We saw what South Africa’s internet will look like in 5 years – and it’s incredible

BusinessTech was invited to “the internet hub of Africa” – Teraco’s massive new data centre development in Bredell, Kempton Park.

The development forms part of a R2 billion rand investment by Teraco into infrastructure and scaling, and will see the company’s total power supply reach 24 megawatts by the end of 2017 – approximately 20% of Sub-Saharan Africa’s entire data centre capacity.

This development, which is expected to become the largest data centre in Africa, will also see Teraco extending NAPAfrica, Africa’s largest Internet Exchange Point (IXP).

What is NapAfrica?

Instead of costly multiple direct links to different providers, a single peering point allows multiple networks and ISPs to interconnect using an exchange environment.

NapAfrica acts as the neutral provider of this exchange – allowing over 270 companies to route their traffic easily and for free.

In effect, this allows for reduced costs in local bandwidth, reduced latency, improved performance as well as a number of connection options.

Companies that currently use NapAfrica include all of the major ISPs and telcos as well as big names such as Google, Microsoft, Netflix and Showmax.

Going forward, this will also include a number of big financial and banking institutions (FNB is already on board) as well as an expected push from the enterprise sector as businesses look towards cloud technologies.

The Future

Speaking to BusinessTech, Michele Mccann, head of business development, interconnection and peering at Teraco, highlighted that South African internet users, businesses and enterprises should be very excited by the new development.

“In November 2016 the exchanges were currently doing over 100Gbps of traffic, combined,” said Mccann.”As of this moment in August 2017, that number has now surpassed 200Gbps with the company aiming to have over 300 companies peering through the exchange within the next few months.”

She noted that this forms part of the next big drive in South Africa’s internet landscape – “bringing everything local”.

“Netflix tripled its numbers since joining NapAfrica with little local advertising, which shows how great the demand is,” she said. She believes that other content companies are likely to follow suit which will improve the overall internet experience across Africa.

“Africa’s internet has always been a series of islands, with countries facing inwards with multiple links to different providers. However, over the past few years we have seen the rise of data centres such as these and the formation of more regional internet sectors as countries begin to collaborate.”

Mccann said that this likely to result in a massive drop in mobile data and fees across Sub-Saharan Africa as companies begin to make use of this technology.

“Because everyone is now using the same free network, there’s no reason why I should be paying high roaming charges or choosing a provider who charges more for data and calls,” she said.

As a result, Mccann also believes that South Africa’s mobile operators will begin to offer lower smartphone and handset prices as a means of differentiating themselves.

She also pointed out that this technology was likely to drive fixed broadband, wireless and fibre adoption. “Nobody sits at home and looks a their fibre cable marveling how great it is,” she said.

“If a wireless service offers a 30Mbps speed and connects directly to NapAfrica – with little latency and improved performance – people will adopt this over a fibre connection.”

“This is because it is less about the fibre being laid and more about the content that will be delivered across the fibre”.

These factors will all come together as these massive IPX exchanges continue to gain traction she said.

“Five years ago, most YouTube videos still buffered and it took a while to load up Facebook – look at where we are now.”

Read: South Africa’s first smart community won’t be Cape Town or Johannesburg

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We saw what South Africa’s internet will look like in 5 years – and it’s incredible