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Growing the Internet 23 August 2017

AfPIF 2017 Kicks Off In Abidjan

By Betel HailuManager, Organization Members Engagement

The annual Africa Peering and Interconnection Forum (AfPIF) kicked off at the Azalai Hotel in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. The first day is known as “Peering Coordinators Day” where peering managers from various networks, operators, and policy makers meet and deliberate on the various ways to exchange content locally, lower the cost of connectivity, and increase the number of internet users in the region. In the course of the three days, participants get a chance to discuss, exchange ideas, and agree to exchange content, known as peering. Most peering agreements are through the handshake and AfPIF encourages participants to take advantage of the various social events and share contacts. There is a session at the beginning and end of every day, where participant share their AS numbers, peering policy, and contacts, allowing those willing to interconnect to reach out. The first session explored the general data and interconnection landscape; Telegeography presented the latest statistics, which is derived from its annual survey. Statistics show that the growth of submarine cables has led to growth in Internet bandwidth and local content. Five years ago, International transit was growing at 40 per cent, but this year, the growth is at 30 per cent, owing to the increase in the rising local content exchange. The cost of IP transit continues to fall, currently at $9 per Mbps. The cost is an average of the highest and lowest cost, usually varying between local and and international transit providers. The cost of STM-4 was pegged at $20,000 between London and Nairobi, London and Lagos is $15,000, while London and Johannesburg is the lowest at $8,000. Intra-Africa capacity continues to grow but most of the traffic is still exchanged in Europe. Growth in data center and cloud services is expected to leade to increased traffic exchange within the continent. Telegeography projects that by 2021, Africa will have 541 million 3G subscribers, compared to 471 million subscribers registered in 2016. LTE subscribers are expected to reach 201 million by 2021 compared to 37 million registered last year. Low Cost Connectivity The main theme at AfPIF revolves around lowering connectivity costs; Adva Technologies presented on the various ways they are facilitating low cost mobile bandwidth, especially in less densely populated areas. In Africa, the majority of people access the internet through mobile phones, and traditional base station construction is considered expensive to put up in areas with sparse population. Adva, together with the Telecom Infrastructure Project (TIP) are working on Voyager – an open optical solution that will lower the cost of rolling out, supporting, and maintaining infrastructure. Voyager will provide capabilities to monitor and locate network faults in real time, allowing the network to be more resilient. Google achieves 80% local traffic exchange In the last eight years, Google has supported AfPIF in the quest to increase the level of local traffic exchange. This year, Google announced that it has achieved 80 per cent local traffic exchange in Sub Saharan Africa, and is hoping to reach 100 per cent by 2020. Apart from Supporting AfPIF, Google has provided its global cache to networks in the region – provided they have achieved a certain traffic threshold or are sharing with other networks in the country. Most countries in Africa have a cache, in most cases more than one per country. Over time, Google has noted that networks do not like to share the cache, mainly because it is used as competitive edge within the country. While monopoly is not encouraged, Google has found a way to make networks share: a virtual cache. The virtual cache will allow many peers to connect, making sharing easy, and make it easier to set up regional hubs. Google has hubs in Nigeria, Kenya, and South Africa. The virtual cache is currently under tests in two locations in Africa. Internet Measurement and Statistics The last panel of the day was on Internet measurement and statistics. Ripe NCC presented on the 275 Atlas probes deployed in 36 African countries – the latest was deployed in Burkina Faso last week. Ripe Atlas probes are used for network operations, monitoring, measurement, and troubleshooting. The probes show traffic paths, not bandwidth. Globally, Ripe NCC has deployed 10,000 probes in data centers and IXPs. The Internet Society and Afrinic have supported the Atlas probe project, and the data provided has allowed other researchers to analyze the data. Afrinic, in collaboration with LACNIC, the University of Cambridge, and Queen Mary University, have an ongoing project: analyzing latency clusters using Atlas probes and speedchecker. The research used 229 Atlas probes in 36 countries and 850 speedchecker probes in 52 African countries. The study found that mean in-country latency is Africa was at 78ms, LACNIC region was at 79ms, and North America was at 45ms, while Europe was at 30ms. The research found that traffic within Africa was hopping to European hubs before returning to the region. In some cases it had four hops, which increases the latencies. Seacom, Liquid, MTN, Telkom SA and France Telecom (Orange) are the largest transit providers in the region. Unable to attend AfPIF 2017? Please join us via webcast! See the complete list of speakers and read more about the event.

Disclaimer: Viewpoints expressed in this post are those of the author and may or may not reflect official Internet Society positions.

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