African Internet Exchange System (AXIS)

Overview of Internet Exchange Point

Internet Exchange point (IXP) is a physical infrastructure where Internet Service Providers and Content Providers interconnect in order for Internet traffic exchanged between them. An Internet exchange point enables local networks to efficiently exchange information at a common point within a country rather than needing to exchange local Internet traffic overseas.

Therefore an IXP is a component of Internet infrastructure that can increase the affordability and quality of the Internet for local communities. Keeping local Internet traffic within local infrastructure means that it avoids the data routing through upstream Internet providers and hence we benefit low cost, reduced latency and good bandwidth.

Benefits of IXPs: Short Term

➢    Substantial cost-savings are made by eliminating the need to put all traffic through the more expensive long-distance links to the rest of the world.
➢    More bandwidth becomes available for local users because of the lower costs of local capacity.
➢    Local links are often up to 10 times faster because of the reduced latency in traffic, which makes fewer hops to get to its destination.
➢    Connecting to an IXP requires knowledge of BGP and acquiring Internet Address resources (IP Addresses and Autonomous System Numbers). The process requires building technical capacity of the engineers to master and support interconnection.
➢    Increased autonomy: in many instances, outages on submarine or satellite connectivity impair national and regional connectivity. IXPs eliminate the dependency on International connectivity for local communication which results in a robust and reliable local internet infrastructure

Benefits of IXPs: Long Term

➢    Create Internet opportunities like the growth of carrier neutral data centres and maturing of the local hosting market
➢    The ease of access of locally hosted content through the IXP encourages and promotes creation of local content. For instance, the implementation of Government e-services is a form of local content that can be locally accessed via the IXP.
➢    New local content providers and services that rely on high-speed low-cost connections become available, further benefiting from the broader user-base available via the IXP.
➢    More choices for Internet providers become available on which to send upstream traffic to the rest of the Internet—contributing to a smoother and more competitive wholesale transit market.

IXP Startup Challenges

➢    Most IXP established will experience low traffic volumes. This in itself is a cause for concern for most members interested in helping to establish an IXP
➢    The incumbent operator often resists connecting to the IXP. This is attributed to the perception that they will loose their traffic by peering with customers.
➢    The lack of full technical understanding about how the IXP operates and sufficient technical capacity to setup the IXP is a hidden concern for some operators.
➢    The existing regulatory regime and policies may hinder the growth of the IXP. For instance policies that inhibit competition on broadband terrestrial infrastructure may limit the options available for local interconnection.
➢    In many emerging Internet economies there are challenges on broadband terrestrial infrastructure (such as fiber and copper) that range from availability, costs, and quality of service.  
➢    Where broadband terrestrial infrastructure challenges are prevalent, the use of wireless solutions in both open and closed spectrum is dominant but prone to interference resulting in poor reliability. As a result, this can affect the use of the IXP as a reliable peering point.
➢    Implementing a sustainable model to support the IXP operations is often met with some resistance. This is due to the perceived low value derived by members from peering at the new IXP.

IXP Equipment

Equipments required to start up an IXP are summarized below. Some of them are mandatory and some are optional depending on the services that an IXP can provide to its members beyond the shared switch infrastructure.

•    Ethernet Switch
•    Address Space
•    Route Server
•    Web and Mail Servers
•    Transit Router
•    Route Collector

IXP Services

There are a number of basic services that an IXP can offer to its members beyond the shared switch infrastructure. These services are at the discretion of each IXP and do not in any way compete with its membership.

The following is a list of basic services that can be offered by the IXP
•    Shared switch infrastructure            
•    Website                         
•    Mailing list                        
•    Member route hosting/co-location    
•    Route collector                    
•    Private Interconnects
•    IPv6 and Multicast Services
•    Multi-Site Access
•    Industry Association & Policy