SA’s Robust Internet is Slow But On the Go
News that a repair ship left Cape Town harbour on Thursday, 23 January to repair the SAT-3 and WACS submarine cables is welcome news for local Internet users coping with slow web speeds since both telecoms cables were severed the previous week.
The cables provide international connectivity between South Africa and Europe, via the West Coast of Africa. “Although Internet speeds decreased, the SAT-3 break proved the local web is a robust and stable system that is today less reliant on international communication gateways since the creation of SA’s Internet Exchanges (INXes),” says Guy Halse, ISPA co-chair.
It is worth pausing for a moment to consider how far we have come. A SAT-3 cable break 15 years ago would have meant no international connectivity at all and extremely limited local content and services. In 2020 however, redundancy created by multiple undersea cable systems and a mature yet dynamic local peering ecosystem means that breaks in two different cable systems has had a limited and manageable impact on local users.
“The local peering and exchange of Internet traffic within South Africa’s borders, via the INXes, did what it is designed to do and that is to ensure better local Internet traffic delivery. Enhanced resilience against outside events is the result of SA having multiple international routes and becoming less reliant on those international routes when it comes to the local exchange of traffic,” says Mr Halse.
Internet exchange points enable Internet businesses to interconnect their networks so that domestic Internet users benefit from faster connections and more efficient access to online services. Network operators benefit from lower costs, resulting in more stable and affordable bandwidth which is crucial for the development of the Internet.
The INXes are an example of a true South African success story. They have all in the last few years been expanded to boost local service delivery, and funding has even been forthcoming from the African Union which recognises just how vital this infrastructure is in helping Africa to become self-sustaining. ISPA’s members, too, regularly contribute towards the country’s INXes so that the stability and integrity of the SA web can be maintained.
SA’s only community-run INXes in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban are today managed by INX-ZA. The Johannesburg exchange point, SA’s first INX, has provided continuous, uninterrupted services to users since June 1996.
For further information, please contact the ISPA secretariat on the Contact ISPA page.