Remote Peering Lowers Southern African Bandwidth Costs

NAPAfrica, Africa’s fastest growing neutral internet exchange point (IXP), is the first African exchange to offer remote peering. The service has already been snapped up by SEACOM and Liquid Telecoms among others.

Internet peering is the method whereby large ISPs and content providers interconnect their networks to exchange large volumes of traffic for free, offsetting the costs of deployment such as equipment, colocation, and routing. With remote peering the provider delivers transport to the customer router with a virtual local area network (VLAN) extension from the largest exchange points in the world.

In this way, the customer gets all of the benefits of peering such as performance, control over routing and direct relationships with the peer networks without the large initial capital and operational costs. The technique is increasing being used by CSPs to meet rapidly increasing customer demand for mobile data bandwidth.

Remote peering is not just a minor change to peering but represents a fundamental shift in internet architecture which makes peering accessible to a much larger population. As a result of the cost shift, an increasing percentage of networks are peering across great distances. This approach, which extends the life of an IXP, makes sense in Africa from both a financial and performance perspective.

According to Michele McCann, NAPAfrica’s business development manager (pictured above): "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."

The significance of this technique in Africa is potentially huge. It’s no secret that as a relatively poorly developed region, the growth, price and standard of bandwidth remains the single biggest barrier to the development of communications across the continent.

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.

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. According to McCann Remote Peering in Africa is a 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."

"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."

NAPAfrica is an African based neutral Internet eXchange Point (IXP), housed within Teraco, the largest provider of resilient, vendor neutral data centre facilities in Africa. The company claims to manage over 3600 interconnects with the number is growing rapidly. 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."

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