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NAPAfrica enters IXP top 15

Teraco, Africa’s only vendor neutral data centre, has announced that Africa’s largest Internet Exchange Point (IXP), NAPAfrica is now ranked in the top 15 of the largest global IXPs.

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This ranking position is in terms of the number of unique ASNs or peering members across the IXP. Andrew Owens, Technical Manager – Interconnection & Peering, Teraco, says that NAPAfrica has 323 members and has truly established itself as the interconnection and content hub for sub-Saharan Africa, connecting to over 350 unique ASN’s servicing 16 countries.

Owens says that the success of an IXP should be measured by its ability to sustainably contribute to the development of the Internet ecosystem within its community: “Several NAPAfrica members claim that as much as 80% of their traffic is peered at the exchange. This significantly lowers transport costs across the southern continent and enables clients to offer a better service at far more competitive prices.”

In 2010, Teraco approached the Internet Service Provider’s Association (ISPA) to suggest moving the Johannesburg Internet Exchange (JINX) and establish the Cape Town Internet Exchange (CINX) at Teraco’s facilities, which was the only neutral data centre available at the time. The proposal was rejected, which led to Lex van Wyk and Andrew Owens building an exchange. This was the start of a great Internet adventure and a steep learning curve for Teraco.

The first significant milestone was reached when Google joined the IXP and started peering its content in 2012. “Later that same year more content providers joined, most notably Akamai and Optinet, and the exchange soared to a new high of 1Gbps of traffic. Members soon realised the very real value of picking up content locally,” says Owens.  He says that the exchange has also become more attractive as content players watch the number of users and traffic increase.

By 2016, NAPAfrica exceeded peak daily throughput of 100Gbps; Telkom Openserve announced its decision to peer and the NAPAfrica community was firmly on the map as the largest in Africa. Early 2017 saw NAPAfrica upgrading its infrastructure to a new Arista platform. Owens says this was driven by client demand as they continued to enjoy the growth in Internet traffic across the continent: “100Gbps ports are the new standard and we are upgrading existing clients on a daily basis,” says Owens.

He says that the first client to upgrade to a 100Gbps port was Afrihost and the demand has continued: “The NAPAfrica platform has the hardware, capability and traffic to support this level of investment into Internet infrastructure. Prices have also dropped significantly, down to around 25% of the levels last seen in late 2016, making this an affordable option when upgrading.”

As Southern Africa continues to grow and prove itself to be the African continent’s largest colocation market, larger than the next 20 African markets combined according to Xalam Analytics, the role of an IXP such as NAPAfrica becomes more critical. “Developing Africa’s Internet ecosystem is a primary role of an IXP together with infrastructure providers such as Teraco. In the eight years since the start of NAPAfrica, sub-Saharan Africa has benefited from local and international content from leading providers such as Akamai, Cloudflare, Facebook, Google, Netflix, Microsoft, Amazon, Verizon Digital Media, Limelight and Optinet.” 

Because most of the major network operators in Southern Africa peer at NAPAfrica, large amounts of content reach the man on the street.  This combination of network and content operators working together, assists in making the end user Internet work.

Achieving a position in the top 15 globally, Owens says; “NAPAfrica will continue to upgrade its infrastructure. The volume of Internet traffic is steadily increasing with Johannesburg reaching 400Gbps, and Cape Town is almost at 100Gbps. We are ready to meet further demand and growth.”

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AI, IoT, and language of bees can save the world

A groundbreaking project is combining artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things to learn the language of bees, and save the planet, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK

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It is early afternoon and hundreds of bees are returning to a hive somewhere near Reading in England. They are no different to millions of bees anywhere else in the world, bringing the nectar of flowers back to their queen.

But the hive to which they bring their tribute is no ordinary apiary.

Look closer, and one spots a network of wires leading into the structure. They connect up to a cluster of sensors, and run into a box beneath the hive carrying the logo of a company called Arnia: a name synonymous with hive monitoring systems for the past decade. The Arnia sensors monitor colony acoustics, brood temperature, humidity, hive weight, bee counts and weather conditions around the apiary.

On the back of the hive, a second box is emblazoned with the logo of BuzzBox. It is a solar-powered, Wi-Fi device that transmits audio, temperature, and humidity signals, includes a theft alarm, and acts as a mini weather station.

In combination, the cluster of instruments provides an instant picture of the health of the bee hive. But that is only the beginning.

What we are looking at is a beehive connected to the Internet of Things: connected devices and sensors that collect data from the environment and send it into the cloud, where it can be analysed and used to monitor that environment or help improve biodiversity, which in turn improves crop and food production.

The hives are integrated into the World Bee Project, a global honey bee monitoring initiative. Its mission is to “inform and implement actions to improve pollinator habitats, create more sustainable ecosystems, and improve food security, nutrition and livelihoods by establishing a globally-coordinated monitoring programme for honeybees and eventually for key pollinator groups”.

The World Bee Project is working with database software leader Oracle to transmit massive volume of data collected from its hives into the Oracle Cloud. Here it is combined with numerous other data sources, from weather patterns to pollen counts across the ecosystem in which the bees collect the nectar they turn into honey. Then, artificial intelligence software – with the assistance of human analysts – is used to interpret the behaviour of the hive, and patterns of flight, and from there assess the ecosystem.

Click here to read more about how the Internet of Things is used to interpret the language of bees.

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Download speeds ramp up in SA

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All four South African mobile network operators have improved their average download speed experience by at least 1 Mbps in the past six months.

This is one of the main findings in the latest South Africa Mobile Network Experience report by Opensignal, the mobile analytics company. It has analysed the mobile experience in the country, updating a study last conducted in February 2019. While a quick look at its South Africa awards table suggests not much has changed since the last report, it’s far from stagnating. 

Opensignal reports the following improvements across its measurements:

  • MTN remains the leader in our 4G Availability measurements, with a score of 83.6%. But the other three operators are all now within 2 percentage points of the 80% milestone — with Telkom’s users seeing the biggest increase of over 8 points.
  • All four operators improved their Download Speed Experience scores by at least 1 Mbps. But growth in our Upload Speed Experience scores has stagnated, with only winner Vodacom seeing an incremental increase.
  • MTN and Vodacom remain tied for our Video Experience award, and both have increased their scores in the past six months, putting them on the cusp of Very Good (65-75) ratings. Cell C also increased its score to tip over into a Good ranking (55-65).
  • MTN scored over 90% in 4G Availability in two of South Africa’s biggest cities and was just shy of this milestone in the others. Meanwhile, MTN and Vodacom have now passed the 20 Mbps mark in Download Speed Experience in three cities each.

A quick look at the awards table would suggest not much has changed in South Africa since the last report in February. MTN won the 4G Availability award again, Vodacom kept hold of the medals for Upload Speed and Latency Experience, while the two operators tied for Download Speed and Video Experience just as they did six months ago.

But far from stagnating, we’re seeing improvements across most of the measurements. All four of South Africa’s national operators — Cell C, MTN, Telkom and Vodacom — are now closing in on 80% 4G Availability nationally, while at the urban level, MTN has passed the 90% mark in two cities. And in Download Speed Experience, our users on all four operators’ networks saw their scores increase at least 8%.

In this report, Open Signal has analyzed the scores for all four national operators across all their metrics over the 90 days from the start of May 2019, including South Africa’s five biggest cities — Cape Town, Durban, Ekurhuleni, Johannesburg, and Tshwane.

MTN has been top of Open Signal’s South African 4G Availability leaderboard for a couple of years now, and the operator remains dominant with a winning score over 4 percentage points ahead of its rivals. But it was users on Telkom’s network who saw the most impressive boost in 4G Availability, as its score jumped by well over 8 percentage points.

This leap has put Telkom into a three-way draw for second place with Cell C and Vodacom, who both saw their scores increase by at least 3 percentage points.

While MTN is the only operator to have passed 80% in national 4G Availability, the other three players are all less than 2 percentage points away from this milestone. Based on the current rate of improvement, Open Signal fully expects to see all four operators pass the 80% mark in its next report — which will provide testament to the rapid maturing of the South African mobile market.

MTN and Vodacom remain neck-and-neck in the Video Experience analysis, with both operators scoring 65 (out of 100). And the two rivals both saw their scores rise by around 3 points since our last report, meaning the two continue to share our Video Experience award. Cell C and Telkom remain in third and fourth place, but both saw larger increases — of 5 and 4 points respectively — to narrow the gap on the leaders.

The increase in MTN and Vodacom’s Video Experience scores means the two operators are on the cusp of Very Good (65-75) ratings in this metric — with the users on their networks enjoying fast loading video times and almost non-existent stalling, even at higher resolutions. By comparison, Cell C’s score earned it a Good rating (55-65), while Telkom remains in Fair (40-55) territory — meaning users watching video on Telkom’s network, in particular, will likely struggle with longer load times and frequent stuttering, even at lower resolutions.

In terms of 4G-only Video Experience, Cell C’s score has increased enough to tip it over into a Very Good rating — now featuring three operators achieving 4G network scores with a Very Good ranking. And as 4G Availability continues to increase, the overall Video Experience scores will continue to climb, making mobile video viewing more of a viable proposition across all networks. And in a country where fixed-line broadband connections are relatively rare and the large majority of South Africans only connect to the internet via cellular, this improvement has the potential to transform people’s lives.

Read more from Open Signal’s report here.

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