Southern Africa: SADC Seeks to Reduce Internet Cost

SADC governments are looking to reduce the cost of internet by maintaining the region’s internet traffic local through provision of capacity building and technical assistance to facilitate the establishment of National Internet Exchange Points and Regional Internet Exchange Points.

An internet exchange point (IXP) is a physical location through which internet infrastructure companies such as Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) connect with each other. These locations exist on the “edge” of different networks, and allow network providers to share transit outside their own network.

The Sadc regional Internet Exchange Points (IXP) project therefore aims to increase efficiency of regional traffic, and at the same time attend to the costly exchange of African inter-country traffic via overseas hubs.

Officially opening the SADC Capacity Building Workshop on the SADC Regional Internet Exchange Point (RIXP) Project in Harare yesterday, deputy Minister of Information Communication Technology, Postal and Courier Services Jenfan Muswere said regional and national IXPs would result in more efficient and effective local internet services

“By setting up RXIPs, the exchange of the traffic generated in the region would remain in the region and hence reduce the traffic load on upstream providers, reduce cost, increase speed and reduce latency for inter-country exchange of traffic and enhance internet development in the region.

“African Heads of State of the African Union, meeting in the Fourteenth Ordinary Session of the AU Assembly, adopted a declaration that undertook to strengthen national programmes and regional cooperation for the development and interconnection of broadband infrastructure and the deployment of Regional Internet Exchange Points,” said the deputy minister.

“In this regard the African Internet Exchange System (AXIS) project aims to keep Africa’s internet traffic local by providing capacity building and technical assistance to facilitate the establishment of National Internet Exchange Points (NIXPs) and Regional Internet Exchange Points in Africa.”

Zimbabwe and other countries in the region are currently paying overseas carriers to exchange “local” (continental) traffic on its behalf, which is largely viewed as costly and inefficient.

Experts in the field say, regional IXPs will ensure that traffic generated in the region would remain in the region and hence reduce the traffic load on upstream providers, reduce cost, increase speed, and reduce latency for inter-country exchange of traffic and enhance internet development in the region.

Said Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz) director-general Dr Gift Machengete: “A whopping US$997 000 worth of data is spent every minute on the internet. If local content were to be kept local and regional content, regional — then that figure of almost US$1 million on data would drastically fall, thereby saving countries like ours, in the SADC region, a lot of money.

“The International Telecommunications Union in its ICTs for Sustainable Goals Report for 2017 indicates that ‘Building core infrastructure such as Internet Exchange Points in all countries is essential in lowering the cost of using the internet’. This would see more people using the internet in least developed countries, land-locked developing countries and small island developing states, where internet access and use is still very low.”

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