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Infrastructure and Community Development 12 February 2021

Keeping Pakistan’s Internet Exchange Points Running

Internet Exchange Points (IXPs) are a vital element of Internet infrastructure. They can be found at physical and neutral locations where different IP networks meet to exchange local traffic via a switch. Implementing an IXP within a country helps bring faster, more affordable, and better performing Internet to people.

Frustrated by poor quality of service and high-cost connectivity, local Internet stakeholders started off the process of setting up an IXP in Pakistan. With the adoption of the 2015 telecoms policy, there was a new drive to foster interconnection and keep local traffic within the country.

Led by the Pakistan Telecom Authority (PTA), the telecom regulator, the government initiated consultations on how to set up an IXP.  To develop an informed opinion about IXPs, PTA reached out to the Internet Society, the Asia Pacific Network Information Center (APNIC), the local Internet community, and civil society.

The consultations led to the formation of an IXP board; comprised of all stakeholders. The new board decided to establish IXPs at Islamabad, Karachi, and Lahore. The IXP board first set up an IXP in Pakistan at a neutral venue, the Higher Education Commission of Pakistan (HEC), Islamabad in 2016. HEC was ideal because it provided a neutral ground and had space. With an IXP in Islamabad, operators started peering with each other in the city. But this was not enough to satisfy the connectivity demands in the country.

Encouraged by the successful deployment of Islamabad’s IXP and supported by the Internet Society, Pakistan IXP started developing a new IXP in Karachi. The Internet Society provided Karachi IXP with switches and technical training to launch. With this support, IXP Karachi was born in the country in 2019.

Continued Support

Though the two IXPs in the country are up and running, they still need support, especially during this time of crisis where Internet traffic is peaking at unprecedented levels. For example, Islamabad IXP faced an existential threat when its critical equipment – switches and servers – were expiring in 2020. Without switches, routers, and servers, an IXP cannot function.

Fortunately, Pakistan IXP received three switches and two servers from the Internet Society, which enabled the IXP to update its equipment. The new equipment now helps to support IXP operations.

If Pakistan IXP is up and running, it is because it has continued to receive support from institutions such as the Internet Society. Over the years, it has helped Pakistan IXP skill hundreds of local experts and strengthened local and regional technical networks of practice such as Network Operators Groups and Internet Exchange Point Associations – to increase community participation and embrace technical capacity building, skills development, networking, and lastly building communities.

Image by Muneer ahmed ok via Unsplash

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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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