30/08/2017 – News / Internet / Africa / Nigeria / Ivory Coast / Technology / MainOne / connectivity
Internet traffic domiciliation is vital to Africa’s development, says MainOne
West Africa’s leading provider of connectivity and data centre solutions, MainOne, has reiterated the importance of Internet traffic domiciliation as a key requirement for growing the internet ecosystem in Africa. Speaking at the recently-concluded African Peering & Interconnection Forum (AfPIF) in the Ivory Coast capital of Abidjan, MainOne’s CEO, Funke Opeke challenged the continent’s leading Internet players to exchange traffic on the continent, noting that this would significantly lower costs and improve performance.
During her keynote address, entitled ‘Vision 80/20 by 2020’, which explored the goal set by AfPIF to route 80 per cent of Africa’s Internet traffic on the continent by the year 2020, Ms Opeke examined the internet landscape in Africa and rued the current ecosystem of routing over 80 per cent of the Internet traffic from Nigeria abroad – a process that incurs expensive transit costs and increases service latency.
According to her, transactions initiated in Africa typically leave the sender for a long journey outside the continent – usually to Europe, America or even Asia – before returning to the target recipient (e.g., a bank down the road from the sender), with the response travelling all the way back the same tortuous route to the sender. Ms Opeke enquired as to why an end-user who requests to access his records in a bank down the road would want their banking transaction to travel from Lagos to, say, London, when it is perfectly feasible to interconnect such traffic. She also revealed that this process of routing traffic outside the continent increases Internet costs and delays content delivery to the region by approximately 150 milliseconds.
Driving more value from Africa’s Internet
“Africa needs to retain more local traffic within the continent to drive more value from the Internet,” stressed MainOne’s CEO. “This can be achieved by leveraging robust Internet Exchange Points and access via local interconnection points and local data centres, which provide a platform for different networks to directly interconnect with other operators and exchange traffic, guaranteeing lower bandwidth costs, quicker access to more content providers and carriers, and lower latency for local markets.”
Deepening West Africa’s integration
She explained that until a few years ago, Internet capacity in Africa was low with few high-speed networks and data centres to provide users the connectivity and content they desired. That narrative is changing however, as Africa’s growing fibre network density and increase in world-class data centres makes it much easier for content providers and OTT operators to host and serve data locally. Ms Opeke said MainOne’s data centre company, MDXi, had addressed such concerns by hosting the Nigerian Internet Exchange and launching an open interconnection service to facilitate collaboration and peering within its Lekki data centre. She also shared the company’s strategy towards deepening regional integration and digital transformation of West Africa with submarine access to data centres in Lagos and Accra interconnecting all major operators, a new data centre coming up in Sagamu, Nigeria, and its intent to extend its submarine cable to Ivory Coast.
Regulatory incentives required
During the panel session that followed, industry experts queried why Nigeria, with the largest number of investments in subsea cables in the region, has failed to leverage on that and take its rightful place as the Internet hub for West Africa. They urged for regulatory incentives to increase private and public peering at local exchanges to boost Internet traffic, which is guaranteed to create and improve the ease of doing business across the continent, and thus boost economic growth.
An initiative of the Internet Society, the three-day conference focused on developing Internet interconnection and traffic exchange opportunities and brought together key infrastructure providers, Internet Service Providers (ISPs), Internet Exchange Points (IXPs), global content producers and providers, data centre operators, policy-makers and regulators, and other key players across Africa to discuss Internet traffic exchange issues on the continent.