It Starts With A Handshake

It Starts With A Handshake

I’ve been using the Internet all my life. Three or four years ago, it was a bit slower. It was really slow. Now, I think it’s better. It’s faster, more efficient. The internet access in Africa, it was extremely poor, extremely expensive, and a lot of folk were disadvantaged in getting access to information, because the connectivity was pretty bad, it was mostly satellite. The main goal was to give Africans the opportunity to compete in information at pretty much the same level as the rest of the world. Much of the traffic within Africa was exchanged in Europe, or North America. But with more connectedness now happening in Africa, peering in Africa is more viable. Peering is an arrangement between two or more networks to come together and interconnect and exchange traffic for the benefit of the customers, improving performance and reducing their costs. Before peering, within Africa, sending an email to somebody in Mozambique, that traffic will leave South Africa, hop on a satellite system or on a cable system, go all the way to Europe, and then find its way down via another provider, into Africa
all the way into Mozambique. In the life of an internet packet, that’s a long time to
wait. That email now doesn’t even leave the continent. Ten percent of the amount of work that needs to get done is technical. Ninety percent of it is actually finding the
right person to engage with you on the idea about peering. A lot of networks will be reluctant to peer with one another, especially the bigger ones, because they feel they’re giving up an advantage that they have accrued over time. But AfPIF, it is now a home that service providers in Africa and the rest of the world can come
to, and discuss peering and bandwidth and content issues that affect Africans. They’re competitors publically, but privately they need to collaborate. We are actually getting about seventy-two percent of our traffic through peering. The faster the customer can get it, the more traffic they’ll use, the better experience they’ll have. Some companies, the bigger companies, tend to have Draconian, bully-type peering policies, where they won’t let the smaller guys peer with them. We have an open peering policy. By directly exchanging traffic with Seacom in the multiple locations that we do, we keep the traffic local, keep the costs down, higher throughput, and better performance most importantly, for our customers and their customers. Partnering with Liquid makes sense. They cover a whole lot of area in Africa that we do not, and we do the same. Selective peering doesn’t work. It’s for the benefit end-users, the benefit of the ecosystem, the benefit of the continent as a whole. Well, what makes a good peering relationship is, you enjoy exchanging traffic with them, you enjoy growing your
networks together, you enjoy meeting with them at a peering forum. Leveraging each other’s infrastructure to grow your nation, your economy, and obviously your customers as well.
Everybody around you will peer. If you find yourself being the one that doesn’t peer,
you get caught out from the competition, and that’s how you lose your business. You’re not an island. You’re part of an ecosystem. And you need to work together to make the Internet work.

Danny Hutson

2 thoughts on “It Starts With A Handshake

  1. Great video! Some more resource, also inspired by ISOC work: here's a 30 minute video that Jason Gerson did while at Google that summarizes the paper that ISOC commissioned a couple years ago on IXPs in Africa: It also inspired this paper:

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