Research and Education Networks at the forefront in content generation

In the last five years, Africa's technology focus has been on infrastructure, exploring ways to lower connectivity costs and pushing networks to underserved and economically unattractive areas. With the costs falling and network infrastructure improving, focus has shifted to local content, and National Research and Education Networks (RENs) are on the forefront of increasing local content development.

For many RENs, support from governments and private sector institutions has helped in bringing more students and content online. In the private sector, Google Inc has worked with RENs by supporting universities directly through infrastructure support or working with students to generate content.

Google has an ongoing project to support RENs in six African countries; Kenya, Uganda, South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana and Senegal. The work with universities focuses on adoption of Internet tools to enhance communication and collaboration (tools like Google apps), training for both students and staff, enhancement of ICT skills capacity and addressing infrastructure challenges such as campus networks and bandwidth.

The projects have complimented other efforts by governments and universities, aimed at bringing more students online. For instance, in Kenya, Google is working with several public and private universities, and there is also an ongoing bandwidth subsidy to the universities, from the government through the Kenya Education Network (KENET).

Africa Peering and Interconnection Forum (AfPIF) endeavors to increase collaboration and partnership between various stakeholders for the benefit of interconnection costs, connecting people and eventually bringing more people online. 

"With more universities getting online, a large part of the continent's population is getting access to tools that allow them to not only consume content online but also contribute to that content. Students and staff are reaching out and unlocking silos of information that were previously inaccessible to the masses, we are seeing more universities publishing research papers because they understand the true value of information when it’s shared beyond borders,"  says John Wesonga, Technical Program Manager, Google Apps Supporting Programs in Sub Saharan Africa.

In the development and growth of Internet Exchange Points (IXPs),  RENs have played a major role in development of content. This year at AfPIF, there will be discussion on innovative ways that RENs can use to develop local content and grow businesses.

Join us at AfPIF between September 3rd and 5th as we discuss the Role of Research, Innovation and Entrepreneurship in developing local content.

National Research and Education Network: KENET

The Kenya Education Network (KENET) was founded in 1999 and was licensed as a private networks operator in 2002. KENET is recognized by ICANN and AfriNIC as a National Research and Education Network (NREN) and allocated AS# and IP block (v4 and v6) on behalf of education community of Kenya. 

KENET promotes the use of ICT in institutions of higher learning whilst connecting them to the rest of the world. KENET institutions have so far been provided with affordable and efficient bandwidth. 

“KENET gives a non-discriminative connectivity for tertiary institutions within the country. If you look at the capacity they were connected to before government support most universities could not afford more than one mbps…we gave them an interim capacity support through the project which saw 100 Mbps distributed within 24 institutions…and further increased to 58 institutions of higher learning and even extended to research and technical institutes and other government affiliated bodies” said Victor Kyalo, Deputy C.E.O, Kenya ICT Board.

KENET membership categories

KENET prides itself with 78 members including public and private universities, colleges, research institutions such as the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) Kenya Agriculture Research Institute (KARI), Libraries notably the Kenya National Library Services (KNLS) and Government affiliates such as Higher Education Loan Board (HELB), Commission of Higher Education (CHE), and Teachers Service Commission (TSC) among others.

KENET rapid growth is serving more than 300,000 students and connected to 120 campuses.

The bandwidth is distributed through various infrastructure lines including KENET owned fibre, commercial fibre leased lines, KENET owned radios and commercial radio leased lines. This gives a total of 141 links and 27,949 Mbps

Key achievements so far

More than 120 campuses have been connected in 4 years distributing more than 1.95 Gbps of international bandwidth and 600Mbps from local content cache.There has been development of 2 data centers, shared services, collocation and partnership with local operators and leased line providers including Kenya Data Network (KDN), FON, Jamii Telecom (JTL), Safaricom, Telkom Kenya and Access Kenya collaboration with other NRENs, Ubuntunet Alliance, Internet 2, DFN, international universities, research bodies, international collaboration and partnership. 

KENET Governance

KENET is governed by a Trust Deed with objectives to offer cost-effective bandwidth, share resources for learning and research and promote collaboration in higher education.

This is a membership organization (closed network for members only) that is governed by a Board of Trustees including five (5) Vice Chancellors of founding universities and three (3) representatives of Government, Industry Regulator and Research Institutes. A Management Board with five representatives of the founding universities, three representatives of senior faculty, rural universities and research institutes. A Secretariat with an executive director, 16 techies – electrical engineering and computer science, Three (3) finance members and four (4) graduate trainees.

For more information visit:

NAP Africa hits 2.5 Gbps traffic

Improved broadband speeds, promotion of key content, healthy competition among carriers and a strategic location has allowed NAP Africa to be one of the fastest growing exchange points.

NAP Africa is a neutral, layer 2 Internet Exchange Point, located within Teraco data centre environment and is currently routing 2.5Gbps of traffic on both the Johannesburg and Cape Town IXPs.

“One of the key factors to the success of the exchange was through our efforts to build relationships with global and African thought leaders in the peering industry, including: Andy Davidson (LONAP), Mike Blanche (Google), Michuki Mwangi (ISOC, KIXP) and Shane Chorley (Vox Telecom) and creating a strategic steering committee called the NAP council,” said Michele McCann, NAP Africa Peering Coordinator and Business Development Manager at Teraco Data Environment.

The NAP Council provides valuable insights on topics such as; promoting content penetration in and out of Africa; promoting healthy competition among carriers; improved broadband speeds for African consumers through the promotion of peering exchanges; promotion of a balanced market between new entrants and exiting monopolies through increased open and affordable peering policies and promotion of key educational content in order to reduce cost of delivery to end users.

Many IXPs in Africa have struggled to grow the content and there are sessions at AfPIF, where participants like McCann will share on how to attract more peers and increase content.

“To successfully establish an exchange point, it needs to be located within a neutral data centre which operates according to global standards with an emphasis on high availability of 99.9% or better. Further, the exchange point needs to be driven both commercially and technically for the greater good of the Internet and not only for profit,” McCann added. 

NAP Africa has 80 members peering since March 2012. 

Liquid Telecom continues with quest to be Africa's largest network

It has been a busy year for Liquid Telecom as it continues to invest heavily in its network, cementing the company's position as one of the largest single international fibre network in Africa.

In 2013, Liquid acquired a number of companies which added to its footprint and improved its service offerings. These are; Kenya Data Networks (a data carrier and infrastructure provider in Kenya) Africa Data Networks (an operator in the DRC Stream Rwanda (a service provider in Rwanda) and InfoCom, (an ISP in Uganda)

It also acquired the assets of Rwandatel, Rwanda’s fixed line network operator and is rehabilitating Rwandatel’s core network and building out the access network in order to serve Rwanda’s people and businesses with the most reliable, high speed, and affordable telecommunications.

Liquid also extended its fibre network into Tanzania and is the first operator to connect the East African capitals of Nairobi, Dar es Salaam, Kampala and Kigali on a single fibre network.  The new 120km fibre link from Nairobi to Namanga on the border of Kenya and Tanzania is one of the improvements that will increase capacity and reduce latency for customers including ISPs, carriers, homes, government organizations and businesses of all sizes. 

In total, Liquid’s Pan-African fibre network now spans over 15,000KM across Botswana, DRC, Kenya, Lesotho, Rwanda, South Africa, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.  The company currently employs 651 staff based in 11 countries.

Liquid’s determination to keep its network open access and hence available to all license holders has altered the wholesale market in Africa. Its network was the first to cross country borders and cover some of the most challenging parts of the world where no fixed/wireless/satellite network has existed before. 

Liquid continues to set the benchmark in terms of services offered and the quality of its network. It is constantly reviewing its reach and looking to improve connectivity in both existing and future networks. 

Liquid says: “We’re investing for tomorrow, not a fast buck and are constantly looking to create opportunities in new markets, to increase access to the Internet and other digital services to even the most remote areas. We take a future-focused approach to new product development; therefore, our customers can rest assured that their services are enduringly adaptable.”

During this year’s AfPIF, Ben Roberts, Liquid’s CTO, will announce details of a new service with a working title of Liquid Telecom IX Connect. This will enable ISPs and carriers to connect to a local Liquid Telecom port which will then connect them directly to international Internet exchanges (JINX, LINX, AMSIX, DECIX etc).  Liquid will offer this as a managed service ideal for smaller ISPs and carriers to give them more control over who they connect to and how they manage their own traffic and peering thus making it much easier to connect directly into multiple exchange points.

East Africa Data Centre, a carrier neutral data centre operated by the Liquid Telecom Group, will also be a subject of interest to participants of this year’s AfPIF.  Billed as the largest and most sophisticated carrier and corporate data centre in East Africa, it is carrier-neutral with connectivity in and out of the building offered by a number of local and international carriers including Liquid Telecom.

Africa's Internet providers, peering and interconnection experts to meet in Casablanca

This year's Africa Peering and Interconnection Forum (AfPIF) will be held in Casablanca, Morocco, with the goal of increasing national and cross border interconnection between networks and Internet Service Providers.

The meeting, scheduled for September 3rd to 5th is in its fourth year and the first time in North Africa, after meeting in Nairobi, Ghana and South Africa. AfPIF provides a forum where key players from infrastructure and service providers, IXPs, regulators and policy makers can engage in a relaxed but business like environment, sharing their experiences and learning from experts in the field.

The event starts with training for technical managers, followed by two days of discussions, all meant to increase the level of interaction and cooperation between participants.

Some of the topics to be discussed include; peering and transit economics, engineering techniques and peering strategies. This whole day session for IXP managers and peering coordinators, will immerse them into the running of IXPs and making economic sense out of the peering business.

There will be sessions on the role of public and private sector in developing national and regional interconnection strategies as well as the role of innovation hubs, research and education networks in promoting entrepreneurship in Africa.

The meeting will be available for remote participation via the web; details to be shared before the start.