Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Marching right with IXN

Special Report by Remmy Nweke

Internet Services Providers (ISP):

One of the purviews of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) is the regulation of the provision of Internet services in the country.

Currently with over 201 Internet Service Providers (ISP), attestation from operators have been that the avalanche of licensees emerged during the Ndukwe era at NCC boosted with the democratic dispensation. Thus encouraging the spread of Internet access by initiating a class-licensing regime to simplify authorization processes for Cybercaf├ęs and Tele-centres.

The commission equally facilitated the establishment of an Internet Exchange Point for Nigeria (NIXP), which was eventually registered as the Internet Exchange Nigeria (IXN).

IXN was mandated to build seven exchanges in phases beginning with main-branch at NECOM House, Lagos, and additional two sites at Ikeja and Victoria Island, as contained in its reference during inauguration April 14, 2006, by NCC and led by Mr. Ndukwe Kalu.

IXP:

Internet Exchange Point (IXP) is defined as a physical network infrastructure operated by a single entity whose purpose is to facilitate the exchange of Internet traffic between ISPs, which entails a minimum of three ISPs to be connected to each other.

Noteworthy is that at present, most local internet traffic is exchanged outside the country, often across several hops with the associated high cost of service delivery which limits internet penetration and local-content distribution, along with security risks, and the potential increase in congestion of international access circuits which could negatively affect Quality of Service (QoS).

Hops on the other hand is one file transmission in a series required to get a file from point A to point B on a store-and-forward network; an important inter-machine metric is the number of hops in the shortest path between them, which could be more significant than their geographical separation.

From Tunisia with love:

Daily Champion recalls that on November 17, 2005, at the last phase of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS-05) in Tunisia, then President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo declared his administration’s interest in the development of the nation’s Internet Exchange Point (IXP), most industry analysts took it for another political rhetoric.

Still he immediately directed that a meeting be held with the members of his delegation comprising the EVC of NCC, Dr. Ndukwe and Director General, National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Prof. Cleopas Officer Angaye, and relevant organizations at the summit to facilitate this quest as soon as possible.

President Obasanjo who was in Tunis for the world summit gave the directive after a session on Internet Exchange Point and infrastructural development.

As said then by Dr. Ndukwe, after a session on Global Symposium for Regulators during the WSIS-05, his office would endeavour to meet with the presidential directive, and despite that he did not give a definite date when this would take off, EVC on return took relevant steps for a successful take-off of the IXP, saying that it would improve Internet adoption and usability in the country, just as it would reduce the cost of access to the ordinary people.

Although Nigeria has observed various evolutions in the Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs), yet the nation has one known IXP, then the Ibadan exchange, which has been up for over a year before the directive, but suffered lack of patronage from members of the Internet Service Providers Association of Nigeria (ISPAN).

Obasanjo’s motives were not far from aligning themselves with the agreed clause in Article 50b of WSIS on “Tunis Agenda,” which identified IXP as a key to cheap Internet penetration and called for the strategic development of IXP to ensure affordable global connectivity and improve equitable access for all citizens.

Nigerian IXP:

In addition, NCC board soon after approved a proposal to fund the setting-up of a Nigerian Internet Exchange Points (IXPs) in the country, on behalf of the federal government, in collaboration with ISPAN to achieve this objective, of which it would operate on a not-for-profit platform.

The main objective of having a Nigerian IXP (NIXP) is to keep and interchange local Nigerian internet traffic such as electronic mail (e-mail), download of local website content, file transfers via File Transfer Protocol (FTP) among others, within the country and allow only international traffic to be exchanged at off-shore points.

NIXP, an outcome of the NCC organised consultative meeting on February 28 2006, with key industry stakeholders at its Abuja office, culminated in setting up of an industry cum implementation committee to further discuss and chart a way forward for the rapid establishment of the IXP in the country.

Men joining forces with NCC:

The committee consists of the chief executive of Amsco Telecoms and Vice President of ISPAN, Mr. Ndukwe Kalu, who was also appointed the committee chairman. Others who served with him are chief executive, Medallion Communications Limited, Mr. Ike Nnamani, Chief Business Development Officer at Interconnect Clearing House Nigeria Limited, Mr. Tosin Oni, Head, Content Department, Emperion West Africa, Mr. Femi Adalemo, Deputy General Manager (DGM) Internet Services at the Nigerian Telecommunications Limited (NITEL), Mr. Olayinka T. Abiodun, Assistant Director, Licensing, NCC, Mr. Abubakar Yakubu, and Deputy Manager, Technical Research and Standards NCC, Mr. Chris Agha.

Similarly, the IXPs would be built in phases beginning with seven (7) branches to be located in Lagos, with main-branch at NECOM House, and additional two sites at Ikeja and Victoria Island. Other branches would be located at Ibadan, Port-Harcourt, Enugu, Abuja, Kano and Maiduguri, covering the six geo-political zones of the nation; after which further sites could be built as may be required.

Commenting on this, Head, Public Affairs at NCC, Mr. Dave Imoko, informed that with the IXP on stream all sites would be linked using high capacity Internet Protocol (IP) backbone of over 100 Mega bites (Mbs), just as the commission appointed Digitek TeeVee Engineering Co. Limited, to manage the implementation of the first phase of the IXP project in Lagos.

Today, IXP Nigeria is up and running with Mr. Mohammed Ruhman as its chief executive, while charged with the responsbility to manage the implementation as a non-profit, cost recovery and neutral facility model.

Explaining further, Mr. Kalu, said that IXP Nigeria would be based on three-layer organizational structure, comprising board of trustees, board of directors and management, as promised, even as it would be run in accordance with the nation’s statutes for a company limited by guarantee as its activities would be steered by men and women of integrity.

ISPAN is committed to IXP:

Responding to questions on the NIXP, President of ISPAN and chief executive of Steineng Limited, Mr. Sam Adeleke, said recently, that already, about seven (7) members of the association have really committed themselves to this project. He assured that there are two medium to be deployed at each of the IXP branches that is wireless and fibre links, as he also counselled members to support the project, noting that those who have problems with trusting others are those who have something to hide.

The steps so far taken, he said, showed the kind of seriousness the government through NCC attached to ICT and Internet evolution particularly, thus the efforts must not be allowed to fail, given the PPP between NCC on behalf of the government and ISPAN representing the private sector.

This kind of partnership, Adeleke said, is what stakeholders have been yearning for over the years and now that it is here together with the kind of support the government is ready to offer, ISPAN membership on the other hand, must ensure that the efforts are optimised for local content to thrive as noted by the President, Nigeria Internet Group (NIG), Mr. Lanre Ajayi, in a chat with Daily Champion. Hence, it would lead to reduction of cost of bandwidth and then, “the Internet exchange would thrive.”

20 ISPs route for IXP

It was not surprising then that estimated 20 Internet Service Providers (ISPs) soon after expressed interest in hooking on to the Nigeria Internet Exchange Point, even as over 17 other ISPs are listed for the take-off of the IXN, hence Nigeria reportedly sets a record as the largest Internet exchange on the continent.

These included some of the big names in the Internet service provision in the country and Private Telephone Operators (PTOs).

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