Donate
Four New IXPs Take off in Central America and the Caribbean Thumbnail
‹ Back
Infrastructure and Community Development 3 June 2021

Four New IXPs Take off in Central America and the Caribbean

Israel Rosas
By Israel RosasSenior Regional Development Manager

According to the global IXP Database, as of January 2021, of the 630 registered Internet Exchange Points (IXPs), 229 are in Europe, 126 in North America, 140 in Asia-Pacific, 96 in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC), and 39 in Africa. Although the LAC region is second-last on the list, there has been a strong expansion of IXPs in recent years. There were only 60 in 2016.

At the end of 2019 and throughout 2020 four new IXPs joined the Association of Traffic Exchange Points of Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC-IX). They include IXP.GT (Guatemala), IXSY (Yucatán, Mexico), IX.DO (Dominican Republic), and IXSal (El Salvador). They are the fruit of the joint and sustained work of the Internet Society, LACNIC, and LAC-IX under the framework of a collaboration agreement to strengthen Internet infrastructure across the region.

Guatemala

Of the four new ones, the most developed is the IXP.GT in Guatemala, which started exchanging traffic in November 2019. Its 10 participating organizations are already exceeding 4 gigabytes per second (Gbps) of average traffic.

“Before the IXP, it took 30 to 40 milliseconds to receive content, but it takes 2 milliseconds or less now,” says Marco Antonio To, engineer, professor, and president of IXP.GT. “With this lower latency, the user feels that the Internet works better.”

Among its participants is Señal Nacional, the provider ranked third in residential Internet connections in Guatemala: “The IXP is the best thing that happened to us in 2020! Since we connected to the IXP.GT in August, we’ve doubled [or tripled] the average bandwidth that passes through the IXP,” says engineer and Project Manager Ariel Tello.

He says what motivated his ISP to join was the connection to Google Global Cache, which allows them to store copies of YouTube videos and PlayStore apps locally, freeing up international transit and improving performance. He says this has saved them at least 15% on payments to international Internet service providers, allowing them to improve their prices and capacity. In July, a customer with a 1 Mbps monthly download plan paid 149 quetzales (US$19). Now, they pay that price for triple the download (3 Mbps).

A Facebook node is being installed – the first Point of Presence (POP) in Central America – and connections are being negotiated with Cloudflare, Akamai, Netflix, and other content delivery networks (CDNs), with the help of LAC-IX. POPs involve two or more networks or communications devices sharing a connection.

Tello adds that if costs fall further, these savings will allow his ISP to invest in expanding to more places without Internet access.

IXP.GT also provides greater security by allowing sensitive data to stay within the country. Although the two largest mobile phone operators have yet to join, To hopes that will change with pressure from the banks, which are planning to require that their providers join the IXP.

Mexico

Despite being the second-most populous country in Latin America, at the end of 2019 Mexico only had one established IXP – CITI, in three locations (Mexico City, Querétaro, and Tultitlán). By comparison, Argentina and Brazil had more than 30 each. In southeastern Mexico – which has the country’s highest poverty rates and lowest levels of connectivity – there were none. This prompted a local group of committed people to create an IXP in the State of Yucatán.

Their efforts intensified in 2018, with the signing of a constituent act, and in 2019 they organized about 30 meetings and trainings, followed by a National IXP Forum and a General Assembly in 2020. The first two participants began exchanging traffic in November and December. In February 2021, there were already four, with eight committed entities in total.

“It’s the story of how the Internet is built – from its innards – of creating an ecosystem,” explains Carmen Denis Polanco, Director of Internet Exchange Services Yucatán (IXSY). “The IXSY contributes [to]… promoting the conditions for the Internet to be an effective instrument of social inclusion, innovation, knowledge generation and social, health, cultural, and economic development in our state.”

The benefits are already obvious: more resilience and stability, higher cost efficiency, better quality and less latency, as well as value-added services. Also, IXSY has a pre-agreement for a Facebook Point of Presence and they hope to attract other CDNs.

Gilberto Burgos De Santiago, Director of Technology Management at the Sub-secretariat of Information Technology and Communications of the Government of the State of Yucatán, believes that IXSY’s 2020 launch was timely: “Due to the nature [of] our region, which experienced hurricanes, storms, and a pandemic … this helped us to justify the importance of the Internet and to continue working on it – for the benefit of the health sector, economic stimulus, security, etc.”

Dominican Republic

In the Dominican Republic, a decade after a failed initiative to create an IXP, the local Internet Society Chapter reignited efforts following local Internet governance forums that touched on infrastructure.

“There was strong interest in taking it up again, so [the Internet Society] led it,” says Osvaldo Larancuent, President of the Chapter.

Technical and legal committees were formed, which prepared a memorandum of understanding (MoU). In parallel, the chapter applied for a Beyond the Net grant for medium or large-scale projects and was awarded US$30,000 in October of 2018.

To date, 24 entities have signed the MoU, including the Presidency of the Republic, two operators, four universities, and eight providers and telecommunications companies that account for 98% of the country’s Internet consumption.

IX.DO began silent production in November 2020. So far, three companies are exchanging traffic. This quarter, the four largest suppliers will get connected. Additionally, three CDNs have asked to join, including Google Cache and Amazon World Service, while Facebook has expressed interest.

According to Larancuent, IXPs drive local digital transformation: “The most critical sectors that can benefit from these subtle changes are the health sector, so that telehealth has a better response capacity, and the banking sector, which can have more secure financial transactions. And of course, it is key for shared computer networks in the academic sector.”

El Salvador

The history of El Salvador’s exchange point (IXSal) is the longest, beginning in 1999, according to its founder, Lito Ibarra. “It started out as a utopia,” says the 63-year-old Internet pioneer. He got technical support from CABASE (which runs most IXPs in Argentina); then, he contacted Internet providers and convened meetings. “Trust is important because you’re linking companies that are competing for the same customers.”

Technical IXP workshops were organized, in which Internet Society and LACNIC participated. Operators seemed interested but wouldn’t commit.

Ibarra didn’t give up. He found a neutral location to host the equipment for the IXP for free – at a commercial data center, DataGuard. He started receiving donations of equipment from Internet Society, LACNIC, and other organizations. And in 2019 he hired an expert to install the IXP. Meanwhile, the meetings continued.

There are currently five providers who want to join, mostly small ones.

“As a company, we see the IXP as a cutting-edge issue and that integration is important to us and our customers,” says the General Manager of Telenetwork of El Salvador, Edgar Alvarado.

He says allowing users to upload their services to a local cloud will drive the creation and supply of more services. He also believes the IXP will strengthen connectivity and lower costs: “I understand the benefits for the country, for the end user, for the student sector, since virtually all classes are now virtual. This project is going to bring a lot of benefits,” says Alvarado.

But the IXSal has yet to begin exchanging traffic, while Ibarra tries to convince more providers, in order to be able to start on a strong foot.

“We have the party organized: the invitations, the music, the orchestra, the venue and the food. We’re just waiting for the guests,” concludes Ibarra, with a smile.


Image by L’odyssée Belle via Unsplash

‹ Back

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

Related articles

IXP.GT Improves Speed, Lowers Costs, and Increases Resilience and Security of Guatemala’s Internet
IXP.GT Improves Speed, Lowers Costs, and Increases Resilience and Security of Guatemala’s Internet
Infrastructure and Community Development26 May 2021

IXP.GT Improves Speed, Lowers Costs, and Increases Resilience and Security of Guatemala’s Internet

Of the four new Internet traffic exchange points in Latin America, the most advanced is IXP.GT in Guatemala. It started...

Internet Society, LACNIC, and LAC-IX Partner to Strengthen IXPs in Latin America
Internet Society, LACNIC, and LAC-IX Partner to Strengthen IXPs in Latin America
Internet Exchange Points3 May 2018

Internet Society, LACNIC, and LAC-IX Partner to Strengthen IXPs in Latin America

Wednesday, 2 May 2018, the Internet Society signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Association of Internet Exchange Points (LAC-IX)...

Building Strength in Latin America and Caribbean
Building Strength in Latin America and Caribbean
Development27 March 2014

Building Strength in Latin America and Caribbean

Capacity building in developing countries is both challenging and rewarding, including in Latin America and the Caribbean. The disparity among...

Join the conversation with Internet Society members around the world