Kenya: Internet Traffic Up Four Times
Nearly a year now, flow through KIXP run by the Telecommunications Service Providers Association of Kenya (Tespok) grew from about 250 Mbps (megabits per second) to reach 1Gbps last week. An Internet Exchange Point (IXP) is an interconnection of Internet Service Providers (ISP) networks at a certain location where they exchange traffic between one another, a process defined as peering. Kenya already has two IXPs, one in Nairobi and the other in Mombasa.
"This afternoon the KIXP reached its highest peak of 1Gbps for local traffic exchanged," Mr Michuki Mwangi, KIXP technical manager said last Friday through a local mailing list KICTANET, "It's indeed a significant achievement and the next ceiling is 10Gbps."
Tespok chief executive Fiona Asonga attributed the growth to increased traffic from operators in Kenya and the region such Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Mozambique, Malawi, Zambia and many others that now have interconnection partnerships.
She said since search engine giant Google launched the global caching server locally, content meant for the Kenyan market has grown highly.
"Indeed majority of the traffic is Google. According to Arbor Networks Google accounts for six per cent of all Internet traffic, which means it accounts for majority of the traffic at most IXPs considering they are the only content delivery network (CDN) at KIXP," said Mr Michuki. "It's a sign that our local data consumption is growing and broadband is improving since that's the largest use of the Google cache." "We have seen growing number of companies exchange their traffic locally," said Ms Fiona. "The traffic could even be more if organisations host their content in Kenya." In comparison, other exchanges such as that in Johannesburg handles 1.2Gbps while the Amsterdam IXP handles 950 Gbps as per last year estimates.
When first launched about nine years ago, KIXP used 64 kbps (kilobits per second) which had to be immediately doubled to 128 kbps and then again to 256 kbps due to demand. It still ranks amongst the world top 15 IXPs in terms of traffic growth.
The establishment of critical infrastructure such as national Internet Exchange Points has provided additional cost savings to operators by diverting the local traffic away from the more expensive international links to a local connection.
With all these investments, Internet costs are still high and most cross-border traffic exchange is done in Europe and North America. For example to send an email from Nairobi to Kigali, it has to be routed to Europe then back to Kigali. The anomaly is that Rwanda is a landlocked country, and has its international fibre connectivity terrestrially connected via Uganda and Kenyan coast of Mombasa.
The scenario is replicated across the entire region and serves as a barrier to growth, innovation and operational efficiency. Of most concern is that cross-border and regional communications are entirely dependent on global connectivity. Lack of network interconnections between many countries in Africa, especially those in the interior, means that data traffic destined for neighbouring countries is often shipped overseas, just to return back to Africa. In some countries that have physical connections to undersea cables, much traffic still flows through inefficient routes. The region has in the recent past seen increased infrastructure investments. In Kenya, the landing of three cables the - the East Africa Marine System, (TEAMS), Seacom and EASSy - which are live, has ensured optimal connectivity. These investments create an opportunity for much higher levels of local and regional interconnection.