Africa’s largest Internet exchange(IXP), NAPAfrica says that the digital divide still exists and new innovative approaches such as peering should be better utilised if Africa is to ever have full access to critical information. While growth is evident, NAPAfrica says that the African continent has yet to fully realise the benefits of peering.
Based at Teraco, Africa’s only carrier and vendor neutral facility, NAPAfrica is currently talking to several carriers throughout sub-Saharan Africa. Lex van Wyk, Teraco CEO says that its sub-Saharan business has shown impressive growth: “There is significant proof that peering is not only fundamental, but also an essential part of any network landscape, particularly across borders. We have seen evidence of this in Skyband in Malawi where content was routed via Europe and back again, adding exceptional charges and putting pressure on the economics of the business.”
Van Wyk says that keeping content local is imperative for the continent in terms of bridging the digital divide and empowering African businesses. “If African countries had to start working together, we could grow the continent together and provide better services and distribute content more economically.”
Paratus Telecom’s Samantha Geyser, says that Paratus saves 200mb per month on international bandwidth by peering with NAPAfrica: “This has saved us on the high cost of bandwidth in Namibia, and we also have access to content from Google and Akamai as a result. This access is a huge advantage for Paratus Telecom.”
Asif Kassam, Technical Director, Skyband, a leading Internet provider in Malawi says that the ISP has reduced its relatively high IP transit in Africa: “By peering at NAPAfrica in Johannesburg, Skyband has been able to provide low latency connectivity to DNS, several large CDNs as well as a range of South African and African content to our customers. With multiple diverse paths between Malawi and Johannesburg, the additional performance improvement due to reduced latency has also seen an accelerated growth in its recently deployed 4G WiMAX
network. Currently over 40% of Skyband’s IP transit requirements are served directly from NAPAfrica”
According to Eckart Zollner, head of business development at Jasco Group, provider of true end-to-end converged solutions, says NAPAfrica is an important infrastructure component for the exchange of Internet as well as direct Network to Network traffic: “The proliferation of the Internet and data transmissions in our modern day lives relies on optimised traffic routing offering high quality and fastest possible transit time. NAPAfrica is one key component in the fabric of our Southern African regional data network, which is essential to empower customers with direct access to content as well as to each other on the shortest and most affordable traffic routes.”
The Internet broadband take-up and digital constraints are not new, but it remains a critical issue for Africa. Solutions must address access, content and economical issues: ”While it may not solve the issue, NAPAfrica does believe that a progressive Internet environment and concepts such as peering, could close the gap significantly,” concludes van Wyk.