Nigeria Internet Exchange

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Under the current democratic dispensation, Nigeria has been witnessing much more technological development. Name it: Aviation, Telecommunications, Internet connectivity, technology-driven banking etc. Never mind if there have been some aviation mishaps in recent times or that electricity (the power behind today’s technology) is still a headache for most Nigerians.

What I intend to focus on here is the Internet. I was excited to read last week that the Nigerian Communication Commision (NCC) was collaborating with some Nigerian Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to develop Internet eXchange Points (IXP) for Africa’s most populous nation – Nigeria.

This has been long over-due, but now that it is here, it is indeed a welcome development.

One might ask, what is the use of an IXP? According to Wikipedia,

An Internet exchange point (IX or IXP) is a physical infrastructure that allows different Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to exchange Internet traffic between their networks (autonomous systems) by means of mutual peering agreements, which allow traffic to be exchanged without cost. IXPs reduce the portion of an ISP’s traffic which must be delivered via their upstream transit providers, thereby reducing the Average Per-Bit Delivery Cost of their service. Furthermore, the increased number of paths learned through the IXP improves routing efficiency and fault-tolerance.

The primary purpose of an IXP is to allow networks to interconnect directly, via the exchange, rather than through one or more 3rd party networks. The advantages of the direct interconnection are numerous, but the primary reasons are cost, latency, and bandwidth.

Having understood and appreciated the need for IXPs for Nigeria, lets look deeper at the Nigerian context. The daily newspaper Guardian* reports:

THE public private partnership between Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC) and the ISPs industry represented by Internet Service Providers Association of Nigeria has finally given birth to Nigeria’s first National Internet Exchange. The Exchange, known as Nigeria Internet Exchange, is an independent, non-profit and neutral association. The Nigerian Internet Exchange Association would manage the Nigeria Internet Exchange.

According to the Guardian newspaper, the ISP industry in response to the President’s call for improved and cheaper services would be embarking on four major impact initiatives to usher in the Internet Exchange.

It might interest you to know though that this is not the first effort of setting-up an IXP in Nigeria. According to Wikipedia:

The Ibadan Internet Exchange (IBIX) is Nigeria’s first Internet Exchange Point (IXP), a neutral, not-for-profit arrangement, which was commissioned in late March 2003 by the two founding ISPs Steineng Ltd. and SKANNET, both located in Ibadan. The exchange setup was facilitated by Fisayo Adeleke (Network Administrator, Steineng Ltd.) and Sunday Folayan (MD, SKANNET) representing the two ISPs.

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Unfortunately, the exchange lasted for just about six months with a maximum local traffic of 69kbps (quite significant, considering the very low local content in the Country) passing through the exchange while it was running.

Nigeria today has plenty of locally-generated online content. Infact, the websites of Nigerian newspapers top the list of the most visited Nigerian websites. With the development of IXPs at key locations around Nigeria, online content could be hosted locally and this would result in significant improvement in speed and reliability of such websites.

Other benefits include: cost reduction, mass development of local content, development of heavy traffic application like email, and empowerment opportunities like e-government, telemedicine among others.

* I cannot link to the article on Guardian’s website because the address for their articles changes with time. By the time you’d click, another article would be on the same address!

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