IBM, HP, CISCO, Orange Business Services, Accenture, Infosys, Hinduja Group, France Telecom, Ceridian and TNT Group, have set up their operations and development centres in Mauritius. The island is home to several mobile operators in addition to the fixed phone operators,” Mr Hurkoo highlighted.

Rogers Capital combines world class financial expertise with cutting edge technology to provide sophisticated solutions for businesses, institutions and individuals in their evolution towards a better tomorrow. For instance, in the cyber city of Ebene, Rogers Capital has deployed its own fibre GPON network, and has also built a highly resilient Carrier Neutral Data Centre with Tier3 standards, housing the extension to the Mauritius IXP.

“We, as a leading ICT service provider are looking forward to a fruitful event, bringing together the entire Internet community and its key stakeholders. We are dedicated to providing our utmost support to ensure the smooth running of operations during the event. The pertinent subjects earmarked on the agenda are of great interest to the entire community and we are looking forward to see the debate unfold locally to bring more value to the current Mauritian ICT landscape,” said Mr. Hurkoo.

Rogers Capital is indeed privileged to be based in a country that according to the Economic Development Bank data, hosts approximately 800 ICT companies and 23 banks.

“On behalf of our local parnters and the Mauritius Internet community, we anticipate a very prolific interaction between the AFPIF delegates and local experts. As an ICT Hub, such an event can only bring more value to our jurisdiction. We welcome and look forward to hosting you in Mauriutus” concluded Mr. Hurkoo.

Operating as a new-age telco for Africa through strategic system decisions

Key to being a new-age telco is listening to what customers are saying. Worldwide, we are functioning in an age where customers are increasingly knowledgeable around technology and connectivity, with people in touch with what they need and want, which includes superior customer service. Despite its pivotal role in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the connectivity sphere is no different from any other business sector when it comes to profitability challenges and a hyper-competitive environment. Yet, as with any industry, engaging with customers, listening and orientating business decisions towards their empowerment, returns dividends for all parties.

As one of the leading private telcos operating on the African continent, SEACOM has adopted this approach to better serve local business customers with an appetite for high-quality connectivity – and the emerging technologies that hinge on it.

The African context

There’s no question that Africa is playing catch-up in the arena of telecoms, with longstanding infrastructure barriers to overcome, along with government attitudes that have been slow to warm to sector privatisation. That has changed, though, over the past decade or so, with governments in countries like Kenya, South Africa and Ethiopia prioritising ICT development and access to broadband Internet as a key enabler of socio-economic upliftment for their nations.

With such positive developments and receptiveness to private investment, telcos are operating in a local environment rich in opportunity. As a result, providers’ strategy and moves regarding their own growth and investment decisions, can tap into this enthusiasm. Even better is to have measures in place already to meet demand as it emerges.

Cloud comes to the continent, with localised providers

For example, on 6 March this year, enterprise-grade Microsoft data centres finally launched in Johannesburg and Cape Town as Africa’s first Azure cloud regions. With media reports citing AWS plans for similar South African facilities in the first half of 2020, SEACOM took preparatory steps by expanding its national and continental footprint so that businesses in South Africa, and elsewhere on the continent, could enjoy the benefits of access to leading public cloud providers that now have local physical presences.

This “setting up shop” in Africa, of course, has helped to mitigate the security, territorial, latency and general compliance concerns that discouraged cloud adoption in the region in the past. And even for African businesses outside South Africa, connecting to data centres on the continent will still be faster and provide a more seamless experience than relying on computing power that is generated half a world away.

Connectivity expanding beyond metros

In a move that reflects the general trend in African telecoms towards the consolidation of fibre assets, SEACOM acquired South African connectivity provider FibreCo Telecommunications towards the end of 2018. FibreCo owned and operated a national open access dark fibre network which ran along South Africa’s highest-traffic transmission routes and connected over 60 points of presence across the country, including key data centres. The acquisition therefore further enabled SEACOM to scale and upgrade its “African Ring” by connecting its East and West coast submarine assets with a robust network of trans-South African fibre.

The result is an end-to-end fibre that connects the SEACOM subsea cable system (which runs along the east coast of Africa and lands in Mtunzini, on the east coast of South Africa) to the WACS cable (which falls at Yzerfontein, on the west coast of the country). This ensures fully redundant high-speed ring protection around the African continent – a benefit that SEACOM can pass on to African business customers demanding standard-setting reliability no matter what.

For the record, SEACOM is the only African carrier to cover all five of the largest exchange points in Europe (London, Frankfort, Stockholm, Amsterdam and Marseille), in addition to Mumbai.

A further point to note is that with providers starting to look beyond saturated metros for new markets, lighting up additional fibre across South Africa also creates a platform to deliver affordable, high-speed Internet connectivity and cloud services to traditionally-underserved mid-tier cities and towns along the new routes. This is as true for home users as business customers, and the trend is set to reflect across Africa, with fibre rollout naturally progressing from main centres to secondary cities, and then on to more remote areas as investors make back their initial outlay.

Infrastructure improving across Africa

SEACOM’s system upgrades are not confined to South Africa either. In the greater African region, SEACOM has added seven other PoPs to enable more African businesses to connect to cloud facilities worldwide, as well as to the new continent-based Microsoft Azure data centres, and their soon-to-debut equivalents from other major cloud providers. The move has been accompanied by an upgrade of backhaul to include additional separate and resilient routes.

In preparation for higher demand and expanded services to business customers in the region, SEACOM has plans for new open-access PoPs coming to Nairobi, Kenya and Kampala, Uganda. These will provide a direct on-ramp to the SEACOM network. Before that, though, SEACOM has extended its presence in the brand-new icolo data centre in Mombasa, which offers both IP/MPLS and transmission services.

The significance of the full-service Mombasa PoP for the telecoms industry is that it is Kenya’s first open-access data centre. Rare in the region, in comparison to operator-owned data centres, this carrier-neutral facility (in addition to the impending Nairobi and Kampala centres) encourages competition in the local ICT sphere, helping to increase cloud-based service offerings for customers while driving down costs. 

Convenience is king

As we’re seeing, strengthening regional systems is necessary for the evolution of the market at a technical level, particularly with the increased demand for data owing to the growth in fibre-based connectivity and emergence of technologies such as 5G.

However, strategic decisions around network expansion also provide a better experience for customers, from services to support. And the importance of convenience and flexibility for customers can never be understated. One case of this is digitally-enabled and automated self-service, providing customers with the power to manage their account at a time and location convenient to them.

A further example of convenience that pleases the customer is a diversity of services from the same provider, turning them into a one-stop-shop for all their solution requirements – from connectivity to cloud. There will always be a space for specialist providers of all manner of services, but right now organisations in Africa, from SMEs right up to large multi-national corporates, place value in any ICT company that simplifies their cloud migration. For example, SEACOM’s PoPs are key to its direct access offerings, which bypass the public Internet in connecting company networks to digital business solutions, whether stemming from data centres in Africa, or cloud providers located in Europe.

SEACOM’s subsea cable system, which connects East Africa to South Africa, Europe and Asia, offers a fibre express route that carries terabytes of capacity, with speeds ranging from 50 Mbps to 100 Gbps.

Forgetting for a second the global cloud providers, the opportunity for African businesses to leverage dedicated enterprise-standard services to connect directly and reliably to the local data centres will enable more companies on the continent to embrace the cloud in a compliant manner, and enhance their digital transformation. In addition to laying the foundation for explorations of artificial intelligence and edge computing in years to come – enabled by the elimination of lag inherent to long-distance data transfer – in the near future, locally-delivered Azure cloud services will be joined by popular everyday business tools like Office 365 and Dynamics 365.

New-age business is customer first, always

New-age business is at its core about putting customers first, and making every decision by considering their needs. When that comes to telcos, that may even mean partnering with competitors in the development of a new product or system, if necessary. Furthermore, for ICT companies promising greater fluidity in operations for their customers, pace-slowing rigidity is to be avoided in their operations at all costs. Customer experience should always be as easy and enjoyable as possible instead of introducing resistance.

Investment and development of systems in the region should similarly be orientated towards the business user. On one level, such a future-minded, outward-looking approach helps to position SEACOM and other telcos as a partner to businesses across Africa, by thoroughly equipping them for competitive performance in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. However, aside from reputational (and hopefully profit!) advantages for the telecoms industry, there are more far-reaching repercussions too.

Access to faster and more powerful processing on the African continent supports the development of African solutions, and reliable fibre-driven connectivity allows these homegrown solutions to reach markets worldwide. This way, African businesses are gaining access to new opportunities and appear as substantial social and economic contributors at a global level, shattering negative perceptions of the continent. It’s a fundamental shift that advances in connectivity systems in the region are making a reality.


About SEACOM

SEACOM launched Africa’s first broadband submarine cable system along the continent’s Eastern and Southern coasts in 2009.

Today SEACOM is the preferred partner for African businesses, network carriers, and service providers.

Through its ownership of Africa’s most extensive ICT data infrastructure – including multiple subsea cables and a resilient, continent-wide IP-MPLS network – SEACOM provides a full suite of flexible, scalable and high-quality communications and cloud solutions that enable the growth of the continent’s economy.

SEACOM is privately owned and operated, allowing the company the agility to rapidly tailor-make and deploy new services, commercial models, and infrastructure in response to customer requirements. Without the red tape or hidden costs often prevalent in this industry.

For more information, visit www.seacom.co.za

Media Relations

Shannon Barnard
Account Manager for SEACOM at Clockwork Media (Johannesburg, South Africa)
Clockwork Media |Shannon.barnard@clockworkmedia.co.za |+27 11 463 0366 | 


Image credit: Internet Society / Nyani Quarmyne / Panos Pictures

AfPIF-10 Fellows Announced

The 10th African Peering and Interconnection Forum (AfPIF-10) has selected twenty fellows to participate in the meeting next month.

The fellows are drawn from various fields such as interconnection, content, infrastructure, and policy. They represent Kenya, Lesotho, Somalia, Nigeria, Gabon, Burkina Faso, Mozambique, Tanzania, Madagascar, Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo), Egypt, Uganda, South Africa, Republic of the Congo (Congo), Ethiopian Cameroon, Benin, and Gambia.

Among the chosen fellows are six women sponsored by the Women in Tech partners. The women are drawn from Kenya, South Africa, Gambia, and Congo.

Representing DR Congo in this year’s AfPIF forum is Eric Nsilu Moanda. Eric works as a Senior Core Data Network Architect for Vodacom DR Congo. He has held the position at the Vodafone Group subsidiary for 12 years now, designing all IP Integration Solutions for the company.

“I look forward to learning how to produce attractive local content in Africa, for Africans, obtaining a fresh technical and marketing perspective, and gaining awareness in the evolution of continental interconnection projects,” Eric said.

In the past, Eric has peered on integrating Vodacom to KINIX (Kinshasa Exchange point) and he also worked on the Internet update link for the CDN of Kinix via Vodacom. He is a member of the Technical committee of ISPA in DR Congo and is part of the team that worked on Integration of the CDN of Google and Facebook to KINIX.

Stephanie Achieng is one of the Women in Tech fellows, representing Kenya at AfPIF-10. She currently works at Technology Service Providers of Kenya (TESPOK) as a Technical officer at the company which runs the Kenya Internet Exchange Point (KIXP).

Her past achievements include having successfully led initiatives such as partnering with Google and Hurricane Electric to drive KIXP data with over 60,000 routes exchanged. She also participated in the launching of a new Internet Exchange Point at the Mombasa ICOLO data center, targeting tier 1 and 2 service providers and onboarding members such as Facebook, MTN, and Lyca Digital.

Learn more about all of the AfPIF 2019 fellows and their work!

Rack Centre to expand capacity to 1.5 MW on a trajectory to over 10MW

Rack Centre, one of Africa’s top carrier neutral facilities, is expanding its power capacity to 1.5MW, as the company moves steadily towards over 10MW of power capacity over multiple locations.

Rack Centre has rapidly grown since its establishment in 2013 with a capacity of 350kW, which has grown to the current 750kW as the company grows its service offerings, ensuring reliability 24 hours a day.

Nigeria has had a bad perception with power outage, but Rack Centre boasts of 100 percent service availability since the company went live in 2013, a critical success factor for any company providing carrier neutral data center services.

“We have operated without one second of downtime since our launch in 2013,” said Ayotunde Coker, Rack Centre Managing Director.

In addition to African and Nigerian awards, Rack Centre has received numerous recognitions abroad for its uptime record and track record of exemplary customer satisfaction, including recognition at the DCD Awards in the UK, Datacloud Awards in Monaco, and the Global Carrier Awards at Capacity Europe in London.   Furthermore, the company boasts of being the first commercial company in Sub Saharan Africa to be Tier III Constructed Facility certified by the Uptime Institute. The MD of Rack Centre was awarded the Africa Trailblazer Award by the Uptime Institute in 2018.

“Power availability is a key challenge; however, we also turn that into an advantage. We are power experts and a unique value proposition to customers who do not have steady power for IT infrastructure,” Ayotunde added.

Ayotunde also noted that Rack Center is passionate about lifting startups into complex level businesses through the company’s partnership and incubation network.

“We are creating the future, so unlikely people have all the experience we require.  In Nigeria, we have fantastic available raw talent, so it comes down to leadership context to deliver the best of the raw material which we do at Rack Centre.  The key differentiator is leadership context, vision and delivery excellence, all of which we focus on at Rack Centre,” Ayotunde noted.

The Rack Centre neutral carrier ecosystem comprises carriers such as Orange and other international carriers such as WIOCC and BringCom. Rack Centre has 5 undersea cables servicing the Atlantic Coast of Africa and the cables are directly connected and can be accessed through at least 12 different carriers of over 36 carriers resident at the facility.

CMC Networks Partners with Teraco

Telecommunications carrier CMC Networks and Teraco have collaborated to improve connectivity and increase the percentage of content hosted within the continent.

Teraco is one of the largest carrier and cloud neutral data centers in Africa, and in this partnership, CMC Networks will tap into Teraco’s Africa Cloud Exchange so as to provide a direct connection within the continent, without the need for international transit.

Local content exchange has remained low in Africa, with most people preferring to host internationally. The Internet Society has engaged local internet communities with the vision of increasing local content hosting to 80 percent.

Europe and the US have been cited as favorable hosting destinations with people citing Africa’s unreliable power, lack of hosting providers and poor intercity connectivity as part of the reasons for hosting abroad.

The partnership between Teraco and CMC will increase the percentage of content hosted within the continent and smoothen intercountry content exchange, without the need for international transit.

“By providing the essential building blocks, the Africa Cloud Exchange greatly assists us to provide our customers with the most direct and best possible cloud experience across the continent with stringent service levels to suit,” said Marisa Trisolino, CEO, CMC Networks.

Teraco has data centers in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban, which have more than 5000 cabinets connecting over 50 African countries. Teraco says it is serving more than 400 of Africa’s growing companies, and this partnership is expected to make communication easier between the countries.

“We believe the nature of the Africa Cloud Exchange will encourage and lead to increased cloud innovation. It is an outstanding platform and will support us to achieve our strategic cloud objective, which centers on solving cross-border cloud connectivity problems throughout Africa,” Trisolino added.

Andrew Owens, peering and interconnection specialist at Teraco says Multi Cloud Connect will offer a better cloud experience to users by reducing network latency, scaling on demand, and ultimately lowering network costs.

“We empower our carrier communities to do more in the cloud by providing secure, direct, flexible network connections to a wide range of local and global cloud service providers,” Owens said.


Image credit: Thomas Jensen on Unsplash

RICTA to Host Af-IX Secretariat

The African IXP Association (Af-IX) has inked an agreement with the Rwanda Internet Community and Technology Alliance (RICTA) towards establishment of a secretariat in Kigali, the Rwandan capital.

Af-IX, which provides support to Africa’s Internet Exchange Points, has partnered with the Internet Society as it moves towards developing its presence around the continent by expanding its governance and administrative capacity.

Describing the agreement with RICTA, Kyle Spencer, Co-Coordinator of the African IXP Association said:  “It clearly reflects our industry’s extraordinary growth and our community’s strong spirit of cooperation. We look forward to working with RICTA on this project. They have proven expertise that is complemented by Rwanda’s central geographic location, business friendly market environment, and fluency in multiple regional languages.

RICTA has also expressed excitement and optimism over this new agreement.

I am convinced that establishing the AF-IX secretariat is a great achievement to develop, strengthen and improve the IXP community in Africa. RICTA, an active AFIX member, is committed to go an additional mile in its contribution and provide a strong administrative secretariat that will offer an enabling environment for Internet Exchange operators in Africa,” said Grace Ingabire, Ag CEO of RICTA.

The Internet Society has affirmed its support towards the agreement which is a milestone towards keeping African network traffic localized.

This is a major milestone for Af-IX to create a truly interconnected Africa. RICTA is an excellent choice to host the administrative office since, throughout the years; it has shown its commitment to promoting IXPs around Africa. The Internet Society will continue to support Af-IX and RICTA to make sure that no local Internet traffic has to leave Africa,” said Dawit Bekele, Africa Regional Bureau Director at the Internet Society.


Image credit: Dr Antoine R. Gasasira via Wikimedia Commons

SEACOM sets up 8 POPs, targets more clients

Internet provider SEACOM has scaled its regional presence in Africa upwards, adding eight new points of presence across the continent. This move is expected to enable more African businesses to connect to cloud facilities and data centers across the world, such as Microsoft Azure data centers in South Africa.

One new point of presence is Mombasa’s iColo data centre, which is the first fully open data centre in Kenya – any network operator or business can take advantage of the limitless network and data support solutions that the facility has to offer such as premium IP/MPLS.

SEACOM says it in the process of setting up more open access data centres in the East African capitals of Nairobi and Kampala. These facilities are expected to increase competition among carriers and mobile network operators (MNOs) with the end data/network user standing to reap the benefits of lowered costs and improved connection speeds of up to 100 mbps and 100gbps, speeds that SEACOM’s infrastructure has already achieved.

SEACOM is also establishing a new point of presence in South Africa with Teraco.

 “This new facility is a key location, catering specifically to content providers and enterprise customers. It will also serve as an important data recovery site for many operators,” Robert Marston, Global Head of Product at SEACOM said in a statement.

SEACOM recently acquired South Africa’s Fibre Co Telecommunications as part of its expansion strategy. SEACOM also covers crucial Europe exchange points such as London, Frankfort, Stockholm, Amsterdam and Marseille, as well as Mumbai in Asia.

The moves that SEACOM is making to improve our infrastructure on the continent will benefit African companies with greater high-speed, reliable and secure connectivity to cloud services and other online tools. One of our major objectives is to add simplicity to cloud migrations wherever possible,” Marston added.


Image credit: Wendy Brooks on Unsplash