Internet AfPIF : Africa’s peering community lands in Mauritius

The African Peering and Interconnection Forum (AfPIF) celebrated its 10th anniversary this year in Mauritius.

It is the first time that AfPIF has been held in Mauritius and the Indian Ocean Islands Region. The event was hosted by Rogers Capital. We have been a long time partner with Rogers Capital on several projects. When they approached us with details of the event we were glad to be on-board as a gold sponsor. In fact, since AFRINIC-29 we were already in discussion with Rogers Capital and Emtel regarding our plans for local hosting and peering.

As of April 2019, we became resources member of AFRINIC and we’ve been working with both Rogers Capital and Emtel to peer locally. Therefore, the idea behind AfPIF, that is, to discuss ways to improve interconnection, lower cost of connectivity and increase hosting of local content, aligned perfectly with that plan.

AfPIF serves as a platform that allows all stakeholders to come together with ideas to develop and improve the African Internet. This was our first AfPIF experience and we were glad that LSL Digital was able to be part of it. Being hosted in Mauritius it also allowed many of our collaborators to attend the event all three days.

The event was held from 20-22 August at the Inter Continental Hotel, Balaclava.
We had a stand in the main corridor leading to the conference room and our collaborators camped there to provide information on content and our peering needs.

  La Sentinelle & LSL Digital teams at AfPIF.
La Sentinelle & LSL Digital teams at AfPIF.

The Indian Ocean Islands are connected by Safe and Lion submarine cables and there are efforts in the pipeline to set up a third cable connecting all the islands with South Africa. The Director of Emtel Business, Prakash Bheekhoo, provided ample information about these efforts during the panel discussion on the Interconnection Landscape in Mauritius.

Malcolm Siegel, Director of moderated the discussion panel. I was a panelist along with Prakash Bheekhoo and Ranveer Seetaloo, Head of Datacom at Rogers Capital & Chairman of the Mauritius Internet Exchange Point. The idea behind this panel discussion was to provide a picture of the current “interconnection landscope”, i.e the state of the local operator networks and how they connect.

I made a presentation that summarized our struggle for several years to be able to host news content locally or at least have a local cache server. Every time our project would face the same bottleneck: cost of connectivity. I compared the cost of a Virtual Private Server (VPS) which was Rs 14,000/month in 2013 against 10 euro (approx. Rs 400) for a VPS with similar specifications in Germany. I also highlighted that when we approached the Internet Service Providers they would most of the time offer a service that they advertise rather than helping us to find the optimal solution. It was only after the AFRINIC-29 meeting in Tunisia that we learned more about having our own Internet Number Resources, build a network and peer with local operators.

Ranveer Seetaloo gave a presentation on the current state of the Mauritius Internet Exchange Point. He highlighted some concerns with the previous model and explained that several collaborators, including network engineers from several local ISPs and the African Network Information Centre (AFRINIC) volunteered to improve the state of the Internet Exchange Point, which is now dubbed as the MIXP 2.0.

Prakash Bheekhoo provided some economic statistics about the Indian Ocean Islands which comprise of Mauritius, Reunion, Mayotte, Comoros and Madagascar. These islands have a combined population of 23.8 million. Prakash explained how Mauritius is positioned strategically for facilitating business in Africa. He then explained the investment made by Emtel in the previous years to level up their datacenter infrastructure. He gave an overview of the METISS Project which should be ready for service by March 2020.

Image source: TeleGeography
Image source: TeleGeography

METISS is a new subsea fibre optic cable system that will connect Mauritius to South Africa and provide high-speed connectivity of 24 terabytes per second to the global telecommunications network, as well as low latency access to enhance business operations across multiple industries. The main cable (trunk) will run more than 3,200 km from Mauritius to South Africa and splits at Branching Units off the main trunk to landing sites in Reunion Island and Madagascar.

The three days of AfPIF have been knowledge enriching for our collaborators. We met people with whom we were able to share ideas and find ways to improve local inter-connectivity. Moving forward we're going to be more involved with the Mauritius IXP to encourage local network operators to peer at the Internet Exchange Point.