Speaking at the ongoing EACO Congress in Nairobi, James Makwanda, head of the Digital Technology and Management Information Systems department at the African Advanced Level Telecommunications Institute (AFRALTI), said that while there are many benefits to the venture, they could only be realised once the challenges have been addressed.
“The internet is not a single entity. It is a large group of independent networks that agree to share traffic with each others’ customers using a common internet protocol,” he said.
“Internet exchange points (IXPs) are a vital part of this system. Without them, the internet could not function because the different networks that make up the internet would not be able to exchange traffic with each other.”
So far, he said, one of the biggest hindrances to regional IXPs is the setup costs for equipment for the core of the IXP.
An operator will have to part with KSh3.4 million (US$40,000) if they are to set one up properly and those that have managed to do have been successful through foreign donations.
There is also the issue of furnishing the room where the IXP is to be kept with power, air-conditioning, equipment cabinets and other relevant security fixtures.
Operational costs have also been a barrier given that the largest cost for network operators in developing countries is that of international capacity, which costs approximately KSh420,000 (US$5,000) per megabyte.
A monthly subscription fee for all members connecting to the IXP must be introduced to cater for these.
There is also the problem of some entities feeling that they are not getting their money’s worth.
“When it comes to the inclusion of small internet service providers (ISPs) to the IXPs they may feel that they are not benefiting because they are pushing low data and low content. When an IXP incurs operating costs, they are typically shared among all of its participants as it is not per individual s’ traffic volume,” Makwanda said.
Other issues are IPV6 issues and lack of technical capacity.
In Kenya KIXP is the only organization with an IXP, which is operated by the Telecommunication Service Providers Association of Kenya (TESPOK), a professional, non-profit organization representing the interests of ISPs and other telecommunication service providers in Kenya.
KIXP applied for an IXP license in 2001, which was duly granted by the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK).