Facebook partners with Internet Society to accelerate African connectivity

Facebook and the Internet Society will build more internet exchange points across Africa, with the goal of sourcing at least 80 percent of the continent's internet traffic from inside Africa by 2020.
Written by Corinne Reichert, Contributor

Facebook has announced partnering with non-profit organisation the Internet Society to push connectivity across the African continent by developing Internet Exchange Points (IXP).

According to the Internet Society, around 42 percent of African countries do not have IXPs -- with only 44 active IXPs across all 32 nations -- meaning that much of their network traffic is managed via satellite connections or subsea cables.

"Peering at IXPs helps keep domestic internet traffic local by offloading traffic from relatively expensive international links onto more affordable local links," the Internet Society said.

"As a result, ISPs are able to offer improved internet experiences for end users and spur interest in hosting content locally."

Facebook and the Internet Society will therefore partner on "promoting IXP infrastructure development, training, and community engagement", they said, with the Internet Society's Africa Regional Bureau director Dawit Bekele saying the goal is to source at least 80 percent of the continent's internet traffic from inside Africa by 2020.

"We are getting closer to that target thanks to the many activities that promote interconnection and hosting in Africa and to partnerships such as the one we are announcing today with Facebook," he said.

"Our partnership with the Internet Society will help develop Africa's IXP ecosystem by deploying resources like training and equipment to the areas where they are most urgently needed," head of Connectivity and Access for Facebook Africa Kojo Boakye added.

Facebook has multiple connectivity initiatives, including Express Wi-Fi, a program through which it provides fast and affordable Wi-Fi hotspots by working with internet service providers, network operators, and local businesses.

The social network giant had last month announced a new hardware certification program for Express Wi-Fi, which certifies access point hardware to improve service quality and make it easier for operators to set up and manage hotspots.

Arista, Cambium Networks, and Ruckus Networks have already joined the certification program, which Facebook said will better detect registration pages, more accurately account for the data being consumed, and be able to account for different traffic classes.

Facebook's other connectivity initiatives include Free Basics, which sees it partner with mobile operators to provide information and resources across news, health, jobs, education, communications, and government via online services without data charges; High-Altitude Connectivity, which provides internet to rural areas with satellite or high-altitude platform stations rather than expensive fibre or microwave links; and Rural Access, which tests and deploys "new wireless technologies and operating models" for remote areas alongside global carriers, with Facebook recently deploying high-speed mobile services across the Peruvian highlands and Amazonian rainforest.

The company's global connectivity initiatives also include Shared Backhaul Infrastructure, which invests in backhaul such as fibre and wireless, including a recent 770km fibre build in Uganda; Telecom Infra Project, which aims to lower costs by pushing "collaboration and innovation across the entire telecom landscape"; and Terragraph, which uses wireless backhaul technology to provide gigabit speeds and circumvents the need to run fibre to all premises in dense environments.

Lastly, Analytics includes tools to help Facebook's connectivity partners improve their networks by giving them more overnight on speeds, coverage, and planning.

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