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African ISPs grow to regional carriers

o Rebecca Wanjiku
17.08.2010 kl 18:11 | Computerworld Kenya

ISPs in Africa have become regional carriers thanks to extensive telecommunications infrastructure, growing interconnection and collaboration between providers, evolution of government policies, competition and rising connectivity numbers.

 

ISPs in Africa have become regional carriers thanks to extensive telecommunications infrastructure, growing interconnection and collaboration between providers, evolution of government policies, competition and rising connectivity numbers.

South Africa leads in the number of African ISPs (Internet service providers) that have added telephony services and expanded into other countries, mainly because it was the first to enjoy extensive infrastructure, even though Nigeria has become the leading Internet market in terms of users.

The entry of SEACOM, TEAMS and EASSY fiber-optic cables has led to consolidation of business by major telecom players, and competition has forced them to move more into the underserved areas.

France Telecom, which has capacity in TEAMS and EASSY, has already rolled out infrastructure in West Africa where its Orange brand is dominant, and has recently completed fiber connections in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Rwanda.

"France Telecom has invested extensively in fiber connections across borders and interconnection between countries although regulatory issues still pose a challenge," said Jane Karuku, deputy CEO at Telkom Kenya. France Telecom owns a majority stake in Telkom Kenya.

Karuku says Telkom Kenya has laid more than 6,000 kilometers of terrestrial fiber and is looking at ways to reduce backhaul costs and make the products more affordable to regional companies, as well as allow smaller enterprises to expand to other countries without the high costs associated with connectivity.

The evolution of African ISPs into regional carriers has been achieved through mergers and acquisitions, while international telecom companies have found it easier to enter the African market and provide services regionally, and because of financial muscle, they can compete even locally.

"To be a regional carrier, you need infrastructure across countries. Either set up in all countries or form partnerships with operators in different countries, which attracts corporate clients with regional operations," said Michuki Mwangi, senior development manager in charge of Africa at Internet Society.

The drive toward regional growth has been bolstered by SEACOM's decision to open its installations in the region to all operators, provide IP transit services and interconnect with partners providing MPLS (Multi-Protocol Label Switching) services.

"SEACOM is in the final stages of setting up its MPLS service connecting landing stations and other installations with global traffic. In areas where our partners have existing MPLS service, we will interconnect," said Brian Herlihy, SEACOM CEO.

To start off operations as a carrier-neutral data center, SEACOM is hosting the Mombasa IXP (Internet Exchange Point) at its US$12 million facility in the Kenyan coastal city. The company is hoping to demonstrate to global content providers that Africa has the infrastructure and redundancy, and hopefully attract them to host their data centers in the region.

The port of Mombasa serves other countries such as Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi, Southern Sudan and Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. Kenya Ports Authority and the Revenue Authority provide electronic services 24 hours. The establishment of the Mombasa IXP was facilitated in part by the Internet Society's African Interconnection and IXP Programme and TESPOK, which runs KIXP.

"This new IXP in Mombasa is a great indication that Internet growth and development have matured in the region since the first Kenyan exchange point was launched in Nairobi in 2001. We welcome this opportunity to see the local Mombasa economy flourish now [that] local providers can exchange traffic locally. The opportunities for both local and international investment that this new facility presents are also likely to have a positive effect on the region," said Tejpal Bedi, chairman of the Telecommunications Service Providers Association of Kenya (TESPOK).

The Internet Society's Interconnection and IXP Programme is supported by the Amsterdam Internet Exchange (AMS-IX); the Deutscher Commercial Internet Exchange (DE-CIX), the German Internet exchange; and Netnod, the Swedish Internet exchange provider. The equipment at the Mombasa IXP was donated by Cisco Systems.

Keywords: Telecommunication  
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