NAPAfrica shows exceptional growth

South Africa’s NAPAfrica — a not-for-profit neutral Internet eXchange (IXP) — regularly sees its Internet traffic exceed 4Tbps, and it has grown its peering members to over 550 organisations.

When NAPAfrica launched in 2012, it recorded traffic of 532Mbps. It has since become the largest IXP in South Africa, located at Teraco data centre facilities in Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg.

Speaking to MyBroadband about its success, Michele McCann, head of platforms at Teraco, listed several aspects that have contributed to its growth.

“The surge in data traffic at NAPAfrica is thanks primarily to an African internet community that has embraced the value of peering, the increasing use of data-intensive applications, enterprises moving into the cloud, and the increasing demand for video, content, and gaming delivery services,” said McCann.

“These trends have driven greater network traffic levels between cloud and service providers, enterprises, and end users across Africa, which has contributed to NAPAfrica’s tremendous growth.”

NAPAfrica’s traffic reached 1Tbps in March 2020, which represented a growth of approximately 1,884 times the traffic it observed at launch. It reached 2Tbps in July of the following year.

The rise to 1Tbps came with a big jump in Internet traffic during the Covid-19 pandemic. Growth continued at a slower rate in its aftermath.

Teraco lead for interconnection and peering, Andrew Owens, said the IXP had over 250 carriers.

“The NAPAfrica members, including global content and cloud providers, over 250 telecommunication providers, managed service providers and a growing enterprise base, are the driving force behind achieving this momentous goal,” Owens said.

“The exchange started with five members and today has in excess of 440 unique ASNs connected from across the world, including 26 African countries.”

Owens said the growth in NAPAfrica’s traffic was driven by enterprises and networks navigating to crucial content and cloud services.

In addition, the popularity of platforms such as Netflix, Facebook, and YouTube significantly contributed to growth.

Traffic through NAPAfrica blew past 3Tbps in February 2023.

Moreover, Owens said neighbouring countries had shown significant interest.

“Telcos in countries as far afield as Angola, Togo, and the Democratic Republic of Congo have joined the exchange. NAPAfrica has become the Internet hub for Sub-Saharan Africa,” he said.

“More recently, the exchange has also seen a growing trend of enterprises and banks joining NAPAfrica to leverage its efficient and cost-effective access to content and cloud operators.”

By February 2023, Internet traffic through NAPAfrica’s exchange surpassed 3Tbps, just a few days after the company told MyBroadband it was expecting to breach the threshold.

It said online gaming was a significant contributor to the milestone. However, it wasn’t the only contributor.

“The online gaming community added over 400Gbps of additional traffic to the exchange,” NAPAfrica said.

Afrihost explained that an update for Call of Duty Warzone 2 had resulted in a significant surge in traffic, which traffic peaked for around 30 minutes before gradually subsiding.

Well-known online gaming platforms like Akamai (PlayStation Store), Microsoft (Xbox Store), and Valve (Stream) peer at NAPAfrica. The update would’ve run through Valve’s peering.

The IXP hit 4Tbps of traffic on 13 November 2023, representing an increase of roughly 33% in just under nine months.

Around the same time, it welcomed TikTok to its platform.

Teraco’s head of platforms, Michele McCann, said the IXP is attractive to large content providers like TikTok because it has more than 250 carriers and members.

“One of the most significant benefits of an active peering community (or IXP) is the cost-effective, efficient distribution of content to the consumer,” she added.

McCann said demand for business services like cloud and entertainment also continues to rise.

She added that traffic through NAPAfrica’s IXPs continues to grow thanks to the African Internet community embracing the value of peering.

“[The community has also embraced] the increasing use of data-intensive applications, enterprises continuing to move into the cloud, and the ever-increasing demand for video, content, and gaming delivery services,” said McCann.

“These trends have driven greater traffic levels between cloud and service providers, enterprises, and end users.”

The IXP now regularly sees traffic exceeding 4Tbps.

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NAPAfrica shows exceptional growth