By Emma Okonji
MainOne, a connectivity and data centre solutions company, with footprint across West Africa, has reiterated the importance of internet traffic domiciliation as a key requirement for growing the internet ecosystem in Africa.
Speaking at the just concluded African Peering and Interconnection Forum (AfPIF), MainOneâ€™s Chief Executive Officer, Ms. Funke Opeke, challenged the continentâ€™s leading internet players to exchange traffic on the continent, noting that this would significantly lower costs and improve performance.
Delivering her keynote address at the forum, titled â€˜Vision 80/20 by 2020â€™, Â which approached the goal set by AfPIF to route 80 per cent of Africaâ€™s internet traffic on the continent by the year 2020, Opeke examined the internet landscape in Africa and expressed her dissatisfaction over the current ecosystem of routing over 80 per cent of the internet traffic from Nigeria abroad, incurring expensive transit costs and increasing service latency. According to her, transactions initiated in Africa typically leave the sender for a long journey outside the continent, usually to Europe, America or even Asia before returning to target recipient. She used the illustration of a bank down the road from the sender, with the response traveling all the way back the same tortuous route to the sender. She inquired why an end-user who requests to access his records in a bank down the road would want their banking transaction to travel from Lagos to London, when it is feasible to interconnect this traffic, and revealed that this process of routing traffic outside the continent increases internet costs and delays content delivery to the region by approximately 150 milliseconds.
According to Opeke, â€œAfrica needs to retain more local traffic within the continent to drive more value from the internet. This can be achieved by leveraging robust Internet Exchange Points (IXPs) and access via local interconnection points and local data centres, which provide a platform for different networks to directly interconnect with other operators and exchange traffic, guaranteeing lower bandwidth costs, quicker access to more content providers and carriers and lower latency for local markets.â€
She explained that until a few years ago, internet capacity in Africa was low with few high-speed networks and data centres to provide users the connectivity and content they desired. According to her, this narrative is changing, as Africaâ€™s growing fiber network density and increase in world-class data centres makes it much easier for content providers and over the top (OTT) operators to host and serve data locally.
Opeke said MainOneâ€™s data centre company, MDXi had addressed these concerns by hosting the Nigerian Internet Exchange and launching an open interconnection service to facilitate collaboration and peering within its Lekki data centre. She also shared the companyâ€™s strategy towards deepening regional integration and digital transformation of West Africa with submarine access to data centres in Lagos and Accra, interconnecting all major operators, and a new data centre coming up in Sagamu, Nigeria, and its intent to extend its submarine cable to Cote Dâ€™Ivoire.
During the panel session that followed, industry experts queried why Nigeria, with the largest number of investments in subsea cables in the region, has failed to produce digital oil by taking its rightful place as the internet hub for West Africa. They urged for regulatory incentives to increase private and public peering at local exchanges to boost internet traffic, which is guaranteed to create and improve the ease of doing business across the continent and boost economic growth.
An initiative of the Internet Society, the three-day conference focused on developing internet interconnection and traffic exchange opportunities and brought together key infrastructure providers, Internet Service Providers (ISPs), Internet Exchange Points (IXPs), global content producers and providers, data centre operators, policy-makers and regulators and other key players across Africa to discuss internet traffic exchange issues on the continent.