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African content will fast forward connectivity growth

April 23, 2014 • Mobile and Telecoms

There’s a new wave of growth on the horizon for African Internet companies and it’s being driven by an innovative worldwide phenomenon called remote peering.  NAPAfrica – Africa’s fastest growing neutral internet exchange point (IXP) – is the first African exchange to offer remote peering and has access to the largest global exchanges such as AMS-IX, LINX and DE-CIX.  The service has already been snapped up by the likes of SEACOM, Liquid Telecoms and New Telco.

There’s a new wave of growth on the horizon for African Internet companies  (image: Wikimedia)

There’s a new wave of growth on the horizon for African Internet companies (image: Wikimedia)

This is according to NAPAfrica’s business development manager Michele McCann. McCann describes remote peering as being the same as traditional peering (connecting two entities to share routing and cost benefits), except that it’s virtual and remote, saving even more on physical infrastructure and equipment.

This approach, which extends the life of an IXP, makes sense from a financial and performance perspective according to McCann:  “Peering provides sufficient benefits such as control over routing, lower latency, lower packet loss, and greater visibility.   It also drops the unit price of transit, making it a far more appealing interconnect strategy.”

Defined, it is simply to peer without a physical presence at the peering point.  By connecting to the peering fabric without colocating a router at the IXP, users do not have the expense of the equipment or the rack.  “There is no deployment cost or any other costs to deploy additional peering routers or to turn up circuits,” explains McCann.

She says this is a definite growing trend. “According to AMS-IX, its clients have added more than 70 new remote peers. Demonstrating that remote peering is no longer a fringe market and is proving to be very stable and cost effective.” Ultimately, remote peering gives users greater control and if the priority is to improve the end-user experience and control costs, then this is the interconnect strategy to choose.

It’s no secret that as a relatively poorly developed region, the growth, price and standard of Africa’s connectivity access is an interesting one to watch.

By 2025 the number of internet-enabled phones used on the African continent will rise from 67 million to 360 million, with Internet penetration rising sharply to around 50 percent, according to a November 2013 report by the McKinsey Global Institute. This means that more than 450 million people could come online in the next fifteen years.  In addition to this, Forbes reports that only around six percent of current African traffic is video streaming, but that the continent is predicted to be one of the fastest adopters of video applications globally.

The single barrier remains the cost of bandwidth across the continent.

According to McCann, cost control and improved user experience still dominate the connectivity landscape. “One way in which to reduce costs and improve experience, which is growing in popularity, is through the new interconnect strategy of remote peering.”

“If Africa is to finally lose its reputation and image as the dark continent, improve access to local and international content, and offer African consumers access to high-speed connections at a dramatically reduced cost, then it needs to embrace the concept of remote peering.

McCann represents NAPAfrica – a neutral Internet eXchange Point (IXP) in Africa, housed within Teraco, the largest provider of resilient, vendor neutral data centre facilities in Africa: “The need for remote peering is evident in the growth trajectory of NAPAfrica since its launch in 2012.  With over 100 members across its exchange locations in Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg, NAPAfrica has a peering throughput of over 9Gbps and is the most diverse Internet eXchange Point (IXP) in Africa.

“We manage over 3600 interconnects and that number is growing rapidly,” says McCann.  Currently, NAPAfrica is talking to content providers and carriers in particular. McCann says that the routing of traffic off the continent and back again is what drives the costs so high.   “Through interconnects and remote peering, high traffic costs and poor connectivity will be greatly improved.  It will also reduce latency and improve overall network quality.  All of which is crucial to the successful economic growth of the continent.”

Remote peering saves money for all parties involved: consumers, IXPs, ISPs and Internet businesses. “More money stays local, which can be used to improve infrastructure and services for clients.  The remote peering model is a win-win approach for everyone,” concludes McCann.

Staff writer

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