8 April 2014

East Africa: EAIXP to Help Keep Region's Internet Traffic Local

The East African Community members have come together to implement the East Africa Internet Exchange Point (EAIXP), an initiative of the East African Communications Organisation (EACO) which seeks to interconnect the EAC countries through Internet links with the aim of helping to keep the region's internet traffic local or within the region.

As a result, the EACO Working Group 5 on IP networks which is visiting member countries in East Africa to discuss the EAIX project, held its first discussion in Kenya in a workshop hosted by the Communications Authority of Kenya (CAK) where the member states reviewed various action areas that will enable implementation of the regional internet exchange.

In his opening remarks, Mr Francis Wangusi Director General, CAK, said, "The EAIXP will serve as a centralized clearing house for various entities by facilitating direct connections with various IXPs within the East African Community member states."

The EAIXP is as a result of a meeting of the Assembly of Regulators of the EACO (formerly EARPTO) in 2005, where they formed a task force to be coordinated by Kenya to work on possible ways of interconnecting all Internet Exchange Points (IXPs) installed in their countries. The objective was to keep regional traffic local within East Africa. The project attracted 5 countries namely Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi.

The EAIX project taskforce, chaired by Kenya, has been exploring on the best approach for a few years now.

Once implemented, the EAIXP will have a number of benefits which include lowering Internet connectivity costs, reducing connectivity latencies, improving privacy and Cybersecurity incidents management, increased bandwidth (aggregation), work on growing of network applications and e-content and increased Internet penetration / usage.

In a speech by Permanent Secretary Ministry of ICT, Joseph Tiampati, read in by his deputy Mr. Brown Otuya, he complimented the project saying that, " the project will go a long way to keep internet traffic local having in mind that internet penetration in East Africa has surpassed the 50% pass with over 50 million internet users across the region. Governments have invested heavily to reduce cost of tarrifs through broadband and it is through such projects that we will be able to reduce cost of tariffs and curb cyber crimes."

A feasibility study on the status of the national Internet Exchange Points in the East Africa countries was carried out in November 2013 by EACO in collaboration with the ITU and showed that all countries have a national IXP apart from Burundi where an IXP is to be implemented shortly with support of the World Bank and African Union Commission under a project known as African Internet Exchange System (AXIS).KIXP is the oldest IXP established in 2002.

Tanzania has implemented three additional IXPs while Kenya has one additional IXP. TIX and KIXP are the national IXPs respectively. Kenya has licensed an additional IXP since 2003 but not operational while a government IXP is planned to switch government to government traffic.

The project is set to be reviewed in three phases which include the first phase from April to to July.

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