Africa: Future data architecture beginning to fall into place – Internet Exchange Points and Data Centers
Increased demand – particularly interactive data demand of the kind driven by smartphones and increased video use – need networks that are capable of delivering fast and locally.
There are now two types of Internet Exchange Points (IXPs) where local traffic can flow locally rather than having to be routed out and back via New York, Paris or London. There are the shared Internet Exchange Points created by agreement between carriers and operated at a neutral point and a second category now being offered by neutral data center provider Teraco out of South Africa.
Of the first category, there are 20 across Africa. Nearly half of these are from countries where there is more than one Internet Exchange Point: South Africa (3), Tanzania (2), Kenya (2) and Nigeria (2). In 2011, there were two new additions in Lesotho and Sudan.
Although some of these have been created in less competitive countries, they have tended to be more successful in more competitive countries. There is a real gap in Internet Exchange Point presence in francophone West Africa where more competitive market regimes have yet to arrive.
Take the example of Senegal, where Orange-owned Sonatel controls well over 95 percent of the data market and the independent Internet Service Providers still remaining would all fit comfortably in a small lift. It’s hard to see the rationale for an Internet Exchange Point where there is only one dominant carrier.
A more successful example is Ghana where after a complicated start where there were two competing Internet Exchange Points, the Ghana Internet Exchange Point now brings together 13 carriers, of which Vodafone Ghana is by far the largest. However, its presence has not overwhelmed and put out of business the other 13 data carriers that exist in the country. Furthermore, there is a local Google cache server that improves response time.
The GIXP is reaching a peak traffic of 961.21 mbps, most of which is YouTube traffic. Traffic through other Internet Exchange Points varies from 128 kbps (Swaziland) through to 911 mbps (Kenya). South Africa has two big Internet Exchange Points and one much smaller ones: Johannesburg with 3.3 gbps, Cape Town with 1.5 gbps and Grahamstown with 4.3 mbps. These figures date back to mid-year 2012 and undoubtedly have increased since that point.
The second category of Internet Exchange Point being offered is from Teraco and is called NAPAfrica. Launched 5 months ago, it now has 1 gbps of traffic. It is focused not only on local Internet Service Providers, but on large content providers, carriers and enterprise, both local and international to service the whole of Africa.