New Internet tool for Africa

A new tool that will help identify African Internet market share and allow content providers to optimise delivery.

Access to reliable and transparent information helps markets work effectively. There is plenty of mobile subscriber data for Africa, whether from company reporting requirements or from the continent’s better regulators.

However, with honourable exceptions, most regulators have not believed the Internet was sufficiently important to warrant tracking its subscribers. Now as Africa’s Internet steps into the limelight, it becomes important to know more.

Russell Southwood talks this week to Julien Coulon of Cedexis, who have just launched a tool that might contribute to solving this problem and be useful for optimising content delivery for telcos and media companies.

Cedexis’ product was launched by ex-Akami veterans and it polls a wide range of websites by putting a piece of Java script on the site. This enables Cedexis to do two things: firstly, as a free service called Radar, to be able to identify the origin of traffic to the site and secondly, as a pay-for service called Open Mix, to look at the performance of the infrastructure delivering the content, to allow load balancing.

As Coulon told us: “It’s a way for content site owners to see how their ISPs and cloud providers are performing and using this information, to optimise delivery for their users. In this way, you can load balance between 2-3 data centres to give users a much better experience. It answers which are the providers that respond in the fastest time.”

The service has 250 international content providers whose websites provide 25,000 data points per second:”This allows us to offer our clients real-time routing changes. We are able to improve by 17 times the speed with which a page loads for the user. Packet loss can be as high as 21% and this increases time to download. It shows the content provider how they perform and how to accelerate their website for users.”

There is not a complete selection of African countries but those that are monitored provide fascinating insights:”It relies on getting a sufficiently large amount of data to get accurate information. For example, in Ethiopia, there are not enough people looking at the websites where the tags are deployed.”

The question the tags seek to answer is: Where are my end-users (most likely to be) coming from within this country? For example for Ghana, it shows that Vodafone Ghana was getting 75% of the traffic based on just under half a million data point measurements, followed by Airtel at 10% and MTN at a surprisingly low 5%. None of the non-mobile provider ISPs score above 2% and almost all are 1% or below.

By contrast, in Mali Sonatel-owned Ikatel was getting 66% of the traffic with ex-incumbent Sotelma getting 20%. The most surprising but heartening achievement is that Mali’s independent ISP Afribone still gets 15% of the traffic.

In case any other proof was needed, the data from Senegal conclusively shows that Sonatel is completely dominant as the Internet provider. Based on just over 300,000 data measurements, 100% of the traffic comes from Sonatel. Where is competition and what is the regulator doing to break this de-facto monopoly?

However, when it comes to large markets, there is another layer of complexity. For example, in South Africa, 22% of traffic originated from SAIX, the local IXP and this inevitably doesn’t tell you the provider but does give an indication of local traffic flowing locally. Sometimes providers have different marketing descriptions but one you add these separate totals together, the Top 5 in South Africa are: Vodacom (17%); IS (16%); MTN (13%); Netactive (9%) and TENET (7%).

Again with Kenya, the picture is more complex. There appears to be no traffic for the local IXP, KIXP. Safaricom traffic seems to come to 41%, adding together Communications Solutions Ltd and Onecom followed by Orange Kenya at 23%. These are then followed by KENET at 10% and KDN at 8%. There are then plentiful independent ISPs, most of whom attract 2%.

By contrast, Nigeria shows no provider with more than 15% and for some reason, MTN does not seem to feature. Obviously, the names need to be interpreted to get at the results and there needs to be some fine-tuning to make sure everyone is included but as the base of data points gets wider, the easier it will be to get a clear sense of active market share.

The link for those who are curious.

So who is Cedexis targeting in Africa? “It’s very relevant for telcos seeking to measure their performance; for media companies; and for anybody who feels their website or mobile app is strategic for them.”

But it’s not just about speed of upload: “Hermes are not getting huge amounts of traffic but have improved their sales, their number of page views and their ad views.”

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New Internet tool for Africa