Why South Africa is lucky to have a neutral Internet exchange

NAPAfrica, the non-profit Internet Exchange Point (IXP) funded by Teraco, recently reached the top 15 in IXP rankings globally.

Global IXP rankings are determined in terms of unique ASNs or peering members across an IXP, and NAPAfrica connects to over 350 ASNs servicing 16 countries.

The amount of content peered at the NAPAfrica exchange significantly lowers the cost of data transport, which has an effect on the pricing of clients’ services.

NAPAfrica’s growth is made possible due to its complete neutrality, as it is hosted in Teraco’s data centres in Johannesburg and Cape Town – and not owned by carrier networks.

To learn more, MyBroadband spoke to Teraco Business Development Manager Michele McCann about the positive effect of NAPAfrica on the South African broadband market.

True neutrality

McCann said the NAPAfrica exchange sees peak throughput of 400Gbps in Johannesburg, 88Gbps in Cape Town, and 3.2Gbps in Durban.

“The reason Johannesburg has the largest data throughput is GDP, and the fact that it services multiple African countries,” she said.

“Durban has been slower because of the size of the market, and generally a lot of people invested first in Johannesburg, but now we are starting to see a lot more content investment happening in Durban.”

McCann said Teraco’s main focus with NAPAfrica is to make content available locally in the South African market.

“With that being the key goal, we give it away for free. There are no port fees, no cross-connect fees, no membership fees, no once-off fees, nothing in terms of that,” she said.

To make international content available locally, McCann said the country needs a deregulated market and the content needs to be hosted in a true neutral data centre.

“Teraco is the only true neutral data centre in South Africa. We are not owned by a carrier, the only services which Teraco sell is the physical space, the power, the cooling, and the cable.”

This means there is zero conflict of interest when Teraco’s clients connect to each other.

Local content

This neutrality has allowed ISPs to compete for content on the same level, and rely on either pricing or innovative products to battle with each other.

“Every Southern African ISP is on the NAPAfrica exchange. That is where most of our membership comes from, and all of them are peering with the major content players,” said McCann.

“This means they can compete on network quality, price, and coverage alone.”

International content providers peering with NAPAfrica dramatically lowers the cost for ISPs and carriers to retrieve popular content.

“If you look at the innovative products that ISPs and carriers are coming up with, it is because they can reach that content now,” said McCann.

“Previously, content was sitting in Europe and there was an inherent cost to be able to reach it.”

“They would have to pay for subsea cable capacity and colocation fees in data centres in Europe to be able to access that content from there and then bring it back.”

In addition to the latency issues involving retrieving content from Europe, the cost was high.

With NAPAfrica and Teraco pushing content closer to ISPs, they now have the opportunity to offer innovative products from a content perspective.

“Price is not as much of an issue as it used to be, and access to content such as YouTube, Showmax, or Netflix is growing increasingly important,” she said.

Now read: Teraco gets new digital content PoP

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Why South Africa is lucky to have a neutral Internet exchange