Mohammed Rudman is the managing director of Internet Exchange Point of Nigeria (IXPN).
In his over a decade experience in the information and communications technology, Rudman has worked as network administrator in Independent National Electoral Commission (Inec) from where he moved to Galaxy Backbone.
He spoke to chike onwuegbuchi on how IXPN will help stimulate growth in internet service delivery and local content.
Exchange Point and Nigerian Economy
Our role is to interconnect service providers, Telcos, Universities, financial sectors and virtually almost every organization that deals with information technology so that they can exchange local traffic locally within Nigeria.
This will benefit the economy tremendously, because it will have multiple effects. Apart from the direct benefit; there are other indirect benefits to the economy. When you look at all our service providers, they interconnect right now outside the country and therefore their traffic is being exchanged outside the country, on the process they pay for that interconnection outside the country in foreign currency, so that is capital flight, for traffic that suppose to be exchanged within the country, you now export it for you to bring it back. So, to save the country that capital flight, it means that local traffic should be made local which is the reason behind the establishment of Internet Exchange of Nigeria.
And if you look at issue of our security, because our traffic is no longer going outside the country, it remains local within the country; it means that we are secured to some extent because we are communicating within ourselves. By the time you push those Email outside Nigeria to come back it is possible for somebody to see your own email, it means we are a bit vulnerable, but by the time we are all interconnected such email will not be taken away.
Also if you look at our educational institution, they can interconnect with us, and right now we are working with University of Lagos to have what is called Eko Connect, which is higher educational connectivity project to interconnect higher educational institutions within Lagos towards national research and educational network, so this also will have multiple effect on the economy, because they are training our graduates, and they should be able to collaborate for research. It also promotes local content development, because with us you can start posting content locally, so with this you can promote culture and heritage.
Value Added Services
First, because exchange points are very suitable for centralized infrastructure within the country, we decided to discuss with one of the thirteen global root server operators in the world for them to keep their servers in Nigeria. This will make local translations of names in the internet possible in Nigeria and our discussions have reach advanced level and within the next one month, the root servers will be active in Nigeria, which will be the first root server in West Africa.
Secondly, we are also trying to put time server within Nigeria so that one can synchronize his or her time with us, like if you have a computer at home or in your office you can synchronize it with us so that their timing will be exactly the same because right now there is no public time server for Nigeria, so with that, different network can now synchronize their time from one source. We have already implemented what is called Community DNS in Nigeria. It has been implemented 100% and it is working.
So we are doing other things like that so as to promote local content and provide centralized infrastructure.
ISPs with Foreign Partners
This will not affect our services because this site is very important, we put them in remote places where people can have access to the internet and it will continue because we have so many remote areas that needs internet access.
Also some of them are already thinking in this direction and are relocating their hubs back into the country. They want to localize their traffic and have brought back their hub from US back to the country, for them to be interconnected to the exchange point. By the time all of them bring back their hub, it means that local content within Nigeria remains local and it will also save them some satellite bandwidth.
New Undersea Cable Initiative as Boost to ISPs in Nigeria
This will help to lower the cost of internet access generally, and will promote reliability because it is more than one cable, formally we have only one submarine cable, SAT 3, now Glo 1 is coming Main One is coming and WACS will come maybe next year, so with this, it means that we have multiple redundancy. Because internet is becoming our ways of life, it is becoming also a critical infrastructure just like water, power and so on. It is very good that we are having this many cables coming in so that, we will now have reliability incase one cable fails, and normally when it happens we have back ups because competitors are coming in and because they are many. I believe that due to competition the prices of internet will really drop and it will be available to the common man as long as the distributing channels are there. As they all are coming in through the sea to the landing stations in Lagos, just like you have containers coming in ships to Lagos, now if we don’t have the road to distribute these containers then there is a problem. The distribution network is in terms of fiber network connecting to the most remote part of the country like Sokoto, Maidugri etc., if such infrastructure exists in these locations, I think it will really lower the cost.
Success Made so Far
Formally the progress and the success were a bit small because we are new and people don’t want to change. We are telling them to change, instead of having one direct path to the internet, to start having two interconnections, one to the left and the other one to the right, if you are going to the internet, you go to the left and if you are going to the Nigerian content, you go right. So this means a change from the one single direction to two directions. It was difficult trying to bring competitors to cooperate for the common interest of both parties. It has been difficult, but eventually we have broken that barrier and it is now happening. The service providers are now cooperating. Though they are competing outside publicly, but they are collaborating privately trying to save the country and to promote efficient services to their customers.
The traffic has increased from very small to more than few thousand percent from the time we started. I think we have made a reasonable progress and we are right now at what is called the tipping point, where things will eventually start changing so fast because we have made the progress to this level and there will be tremendous progress because international organization are even coming to join us like Google now is coming to connect to us very soon.
Force on Operators to Interconnect
The answer could be yes or could be no, because there is a say that you will take the horse to the river but cannot force it to drink water. You can force them to interconnect but you cannot force them to exchange traffic, and on the other hand when you force them to interconnect, you might awaken them to see the actual benefit that formally they were not seeing, so it has a good side for the regulators to force them and it also has a bad side.
Required Capacity to Carry theTraffic
We have more than what is required. Right now, we are using less than 5% of our capacity; we have excess capacity that we can accommodate. We can easily handle all the traffics, so I think we have the capacity to handle almost everybody.
Expansion of Operations
We intend to be in six geopolitical zones, and we are partnering with National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) to add two additional exchange points before the end of this year in two regions within Nigeria.
The Way Forward
We have a program right now; we are trying to move to a better modern facility, and this is where we are going to have the switching equipment, the browsing equipment and this is all because of the support from Nigeria Communication Commission (NCC). They are funding the movement and I want to also use this opportunity to thank them for this; and with this infrastructure we will be able to provide quality service because the international organizations are coming in and they wouldn’t want to compromise on quality. That is why we are providing a high standard world class facility for them and for the entire Nigerian service providers to connect.
IP Version Six
IP version 6 is a new standard protocol for IP communication, right now we are using IP version 4. Because of limitation on size of IP version 4, it is almost going into extinction and it is anticipated that in the next one year it will no longer be available for use that is why globally people are moving into IP version 6. Unfortunately, Nigeria is left behind and that is why we are battling with original internet registry for them to start training in Nigeria for IP version 6.
The first training is going to take place in September, first week of September most likely in Lagos and on the second week in Abuja and we intend to continue this training so we can make the impact, so that the networks here can move from IP version 4 to IP version 6.