The Need to Grow the Internet Exchange Point of Nigeria (IXPN)-Part 2

What Other Countries Are Doing UK-The London Internet Exchange (LINX) LINX is one of the world’s largest and oldest Internet exchanges. It is a mutually owned membership association …

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RUDMANWhat Other Countries Are Doing

UK-The London Internet Exchange (LINX)

LINX is one of the world’s largest and oldest Internet exchanges. It is a mutually owned membership association for Internet operators that also represent the interests of its members on public policy matters.

LINX has more than 280 members in 40 countries .While most of the members are from Europe; nearly a quarter are based outside, with those in North America comprising 15 percent and a further 7.5 percent coming from Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and Oceania.

Initially LINX membership was restricted to operators of traditional ISPs. In 2000 this restriction was relaxed and today a wide variety of networks peer at LINX exchanges, including Google, Yahoo, and the BBC.

South Africa-The Johannesburg Internet Exchange (JINX)

South Africa’s largest city hosts the Johannesburg Internet Exchange, operated by the Internet Service Providers’ Association (ISPA), a nonprofit Internet industry body. ISPA has more than 145 members, comprised of large, medium, and small Internet service and access providers. ISPA also facilitates dialogue between independent Internet service providers, the South African Government Department of Communications, the national regulator (ICASA), telecommunication operators, and other service providers.

All members of ISPA may connect to JINX, with medium-sized members being restricted to connections of up to 512 kbps and small members being restricted to connections of up to 128 kbps. ISPA does not require JINX users to interconnect with all other JINX users. Each organisation connecting to JINX is expected to establish its own policy for interconnection. It is up to each new participant to negotiate interconnection agreements with the other members, preferably before installing a physical connection to JINX. Members not publishing a specific interconnection policy of their own agree to exchange traffic with all other participants on a no-charge basis. JINX members may also offer transit services to other members.

Members must let ISPA know with which other members they have established an interconnection agreement, but they do not have to disclose the exact nature of that agreement. ISPA reserves the right to disconnect the lines of any JINX participant who fails to reach an interconnection agreement with at least two other JINX participants.

Content-server hosting is not available at the exchange. ISPA’s policy is to not compete with its own members, which provide hosting services. While it may seem appealing to host a server at a central location, ISPA points out there is a negligible difference in performance if the server is hosted on the network of an ISPA member with a high-speed connection to JINX.

Kenya-The Kenya IXP (KIXP)

KIXP in Nairobi is operated by the Telecommunication Service Providers Association of Kenya (TESPOK), a professional, nonprofit organisation representing the interests of ISPs and other telecommunication service providers in Kenya. After attending the Networking Workshop for Developing Countries hosted by the Internet Society in California in 1999, one of Kenya’s Internet engineers obtained the knowledge to design, set up, and maintain an IXP. He shared this information with other Kenyan network operators eager to establish a local IXP. After approximately a year of preparatory work, including the design and implementation of the technical operation, funding model, and legal framework, KIXP was launched in November 2000. KIXP does not have a separate governance structure and policies are established through committees of TESPOK.

Almost immediately following its launch, the incumbent telecom operator, Telkom Kenya, filed a complaint with the national regulator, the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK). They argued that the KIXP violated Telkom Kenya’s exclusive monopoly on the carriage of international traffic. Within two weeks, the CCK concluded that the KIXP required a license and ordered that it be shut down as an illegal telecommunications facility.

In response to the CCK’s closure order, a case was then presented to the Communications Appeals Tribunal with a strong technical argument showing that KIXP was merely a standard, off-the-shelf Ethernet switch. If the KIXP were to be shut down, then the CCK would need to shut down every computer network in the country since the technical architecture and components were equivalent. Telkom Kenya’s opposition to KIXP was fierce, fed by the fear of losing a significant portion of its international leased line revenues, but the Kenyan Internet providers also argued that the KIXP was a closed-user group and, therefore, would be legal under the Kenyan Telecommunications Act.

In addition, it was also pointed out that the local exchange of domestic Internet traffic does not contravene Telkom Kenya’s international monopoly, as all international traffic would continue to flow over its international links.

After nearly a year of intensive efforts, including public pressure, threats of litigation, and private diplomacy, TESPOK received the approval of CCK in the form of a license, granted in November 2001. Industry observers said that Telkom Kenya had misrepresented the situation and, because the matter was made public and had received a significant amount of attention and coverage in the local and international media, it was necessary to find a face-saving solution. The approach eventually adopted was the establishment of a company called KIXP Limited, which then applied for an IXP licence that CCK duly granted. This made Kenya the first country in the world to have an IXP license.

KIXP went live again in mid-February 2002 having interconnected five Kenyan ISPs. In the course of 2004, it was decided by TESPOK members that the policies governing membership and use of KIXP were restrictive, since they allowed only licensed ISPs to be members and to connect to the IXP. This prompted a policy review which lifted all restrictions on membership and substantially lowered joining fees.

Membership costs KSH 20,000 (approximately USD 330) per month and there are now 25 members peering at KIXP: 16 ISPs, one government network (Kenya Revenue Authority), one education network operator, one ccTLD Operator, three Internet backbone gateway operators, one value-added telecommunication services provider, and two GSM operators.

One of the biggest issues in establishing KIXP related to deciding where it would be hosted. A number of options were evaluated.

• Telkom Kenya was ostensibly the most suitable option since it was the incumbent public national telecoms operator. Some of the reasons cited in favour of Telkom Kenya included the fact that as national operator, all Internet providers had existing links to its data network. Additionally, due to its central location, it would be much easier for the members to gain physical access to the IXP, regardless of their location. However, this option proved to be unworkable because, as described above, Telkom Kenya saw the IXP as a threat to its business and declined the ISPs’ request to host KIXP.

• The University of Nairobi was considered as an alternative host for KIXP, mainly due to its dynamic computer studies faculty and its central location. The biggest concern about using the university was the frequency of student riots. Since the KIXP was expected to serve a mission-critical purpose, this concern eliminated the university as a viable option.

• A couple of Internet providers that had their offices conveniently based in the Nairobi central business district offered to host the IXP. The challenges here were (1) how to choose between the two ISPs and (2) the high levels of dissatisfaction expressed by the other ISPs about having to trust a competitor to handle the IXP without seeking for itself an undue advantage.

In order to ensure the acceptability of the IXP concept in Kenya, it was essential to emphasize the neutrality of the facility and obtain consent from prospective members on its location. After an evaluation of all the various existing options without finding one that satisfied all the potential members, the idea of leasing space in a provider neutral, conveniently located building was posed. This option allayed most of the fears and concerns expressed and a lease was taken up for 1,500 square feet on the top floor of a strategically located office building in the Nairobi city centre.

The main operational consideration was cost. As with any other type of data networking or communications infrastructure, costs fell into two broad categories: set-up and operating costs. Set-up costs included the cost of equipment for the core of the IXP and furnishing the room where the IXP was to be located with backup power, air-conditioning, equipment cabinets, and relevant security fixtures. The initial equipment was funded both by a donation from Cisco Systems as well as a small grant from the U.K. Department for International Development. Other set-up expenses were covered by funds from TESPOK. Since the space where KIXP was located was not free, it was necessary to find a way of covering the operating costs, such as rent, electricity, and insurance costs. A monthly subscription fee for all members connecting to KIXP was introduced to cater for these.

It was agreed that KIXP would be based on the same model as the Hong Kong Internet Exchange—a Layer 2 Route Reflector IXP. As a result, the KIXP facility consists of two high-speed Ethernet switches and each KIXP member has the option of connecting their routing equipment to both switches. If one switch should fail, the other will take over automatically. The core is supplemented by two router, specially configured routers that bounce routing logic to all members at the KIXP until all the routers have the same view of the network. This design aspect allows for quick and easy policy implementation at the exchange point, which is capable of supporting up to 48 networks. Capacity can be extended to support up to 200 networks.

Until KIXP, all Internet traffic was exchanged internationally, although roughly 30 percent of upstream traffic was to a domestic destination. International bandwidth costs approximately USD 5,000 per megabyte; the local price is about USD 500–1,000. During the first two weeks of KIXP’s operation, measurements indicated that latency was reduced from an average of 1,200–2,000 milliseconds (via satellite) to 60–80 milliseconds (via KIXP).

Local traffic has also improved, thanks to a rise in local content facilitated by digitisation of some government services and the arrival of international companies, such as Google, locally hosting their services. All Google traffic (searches, mail, maps, applications, and documents) goes through KIXP. ISPs pay for the local traffic and Google pays for the capacity from Kenya to their network in the United States.

Due to the limited capacity on the incumbent telecom operator’s leased lines, most Internet service providers have moved to terrestrial fibre to connect to KIXP—meaning they now have links of multiple megabits per second into the exchanges.

KIXP has implemented local instances of the Internet’s F and J root servers, in addition to local .com and .net resolution services. As a result, locally originated lookup requests for these services no longer need to transit international links for a response.

In 2005, the Kenya Network Information Centre (KENIC), in line with its mandate to promote access to the Internet in Kenya, set up a GPS-enabled NTP Server at KIXP to provide date and time integrity for computers. Most service providers had implemented time synchronization on their systems using network time servers located in foreign countries. However, these services were not extended to their clients due to the unreliable connectivity and prohibitive costs associated with international links. Some of the organisations using the local NTP services include government bodies, ISPs, banks, companies, and some educational institutions which are able to save on organizational expenses resulting from operational failures and data losses due to time inconsistencies.

KIXP operates an MLPA by which each member must have a peering session with every other member.

Traffic hits 44Mbps during peak time and is expected to reach 50Mbps. KIXP publishes information on Internet usage patterns to illuminate potential market opportunities. The data reveals that traffic flows are highest during weekday business hours, indicating that ISP services are concentrated on corporate users and highlighting an opportunity to maximize off-peak use via products and content attractive to home Internet users.

The Internet Exchange of Nigeria (IXPN) www.nixp.net

In Nigeria, IXP activity began outside the capital in 2003 in the city of Ibadan, when two members connected to a 10/100Mbit/s Ethernet switch and a route server. The maximum recorded traffic between the two ISPs was 102Kbit/s. In early 2005, the ISP Association of Nigeria (ISPAN) began discussions on setting up an exchange in Lagos, which was expected to be managed by an independent entity to be set up by ISPAN. In November 2005, Former President, Olusegun Obasanjo directed the national regulator, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), to ensure that a national IXP be established as soon as possible. An Interim Board was inaugurated in March 2007 and IXPN was established with 15 initial members. Various types of organisations may connect to the IXPN, including: Traditional ISPs, Carriers , Content Providers, Web Hosting Providers,  Mobile Operators, PTOs,VoIP Providers, Other IP centric organisations.

IXPN now has 27 members as at February, 2011 connected to the exchange including Google and Zain.With most GSM networks yet to join. Nigeria Communications Commission is also fully supporting IXPN.

IXPN has established three operating sites in Lagos in partnership with two co-location operators connected by fibre switch fabric. Each location has two Foundry switches connecting separate peering LANs to ensure reliability. The primary peering LAN is interconnected on a 1Gbps circuit (fibre); the secondary peering LAN is interconnected on a 450 megabit wireless backhaul. Two of the three operating locations have route servers in place. All the switches provide 10/100BaseTX switched Ethernet and 1000BaseSX Gigabit Ethernet over multi-mode fibre connections. IXPN plans to expand to six other cities in the near future.

Among the benefits of IXP already outlined in this article, IXPN will no doubt help reduce and control Cyber Crime and Cyber threat in Nigeria hence the need for more organizations and businesses to join the IXPN.This will lead to the control and monitor of our Cyberspace to stop the digital colonization and Capital flight.

In Conclusion, Government, stakeholders, members already connected and more to join the IXPN should give their full support to the growth of IXPN, let this initiative not be like the proverbial goat of many owners that usually go hungry!

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