Liquid Telecom revealed a sharp rise in the proportion of local content on its network, from 20 percent three years ago to now 50 percent. According to the company, this has been driven by the deepening of Africa’s internet infrastructure.
Mathew Chigwende, Head of Data Networks at Liquid Telecom, reported that three factors – the ongoing climb in the number of Internet Exchange Points (IXPs) serving the continent; the expansion of CDN Content Delivery Networks in Africa; and the interconnection between telcos and ISPs – were together seeing the proportion of data being uploaded to, or fetched from, outside Africa fall by 10 percentile points a year.
“We’re now confident we shall reach the Internet Society’s target of 80 per cent local content on Africa’s Internet infrastructure by 2020,” he said.
Liquid Telecom is present and actively peering at 15 IXPs, up from 13 last year, and 8 in 2013. As a result they are officially ranked by Renesys/Dyn to be the most peered African operator and the only African operator in the top 100 global peering rankings.
According to Liquid Telecom it hosts one of Africa’s largest IXPs, the Kenya Internet Exchange Point, at its carrier-neutral Tier 3 East Africa Data Centre in Nairobi and has been actively involved, as the supplier of Internet infrastructure to many of the continent’s telcos and ISPs, in developing interconnections between different providers and between the IXPs – in a technical process called ‘peering’.
“By keeping African data in Africa we continue to help reduce the costs of Internet access across the continent, and improve the performance of that Internet to African Internet users,” said Ben Roberts, CEO of Liquid Telecom Kenya and Chief Technical Officer of the Liquid Telecom Group.
Peering though IXPs means local ISPs can connect and exchange data themselves, without paying a third party to retransmit their traffic to a local destination. By removing the need to transmit data using slower, external paths, this gives network operators greater control over both traffic flows and speeds.
According to the company, until recently, local traffic was often exchanged internationally, leaving Africa for an international exchange onto the right pathway, and then returning to the continent again. The shift to local peering has delivered a dramatic reduction in Internet costs, from $3,375 to $200 per 64 kbit/s circuit, according to the Telecommunications Service Providers Association of Kenya (TESPOK), thus opening up multiple new options in cheaper broadband, and cheaper data bundles.
Peering has also decreased Internet latencies, measured as the milliseconds (ms) it takes for data to travel from a desktop to servers. In Africa, these ‘round trip delays’ were running at 200ms to 600ms before the shift to peering, but have now dropped below 2ms to 10ms. The lower latencies have enhanced speeds for users, further driving the growth of local traffic, with many local users now moving to stream video and audio content.
“The next bases for all of us, in this Internet Society, are encouraging the creators of content to host their websites locally, and achieving better Intellectual Property protection on local content, so that the move to streaming comes with revenue models that encourage content producers to put their content online,” said Roberts.
“It is our belief that the faster we can go in keeping African data in Africa, the greater will be the uptake and benefits from the Internet for African development,” he said.