An Internet Exchange Point (IX or IXP) is a physical infrastructure that allows different Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and Internet Content Distributors to exchange Internet traffic between their networks by means of mutual peering agreements, which allow traffic to be exchanged without cost.
Current View of Internet Traffic
In the Caribbean region, domestic Internet traffic has been historically routed externally via centres in North America. Typically, Internet traffic from one user within a country to another user within the same country is wastefully routed to the United States and back again, before proceeding to its destination. This is known a traffic tromboning.
Benefits of a local IXP in Caribbean Countries
Key benefits of establishing an IXP in a country include:-
- Domestic traffic remains domestic;
- More efficient use of network resources;
- Allows local ISPs to maintain higher levels of profitability, reduce costs, or increase reinvestment
- Reduction in latency (time between sending and receiving data);
- Reduction in network operational costs (lowers the average-per-bit delivery-cost for ISPs);
- Provides incentives for the creation of new, bandwidth intensive, services and new types of local Internet and local content businesses.
The full benefits of IXPs to national communities and wider region, therefore, will only be achieved when IXPs are established in as many locales as possible.
Why Proliferation of Domestic Exchanges is Essential
Establishing one or two “regional IXPs” will not address the fundamental goal of keeping domestic traffic domestic and all the attendant benefits to be derived thereby. For countries that do not establish a local IXP domestic traffic will continue to be routed externally:-
- Routing domestic traffic externally is expensive and inefficient.
The primary reason for having a local IXP is to keep domestic traffic domestic
- There would be no local internet connectivity for consumers exchanging domestic traffic should there be any failure on the international facilities. Where there is a domestic IXP, local subscribers are able to continue resolving local traffic event in the face of an international connectivity disruption. This was clearly demonstrated in Grenada when there was a major failure on one service providers’ international undersea cable and their local Internet subscribers lost all capacity to communicate.
- Benefits of improved latency and efficiency are diminished
A local IXP provides cheaper, more efficient, lower latency paths between networks.
Also, the increased number of paths learned through an IXP improves routing efficiency and fault-tolerance for participants and renders participants’ networks far more resilient to international transit facility failures.
- Benefits of reduced costs for service providers will not be realized.
- Reduced the Average-Per-Bit-Delivery-Cost (APBDC), or “cost of goods” allows local ISPs to maintain higher levels of profitability, reduce costs, or increase reinvestment.
- The development of domestic, high bandwidth applications and services will still be constrained.
- A local IX vastly improves the customer experience for local content, gaming, file-sharing, and latency-sensitive applications like voice and video. This will fundamentally impact the objective of growing local and regional content development. IXPs help foster a local community for both content and providers.
- The aggregation of demand also makes it more attractive for additional transit providers and content providers
- to enter the market, thus spurring additional industry growth and high-value jobs.
- National Data Privacy and Security concerns will still be compromised
- Sending sensitive data across national borders presents a privacy risk to governments and corporations. By keeping local traffics local, sensitive data is not subject to inspection by other government or jurisdictions.
The CTU’s position on Caribbean IXPs
As a Caribbean-based inter-governmental organisations dedicated to facilitating the development of the region’s information and communications (ICT) sector, the Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU) strongly advocates the proliferation of IXP’s across the Caribbean.
PCH – Supporting Global Internet Development
Packet Clearing House (PCH) is a non-profit research institute that supports operations and analysis in the areas of internet traffic exchange, routing economics, and global network development. Formed in 1994, PCH is widely recognized as one of the world’s leading proponents of neutral, independent network interconnection and is a provider of router-servers at a major exchange points worldwide.
PCH and CTU
The CTU and PCH are firmly committed to continuing their work of educating stakeholders across the region on the justification for and benefits of establishing IXPs in every national jurisdiction in the Caribbean. These not-for-profit organisations are committed to collaborating with regional ISPs and other stakeholder to ensure that the benefits of Caribbean IXP proliferation are both fully understood and realized.